"Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." - Exodus 20:7, The Message
After twenty-three years of ministry, I finally get to take my first sabbatical. For twelve weeks I will have to completely re-orient myself to the world. As I awake every morning I will have to remind myself not to scurry off to the office. Instead, my time will be spent pursuing other goals and exploring other horizons … and maybe taking it easy.
I am trying to focus on the Hebrew Bible's emphasis on the "Sabbath Day" and asking myself the following question: Will I be disciplined enough to take Sabbath days during my sabbatical? Like many of my colleagues, I have a difficult time "ceasing" from my daily routine and duties, which is the meaning behind the word "Sabbath."
The priestly writer commands that we do everything we need to do in six days and devote the seventh day to God. On that special day, everyone, including ourselves, our families, houseguests, and even our domestic animals, should cease from their labors. After all, if God needed a nap after six days at the old grindstone, shouldn't we?
We live in a world that says, "Get some rest," while at the same time criticizing those who are caught loafing or taking a break. We have a cultural allergy against non-productivity and idleness. But I suspect we will never discover a sense of the holy unless we adhere to the following wisdom: "What part of cease working do you not understand?"
Holy and Resting God, hide our keys, turn off the electricity, bring on the snow days … whatever it takes … just get us to take Sabbath seriously. Amen.
Jimmy R. Watson is the Pastor of St. Andrew United Church of Christ, Louisville, Kentucky.