United Church of Christ

Rules for Radical Sabbathtarians

"Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy." - Exodus 20:8

I just returned from a luxurious three month sabbatical, escaping New York's hard winter for North Miami Beach.

As a writer and a pastor, I have mostly written about Sabbath keeping in the 21st century. Sabbath is spiritual rest or rest for the spirit. This one-seventh of our time is time to enjoy God, which is the holiest of holies. I goofball more than most of my peers – and I do so because I know how important my rest is to my work, my leisure is to my productivity. I also suffer from a God complex and resting more than God did is therapy to that complex.

Really good Sabbathtarians (of which club I am not a member) lose the guilt early. They also figure out how to do nothing. I took my three month sabbatical over four months and worked a week a month. The work was a kind of reverse sabbatical, giving me more rest than I realized it would. 

Also, I learned how to be (briefly each day) an escapee from the dominant narrative: "You are what you do. If you don't do it, no one else will. Hard work is the route to justice." I could bask (sometimes) in the renewable energy of God's narrative: "You are a creature. You are not in charge of the universe. You are not supplied by electric power or motor power or energy you buy from a company. You are not a diminishing resource. You are a renewing resource. You are powered by sun and wind."

Prayer

Show us Sabbath giving and Sabbath taking God, how to enjoy both rest and work. Remind us that not everybody "gets" a sabbatical and still you offer rest to all. Amen.

ddauthordonnaschaper.jpgAbout the Author
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her most recent book is I Heart Frances: Letters to the Pope from an Unlikely Admirer.

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