I tried to have lunch with a friend from church and he said, “I have an opening ~ not this Tuesday, but the one following that ~ and it will have to be a late lunch, say, around 2:30 and, sorry in advance, but it will have to be quick because I have another appointment at 4:00.” And that person was retired!
All my life I heard the saying, “time is money” and I never understood it until I saw a man playing billiards with his son. I thought they were having such a nice “father and son moment” on a lazy Sunday afternoon until I heard the father say to his son, “Hurry up! We’re paying by the hour!” Hurry up and have fun?
I am on a roll here, so please grant me one more story. I once told my neighborhood coffee shop owner in Manhattan that he looked like he could use some rest. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” he said with eyes half-closed by sleep deprivation. Doesn’t the CIA use sleep deprivation as an interrogation technique that has now been classified as torture? And yet we use it torture ourselves!
You need not look far to find people failing to keep Sabbath. You can even find people not keeping Sabbath in church on Sunday morning when they look around for someone with whom to catch up on business or with whom to share the hottest, latest rumor. Where is the Sabbath in a Sabbath such as that?
There are people, however, who take Sabbath very seriously. Have you ever heard of a Sabbath elevator? Unless you are an observant Jew, don’t ever get on a Sabbath elevator if you encounter one because they stop on every single floor on the Sabbath so observant people do not have to break Sabbath by doing the “work” of pushing the elevator button. I learned that the hard way when getting on a Sabbath elevator in a Jerusalem hotel. My room was on the twelfth floor. Jesus had some interesting things to say about keeping Sabbath, but I will save that for another time.Exodus 20:8 says we should remember the Sabbath, by keeping it holy. Some of us are reasonably good about the remembering part; but not so much with the keeping it holy. Sabbath is about allowing yourself to become still, letting your guard down, and becoming vulnerable enough to allow the Holy Spirit to enter your soul and transform your life. Sabbath is about seeking, honoring, and cultivating a relationship with God and allowing the Spirit to infuse your relationships. Writer and author, Donna Schaper says in her book, TIME: From Famine to Feast that keeping Sabbath is a form of civil disobedience, as keeping Sabbath exists in opposition to the ways of the world.
The world shouts for us to heat up. Sabbath encourages us to chill. The world tells us we need more, more, more. Sabbath whispers that we can thrive with less, less, less. Sabbath is about the need for spiritual and physical rest. Have you ever returned from a vacation exhausted, burned-out and in need of a vacation? Physical rest, vacation and recreation alone won’t do it. The word “recreation” comes from re-creation. Sabbath, properly kept, is renewal.
Some people, such as pastors and priests, nurses, waiters, police officers and fire fighters, cannot keep Sabbath on Sunday. But there should be one day, any day of the week that you can reserve for holy rest, stillness and reflection. God did not create us as human doings, but as human beings. Keeping Sabbath allows us to find rest, renewal, relief, restoration and to simply Be. And so, remember the Sabbath, and don’t forget to keep it Holy.
Dwight Lee Wolter is the author of several books and the pastor of the Congregational Church of Patchogue on Long Island, New York. He blogs at dwightleewolter.com