Sabbath is essential to well-being



Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy. Six days you may work and do all your tasks, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Do not do any work on it—not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your animals, or the immigrant who is living with you. Because the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them in six days, but rested on the seventh day. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. – Exodus 20:8-11
We all need time for rest and renewal in our lives and summer is often the time of year we are most able to find it. Authors Joseph Telushkin and Denis Prager write about the four kinds of Sabbath Peace in their book, The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism. We can learn much about how to incorporate Sabbath practices and times for our clergy and ourselves on a regular basis. 
  • The first is peace within ourselves. Eugene Peterson summed this all up in this quote: Sabbath is that uncluttered time and space in which we can distance ourselves from our own activities enough to see what God is doing. The Jewish Sabbath laws are designed to bring peace on earth, a foretaste of heaven, one day each week. This peace must begin with the person we see reflected in our mirror each morning. To promote inner peace, religious Jews renew in the quiet that descends on Shabbat eve. In times like this we can re-learn how to be still and rest in God.
  • The second source of shalom is peace between people. When we turn off external, mechanized sources of noise during our rest and renewal times we suddenly have ample time to invest in relationships.  One of the nearly universal consequences of Sabbath observance is the strengthening of ties among family and friends. It is a time when sharing a meal can allow time for uninterrupted conversation, It is a time we can reconnect with spouses and children in a relaxed atmosphere, and for friends to have leisurely conversations and share their hearts. In the words of Thomas Babington Macaulay: I have not the smallest doubt that, if we and our ancestors had, during the last three centuries, worked just as hard on the Sunday as on the week days, we should have been at this moment a poorer people and a less civilized people than we are.
  • Third, Sabbath also promotes peace between people and nature. Biblically, the injunctions to take a break on the Sabbath, gives not only people but animal and the land a rest and renewal for all creation. Here’s an interesting fact: If every Jew and Christian tian in the world worshipped on the Sabbath and then came home and didn’t buy anything or drive anywhere the remainder of the day, we could save about 14 percent of our carbon footprint. But even more significantly, by filling the emptiness inside with God rather than nonstop consumption, Sabbath peace flows into our habits every day. Thomas Merton captured this concept well: When your tongue is silent, you can rest in the silence of the forest. When your imagination is silent, the forest speaks to you. It tells you of its unreality and of the Reality of God. But when your mind is silent, then the forest suddenly becomes magnificently real and blazes transparently with the Reality of God.
  • Last is peace between people and God. Oswald Chambers wrote: The busyness of things obscures our concentration on God … Never let a hurried lifestyle disturb the relationship of abiding in Him. This is an easy thing to allow, but we must guard against it. Sabbath time can incorporate a time for God. A time when we look beyond the tyranny of the urgent and reflect upon the eternal consequences of our actions. We can better focus on God’s generosity and goodness and our relationship with Him.
Sabbath entails doing things that bring healing, joy, and rest to a person. In Sabbath we experience freedom of mind and spirit. We are creative and express true selves. God’s work habits are strategic enough to allow time for rest and joy in the midst of God’s creative process. As Christians, we are called to a life that emulates and honors God. Without balance, we are unable to be who God created us to be, caretakers of God’s creation in community with God and each other. Sabbath keeps us healthy and sane as we go about our work with God in the world.

Honoring Sabbath times is a biblical mandate. It is one of the ten commandments God gave Moses for God’s people. It is also an important element in living abundantly. To help evaluate how well we are doing for ourselves you may find these resources helpful: To honor your pastor’s need for Sabbath, the Abundant Health team recommends having the Staff Parish Relations Committee of a local church and the pastor discuss the materials and come to an agreement about the materials included in this sample Local Church/Pastor Health/Wellness Agreement. Then share the agreement with the congregation once it is complete.

At least one day in every seven, pull off the road and park the car in the garage. Close the door to the toolshed and turn off the computer. Stay home, not because you are sick but because you are well. Talk someone you love into being well with you. Take a nap, a walk, and hour for lunch. Test the premise that you are worth more than you can produce – that even if you spent one whole day of being good for nothing you would still be precious in God’s sight. And when you get anxious because you are convinced that this is not so – remember that your own conviction is not required. This is a commandment. Your worth has already been established, even when you are not working. The purpose of the commandment is to woo you to the same truth.  —Barbara Brown Taylor