Thursday, October 15, 2009

Avoiding the Sabbath

It might seem strange to be writing about keeping the Sabbath (or not) on a Thursday. For most of us, Thursday is just another workday, a marker along the journey toward the end of the week. For me, at least most weeks, it’s a day off. Clergy can’t exactly take Sunday as a day of rest, so we’re supposed to find another day during the week to make up for it.

It’s tempting for me now to launch into all the reasons why I and my colleagues often don’t get a day off to make up for Sundays: Everybody else is at work on a weekday, and you fall behind if you don’t join in. Church events can’t be scheduled around clergy days off, so you often have meetings or gatherings to attend anyway (like this afternoon and tonight, for example). Pastoral issues don’t take a day off, so people often have needs (real or perceived) that lead them to expect relatively immediate attention. And then there’s the work itself, which will never be “done” until God sees fit to bring in the Kingdom in all its fullness.

All these things are true. But they aren’t the reason why I avoid taking Sabbath time.

Properly observed, Sabbath is about putting into practice God’s direction in Psalm 46: “Be still, and know that I am God.” Because of the way we’re wired, some of us just have trouble being still; and I’m not sure that’s anything needing forgiveness. It’s the second part of the verse that’s problematic: “Know that I am God.” If we actually took Sabbath time, if we really took a break from our obligations (and the hyper-scheduled “fun” that wears us out), we might hear something from God that challenges our independence and our self-importance. If we actually took Sabbath time, we might realize that God really is God, and we are not.

Hmmm. Probably time to move the laundry. And maybe check e-mail, just for a minute. Something important may have happened, and I wouldn’t want to miss it....

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