Read Exodus 20:8-11
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God; for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labors as God did from his.” (Hebrews 4:9-10 NRSV)
Well, Christmas has come and gone and now we are fastly approaching the New Year. A couple of days ago Pope Francis I gave his “Festive” Christmas speech to the cardinals that serve as the administrators of the Holy See. I put festive in quotes because that is typically what these speeches are during the Christmas season. They are reiterations of the meaning of Christmas, the coming of the Christ-child, as well as exhortations of how the Church is to continue to represent the Christ-child in the world. By that understanding of the word “festive”, the speech the Pope gave was anything but festive. It was a scathing assessment of his Cardinals who he said lusted after power, among fourteen other hard line critiques of the “ailments” plaguing the church. I think it to be an important exercise for the universal Church, and us as individuals, to follow suit and examine ourselves as we, no doubt, have fallen ill with some (if not all) of these ailments.
Ailment # 2: Working too hard. How many of us truly take the time to rest from our labors and obligations? We are living in a world that demands every last bit of time we have. There is just so many things going on and not enough time to do it all. There’s work, work and more work. There’s family obligations, societal obligations, church obligations, and many other things that we find ourselves caught up in. That the Pope is addressing this issue with other clergy is no big surprise. Clergy are notorious for spending every last minutes working at the neglect of family time, neglect and self-care. In seminary, one of the classes I was required to take was a class called “Pastoral Formation.” One of the central points of that course was to encourage the seminarian to begin to lay down the foundation for self-awareness and self-care. This is not SELFISH…but a part of well-being. If you can’t take care of yourself, how can you possibly take care of others.
The church talks the talk about observing the Sabbath and keeping it holy; however, when it comes to the walk, the church trips all over itself. In ancient Judaism, Sabbath was one of the key things that made the Jews different from outside cultures. Whereas the Gentile world did not reserve a day of rest and considered all days as fair game for work, Jews were extremely intentional about the importance of Sabbath. While Jesus resisted any sort of senseless rigidity to the law that prevented people from serving God and doing what’s right on the Sabbath, Jesus never, ever rejected the Sabbath but was a Sabbath observing Jew himself!
The challenge for the church is this, are encouraging people to rest, to take a break, to observe Sabbath? Or are we driving people to work, work, work and work until they burn out and are no longer capable of serving? Are we laying the burden on a few to do the work of the many, or are we raising up disciples to help spread the work out, make the load lighter and to give everyone an opportunity to rest? The challenge for individuals is this: Are you alotting for an appropriate amount of rest in your schedule? Or are you working tirelessly with little to no time to rest and celebrate life. Conversely, are you getting too much rest and allowing others to burn out as a result of your not being willing to help lighten the load?
Regardless of what side of this you come down on, regardless of how you answer, know that observing the Sabbath is crucial to your physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual well being. And know that just as it is a sin to not observe the Sabbath, it is also a sin to hoarde the Sabbath to yourself at the detriment of others. Working too hard is a sin, as is allowing others to work too hard. Pray for balance in your life, the lives of others and in the life of the church so that we may begin to heal from the ailment of working too hard.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“If you don’t take a Sabbath, something is wrong. You’re doing too much, you’re being too much in charge. You’ve got to quit, one day a week, and just watch what God is doing when you’re not doing anything.” – Eugene Peterson
Lord, continually remind me of the importance of Sabbath rest so that I may become more attentive to it. Amen.