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Sabbath Rest

April 19, 2011

Through several conversations with some of you, I have been thinking about Sabbath rest for a little while and I wanted to set some thoughts down here, as well as get your thoughts.

God will be right back. He went to get a pina colada.

In Exodus chapter 20, God gives Moses and the people of Israel the Ten Commandments to be their guiding laws as they seek to establish themselves as a nation and as a people.  The 4th Commandment of those ten is to remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.  On the Sabbath Day you are not to do any work, because God has consecrated the Sabbath Day to himself.  For six days God labored in creation and on the seventh day, God rested.  Thus, the seventh day is holy.

The Jewish tradition keeps the Sabbath on what we now call Saturday, but Christians moved the Sabbath Day to what we now call Sunday, because that was the day of the Resurrection. Keeping the Sabbath Day holy for myself has always meant going to church on Sunday morning.  This worked well when I was a lay person, but now that I am ordained, it only works somewhat.  Why?  Because one of my chief responsibilities is to lead worship – working – and that occurs on the Sabbath Day.  So if I work on the Sabbath Day, how do I keep my Sabbath and take my rest?  I have to carve it out elsewhere: typically for me that means Fridays and Sunday afternoons.  Saturdays, if I am lucky, as there are usually parish or diocesan events on Saturdays.  Sabbath rest for me, in addition to attending worship, means relaxing, doing things I enjoy doing.  Me time.

How do you take your Sabbath rest?  Do you take Sabbath rest?  It is not a matter of finding the time, because in our busy, harried lives, we will always have something to do.  It is a matter of making the time.  Which, of course, means taking time away from other things, namely work.

At St. George’s, we have a lot of activities going on, each and every month, week by week.  And those activities need leaders and organizers.  A lot of the time, that means those folks have to work at those tasks on Sunday after or before worship.  Does that impinge on Sabbath rest?  If it takes you out of worship, I say yes, it does.  No church related job or task is as important as attending worship on Sunday.  No, not even coffee hour.

If we come to church to be spiritually nourished and encouraged, then we should be free to depart from worship to be ready to go to work in the vineyard of the Lord.  Holding that idea in tension with the idea of Sabbath rest, we should also be careful not to over extend ourselves.  Here at St. George’s, the old adage seems to hold true, that 20% of the people do 80% of the work.  Which side of that percentage are you on?  If on the 20% side, consider giving yourself the gift of declining the invitation to do one more thing and instead, offer to help find another person to lead that particular event.  If on the 80% side, consider stepping up and offering your time and talents to help pull off all the wonderful community events we do at St. George’s.

This church, like any other, is exactly what we make it.  We want to be a welcoming place that is full or worship, outreach, and fellowship opportunities.  But we don’t want to be a place that fosters burnout.  That’s quite the challenge for a small community!  So, at the end of the day, I think there are two primary ideals that we have strive to uphold, and sometimes they are in tension with one another.

1.  Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.

2.  “The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.”  ~ Archbishop William Temple

How do you take Sabbath rest?  Do you need to carve out more time for yourself?  Or do you need to volunteer to plan and lead an event that benefits both the church and the community?  What do you think?
Fr. Ryan+

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