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Labor Day and Sabbath Rest

The Rev. Dr. William Rich
August 30, 2018

When you realize that Labor Day is just a few days away, what’s your first thought?  I find myself thinking: “Ugh!  Where did the summer go?  There goes the slower pace of life.”


What a challenge it is to find a healthy work-life balance!  But when we are able to find such a balance, life feels different.  God created us not to be enslaved to work, but to delight in the life-giving dance of work and re-creation.  One of the greatest goods that the Christian tradition inherited from Judaism is the practice of Sabbath.  This holy and healthy weekly rhythm of work and Sabbath keeps life from being nothing more than a soul-sapping, drab sameness of unrelieved days of toil.    


It is tempting to think that God created the practice of Sabbath for the purpose of “recharging one’s batteries” so that we can be more efficient when we go back to the “real purpose” of our life: work.  But work alone is not what God made us for.  You and I are made for love. To love God with “all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength…and your neighbor as yourself.”  (Mark 12:30-31)  And it is well nigh impossible to give ourselves over to love, if you and I do nothing but work as “a beast of burden.”  As Abraham Joshua Heschel said in his masterpiece The Sabbath, “The Sabbath is not for the sake of the weekdays; the weekdays are for the sake of Sabbath.  It is not an interlude, but the climax of living.” (p.14)


The ideal which God has offered us in the Fourth Commandment is an entire day of rest.  But for most of us an entire day of rest – to love God and another undistractedly – is a fondly imagined goal, instead of something we have found a way to practice.  And so many of us do our best to carve out Sabbath moments on Sundays, and on other days of the week. 


Some of you have generously told me about your ways of keeping Sabbath.  One doesn’t use the internet at all on Saturdays.  Another rises early enough to write and reflect for an hour. Yet another takes a “prayer walk” each day.  As Trinity’s new program year begins, I have recommitted myself to begin each day with an hour of Sabbath.  Part of that time I spend reflecting on the Scripture for the coming Sunday, a sort of sabbatical time to prepare for a better marking of the coming Sabbath.  I spend some time journaling, a practice that has deepened my awareness of God’s love upholding and surrounding me, while also deepening my heart’s openness to loving the people I meet each day.   


What ways have you found to practice Sabbath?  Perhaps you might want (in the Comments section below) to share with me and your fellow parishioners some of the ways you step back from work to rest, bask in the love of God, and open yourself to loving your neighbor as yourself.  As part of our year to Be Curious. Be Welcoming. Belong, I’d love to learn more from you about how I might better practice Sabbath.


See you in church for a time of Sabbath!

The Rev. William W. Rich

Interim Rector


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