While Pastor Michael is on sabbatical, our weekly E-pistle will be written by different individuals. This week’s E-pistle is by congregation member Mimi Copp-Johnson. She is leader of the Congregational Life Standing Leadership Group…
I have this memory from when I was a child that my family would not go out to eat on Sundays because people should not have to work on the Sabbath. I’m pretty sure it was my dad who instituted this practice and who ironically worked long hours every Sunday because he was a pastor. This was my first introduction to Sabbath.
Over the years, I’ve come to need Sabbath like I need water. And the relief and joy it brings me has created a yearning for it.
I’ve tried, with mixed results over the years, to set one day each week that is a sabbath day. Also with equally mixed results, I’ve tried to take Sabbath moments in the course of the hectic work day, setting a timer or just sensing the need to stop for a couple seconds or a few minutes or an hour. About 5 years ago I took some time off between jobs and tried on the posture of sabbatical for a couple of months. It was restorative and formative. And now I’m doing that again.
For me, Sabbath is about ceasing work and resting. About spending time with God in a different way. It is about noticing, listening, stillness, waiting. Remembering that my labor is good and important but not essential that the world will stop turning if I don’t keep my nose to the grindstone.
A liberating part for me, as I many times obsessively work, is that God wants rest for me. God wants to spend time with me out of the fray. So much so that Sabbath is one of the 10 commandments and a sign of God. “You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.” God says this to Moses in Exodus 31 after giving him instructions on building the Tabernacle and making garments for the priests. Rest is important and necessary even in the midst of the most special and important of tasks and responsibilities.
I have experienced Sabbath as an invitation from God. Something like what Abraham Joshua Heschel describes in his book The Sabbath, “When all work is brought to a standstill… Sabbath comes like a caress, wiping away fear, sorrow and somber memories.” When I read or hear the words “be still and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10) or “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” (Matthew 11:28) whether at home or in worship or as I enter a place of retreat, the tears well up in my eyes, I catch my breath and then exhale, starting to feel the sacred space of Sabbath.
See you in church,