“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20:8-11
Life remains busy. Some of you are working from home, others who didn’t anticipate home-schooling are learning, college students are studying online, and many are still without work. Although restrictions have been lifted, we have been cautioned to recognize vulnerabilities and limit large gatherings. We may not be seeing the crowds of a typical shopping day, and that’s a good thing for our health. What are you doing to stay healthy?
The above featured image was taken in downtown Jerusalem on a Friday early afternoon in January 2019. It was alive. People were bustling about gathering groceries at the market for their Sabbath meal, and there were so many cars and busses traffic was almost unable to move. As if someone flipped a switch, the crowds started to dwindle and the word on the street was, “Shabbat Shalom”. Just as quickly as we were caught up in the busyness, it was quiet. The only people left on the street at 4pm were the others from my tour group, waiting for our bus. For the people in this market, blessings of a peaceful Sabbath were a weekly occurrence. Jesus tells us, “the Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). It is not a burden we bear, but a gift we have. Maybe your Sabbath doesn’t begin at sundown on Friday, but do you practice experiencing a Sabbath gift?
For me, this gift can easily be taken away with all the other things I “should” be doing. I should do some laundry. I should mow my lawn. I should finish my homework. You get the idea. But what if, for the sake of my health, I rest? What could that look like? I include 4 W’s… Wake, Walk, Wash, and Worship. You may also try “family, friends, and faith” or “live, laugh, and love”. Here’s an example:
- Wake – If I can, I will sleep until I wake up without an alarm. As I awaken, I smile to wake up my heart, I stretch to wake up my body, and I repeat Psalm 118:24 to wake up my mind and spirit. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
- Walk – I still try to walk like I do on other days, but while I often wear ear buds and listen to music or my favorite podcast, this day I pay special attention to creation. I observe the sounds – this Sabbath I heard birds singing and watched squirrels scamper across the road. I notice the smells of flowers and trees blooming, or the freshness of the rain-washed earth.
- Wash and nourish – As I wash, I remember my baptism. I make the sign of the cross on my forehead with water, and I remember that I am a child of God and I am loved. Each time I wash my hands I repeat the Lord’s Prayer (pretty cool that’s about 20 seconds!) and remember that I am forgiven and free to be who God has created me to be. I also try to drink plenty of water and I take time to eat something healthy without distraction of TV.
- Then, I spend time in worship. These days of pandemic have offered many more options with recorded worship available in addition to my personal reading of Scripture, prayer, music, and other devotions. I spend some time writing and reflecting on God’s holy Word. One of the Ten Commandments reads, “Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.” What does this mean? Martin Luther’s Small Catechism explains it like this: “We are to fear and love God, so that we do not despise preaching or God’s word, but instead keep that word holy, and gladly hear and learn it.” I might choose to play the piano or listen to some music. Wondering what God’s Word is for me today, this coming week, this year, I rest. I reflect on the promise that although I may be isolated from others I am not alone. God is always with me.
I don’t do this perfectly by any means, but when I can purposefully rest, I am physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually refreshed. I am uplifted to begin a new week with joy and energy.
What does your Sabbath look like? Our homes may not be clean and our lives may feel a bit chaotic. Can you give yourself permission to rest? Shabbat Shalom, dear friends.
O God, we thank you for times of refreshment and peace in the course of this busy life. Grant that we may so use our leisure for the renewal of our bodies and minds that our spirits may be opened to the goodness of your creation; through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.
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Thank you for this beautiful reflection on the Sabbath. It gives me so much food for thought.