31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
June 10, 2018
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
“And on the seventh day God finished the work that [God] had done, and [God] rested.” (Genesis 2:2)
God rests, and God also, in the Ten Commandments, commands the creatures that God has made in God’s own image to rest, to “remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8).
And not just the creatures created in God’s own image, the land shall also have a time of rest. Every seventh year, you “shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard….it shall be a year of complete rest for the land.” (Leviticus 25:4-5)
The land needs time for rest; people need time for rest; even God, the Creator of the Universe, Maker of all things, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, took time to rest.
Sabbath rest, is as essential to the practice of our Christian faith as prayer, worship, service, and nurturing our Christian faith journeys with God’s Word. And yet, we do not prioritize Sabbath rest. Some of us have never heard of it, and others have only a faint idea that it might have something to do with obligation, restrictions, long hours of worship, and not being allowed to shop, play, or have fun.
Sabbath rest is an essential spiritual practice; however, we don’t talk about it much; we don’t understand it; and we certainly don’t practice it.
So as I prepare to begin sabbatical leave tomorrow, I want to share what sabbatical or Sabbath rest is and what it is not.
Sabbatical is not vacation. It’s not bonus time off to catch up on household chores or office work. It’s not time to stuff in to our schedules what we can’t otherwise get done.
Sabbath rest is not time to travel, although travel can be a part of Sabbath rest. Still, it is not the purpose.
Sabbath rest is also not time to sleep. Our bodies need sleep. There are numerous studies on how sleep deprived we are and how that negatively affects our bodies and interactions with one another. Still, Sabbath rest is not about sleeping.
Instead, the Biblical book of Leviticus tells us that Sabbath rest is a time to refrain from work, to refrain from planting and sowing, pruning and reaping, and generally wrestling to have dominion over the earth.
Sabbath rest is a time to let it be. To let the earth just be. Time to take pleasure in what God has created. Take time to look around at creation, at the plants and trees and animals and say, “It is good. It is very good.”
And Sabbath rest includes taking time to let ourselves be. To notice what is good about us. Not what is good about what we have achieved or what we are doing or what we are producing. Time to simply be grateful for ourselves, letting go of the pressure to be a better, more improved student, parent, employee, athlete, or partner.
Sabbath rest is an intentional time to let creation be, to let ourselves be, to notice what is good, and to give thanks.
Sabbath rest is also a time to be with family, to be in community, to play and be joyful. Sabbath time is not a dour, dreary, time of restriction and obligation. It is time to waste “on the pleasure of being together.” (Practicing Our Faith, Bass, pg 87)
Sabbath time is going to the beach, to the amusement park, to the playground, on a hike, out into your garden – even though you have “ real work” to do.
Sabbath is intentionally set aside time for play, for connecting with others, for being really present. Sabbath is a time for joy, which is a fruit of the spirit, a sign you are filled with God’s Holy Spirit. Love, kindness, patience, and generosity are also fruits of the spirit – spiritual gifts we can only practice in relationship with one another.
And Sabbath rest is “a piece of time that opens space for God.” (Practicing Our Faith, Bass, pg 81) Sabbath is taking time to honor God, by doing nothing but being with God, being quiet, being attentive, being still, being open to God’s still speaking voice
As much as I am looking forward to this sabbatical time, I am also aware that I struggle with the spiritual discipline of Sabbath rest. I know how to be busy. I like to be on the go. I am comfortable being an achiever, measured and known by what I have done and produced.
You cannot believe my temptation to take this time to work ahead – to write sermons and bulletins and Children’s Ministry curriculum so that when I return in August I can do more, work more, produce more. I am very tempted to catch up on all of the reading and work I have not found time to fit into my regular week throughout the year.
That’s not what sabbatical time is for though. That’s not what Sabbath rest is about. So I am going to resist that impulse to work. I am not going to check my work email. I might even take two or three days to return a text.
Instead, I am going to talk to strangers and ask them what inspires them and gives them hope. I am going to meet with community leaders and ask them what they see as the biggest need in Bristol. I am going to finish Quest Love’s book on creativity. I am going to play in mud puddles and paint and go to Lake Compounce and Sturbridge Village with Jack. I am going to join the “Take a Moment to Do Nothing” society.
According to the cartoon, “Rose is Rose” by Pat Brady & Don Wimmer, the “Take a Moment to Do Nothing” Society is where you lay in the grass alone or cuddled up with a loved one and do absolutely nothing – for a moment.
I invite you to join the “Take a Moment to Do Nothing” society with me because although you are gifting me with this time away, this time set apart to be with God, to notice the good things God is doing in creation and specifically Bristol, this time to nurture my own calling in ministry, although I am the one about to go on sabbatical, we all need Sabbath rest, and we all need each other to encourage us to practice the spiritual discipline of Sabbath rest.
In her book, Practicing Our Faith, Dorothy C. Bass, writes, “none of us should think that we can sustain Sabbath keeping, whenever it happens, all by ourselves. We need mutuality in this practice…We need to help one another discover this gift.” (Practicing Our Faith, Bass, pg 85)
We honor God by taking Sabbath rest. We honor ourselves by taking Sabbath rest. We honor creation by taking Sabbath rest.
So make plans with yourself, make plans with someone else, and find time this summer to do nothing. To do nothing except play, laugh, see the goodness in the world, sit in stillness, walk in the woods, and be fully present with God.