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Sabbath as Commandment, gift

Busy. Crazy busy!

That used to be my automatic answer when someone would ask "How are you?" What I was thinking was, "I am running like a hamster on a wheel." My work "to-do" list always had more to be accomplished than there were hours in the day or week.

The pace felt hectic, stressful and exhausting and, yet, I couldn't see any other way. After all, if I didn't do it, who would? Who has time for Sabbath? Sound familiar?

When I was honest with myself, I admitted I also got a lot of satisfaction from being indispensable. I know I am not the only one. We live in a time that glorifies and rewards "crazy busy" even while we brag/complain about the toll it takes on our body, mind and spirit and our relationships with others.

When I was growing up, Sabbath seemed to be about following "Thou shalt not" rules to keep God from getting mad. No work, no play, no fun. Why would God care if I rode my bike or went to a movie on Sunday? As a pastor with responsibilities on Sunday, it has been healing to re-examine what it involves to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.

MaryAnn McKibben Dana's refreshing book, "Sabbath the Suburbs," helped me shift from rules to an awareness of "living Sabbathly" -- intentionally setting time apart each week and making holy the simple acts of everyday life. That shift has made such a difference in my peace and awareness of being grounded in God. I am finding I can keep God in the center of Sabbath by saying "yes" to slowing down, being attentive and grateful, unplugging from technology, choosing to do something that is a break from my day-to-day activities, appreciating the wonders of nature and being fully present with those around me. In our busy culture, the ancient practice of Sabbath holds healing and holy grace.

I am learning to embrace Sabbath as commandment and gift. After all, even God rested on the seventh day. How did I become persuaded I was more indispensable than God?

At some level, I suspect, it is about fear and identity. Too often, it seems we are valued primarily for what we do. Even churches fall into the habit of holding up as role models those who are too busy to rest and renew their spirits. And yet, I believe the church is called in this time to be a counter cultural voice, to reclaim our identity as human-beings over human-doings.

The commandment and gift of Sabbath is blessed reassurance we are more than the quantity of work we accomplish. We are already precious and beloved of God. Nothing we do will make God love us more, nor less. Thanks be to God.

The Rev. Celeste Lasich is pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Hays.