Today I send you Ordinary Time greetings and a counter cultural message, perhaps even a radical notion. As you read, I encourage you to ask, do these ideas ring true for my friends, my kin and me? Weekly, reports come out citing impressive research that we are living life at a pace and intensity that is unhealthy and unbalanced. Americans are working longer hours with fewer respites than in previous decades. Across all economic strata, we find American children both over-scheduled and over-stimulated. There are overt and subliminal forces at work telling us it is essential that we stay connected and responsive to the ping of incoming messages 24/7. Except for the infirmed, no segment of our society has empty days on their calendars. We go all the time and have forgotten a time when this was not our reality.
Yet there was a time, not a perfect time, not an idealized time, a time with its own stresses and worries when we appreciated rest and respite. There was a time when we understood Sabbath keeping as a good and valuable construct. That understanding came straight out of the Word we call Holy. From the second chapter of Genesis we learn, “On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was a day when he rested from all his work of creation. “God knew the value of rest and refreshment, of pause, reflection and recreation. Because God needed rest, he knew that we as mere mortals require it as well. In the commandments handed down to Moses for his people, God proclaimed:
The fourth commandment to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy is a gift! It is a gift to God’s beloved intended to stop the busyness of the world and take time to breath, to play and pray with God, to be rather than to do. Sabbath keeping is meant as a blessing not a burden. As a society, as a faithful people, we have not remembered the gift and we have forgotten its benefits. What would it mean to our souls and our psyches if we did remember? What would it mean to the quality of our faith life, the quality of our internal lives, the quality of the relationships we hold most dear if we embraced a day given to prayer and play, rest and refreshment?
Because at this time in our lives, Sabbath keeping, resting and refreshing with the Lord no longer comes to us naturally, your priest, vestry, and director of Christian formation believe we need focused intention and support to do what God in his infinite wisdom set before us. Therefore, we invite your household into a yearlong faith experiment.
In addition to organizing a church program that supports Sabbath keeping, we invite households to observe personal Sabbath rest practices. As the core purpose of this initiative is to refresh and rest, we encourage a realistic discussion as to what your household might put down in order to pray and play in life-giving ways.
If you have questions, concerns or excitement about this invitation, please share them with your clergy and vestry. We look forward to seeing how God’s Spirit will encourage and guide us as we put down the busyness the world adores and take up the rest the Lord commands.
Blessings on your household as you Embrace the Sabbath, its rest and refreshment in the weeks ahead,