Six days shall work be done; but the seventh day is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation; you shall do no work: it is a sabbath to the Lord throughout your settlements. – Leviticus 23:3 (NRSV)
Growing up in a sabbath-observing tradition, I often found it unfair that my siblings and I weren’t allowed to hang out with our peers over the weekend. Friday night football games weren’t an option for us, and by the time the sun set on Saturday, our peers and their families were home preparing for church on Sunday (when, by the way, most everything else was closed).
While it certainly didn’t feel like a gift growing up, as an adult who is increasingly more attentive to the various unfairnesses of the world, it doesn’t take as long to see the radically subversive and exceedingly compassionate gifts of the sabbath.
Imagine what this would have meant for a people who were forced daily to labor rigorously. Even now, it’s completely unfair that some people have to work long and painful hours to barely make ends meet when others spend countless hours on the golf course passively making more in a day than some will make in a lifetime.
Dignity and sustainability are some of the gifts of sabbath.
Out of curiosity, when was the last time you personally have related to the “complete rest” or “holy convocation” that accompanies the sabbath? Feel free to consult your calendar like I just did if that helps you recall. Ironically, in a society that values constant achievement and over-functioning, sabbath-taking actually increases productivity while keeping us intact.
We can disrupt the illusion of deservedness and realign our schedules and rhythms to include rests that support our doing and being. Because it turns out that God’s unfairness draws us more deeply into wholeness.
Pull us away from productivity. Stir us into stillness. Nudge us toward nap time. Caress us into your care. Remind us to rest … and repeat.
The Rev. Phiwa Langeni is the Ambassador for Innovation & Engagement of the United Church of Christ. They are also the Founder of Salus Center, the only LGBTQ resource and community center in Lansing, MI.