Stealing Back Sabbath Series: Sabbath Keeping
The third and last guest installment of our Stealing Back Sabbath series includes a reflection from the Rev. Jennifer Hege, an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. Today, Rev. Hege will discuss the necessity of Sabbath, how we’ve become “anti-sabbath” people, and why clergy should model good Sabbath-keeping practices for their faith communities.
As always, read, enjoy, and share. Feel free to post comments and questions for Rev. Hege below!
It is impossible to write about Sabbath without the mention of God’s commandment to take a Sabbath. In creation we read after the long work of creation–God rested. God created Sabbath. It’s that simple and that complicated. If it was important enough to include in the beginning, then it sure must be important to include in our lives. As a pastor, one of the ways you can feel most guilty is by taking time out for yourself. Taking a Sabbath is not really time out and while it is for you, more importantly, it is for the relationship you have with God. As spiritual leader of the local church and community, it is important to have a strong and deep relationship with others. Pastors need to model good behavior for their parishioners and nowhere is it more important than in modeling Sabbath for your community of faith.
Recently, we had a Bible study on Sabbath at our church. It was evident in our weeks together that a major change had occurred in American lives from the time the participants were growing up until now. I am a mother, therefore I was very interested in the portions of the study that dealt with raising children. The participants in the study reflected on the past when Sunday was a day, to visit family and friends after attending worship service. Today, this is not the norm. No longer are we afforded the freedom from commerce or the assumption families attend weekly worship. Sabbath keeping is no longer an important part of culturally acceptable behaviors. It takes effort and work to keep Sabbath.
Dr. Norman Wirzba, author of Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight, says we often don’t appreciate how much we are shaped by anti-Sabbath ways. The economy to which ascribe as Americans depends on us being anti-Sabbath people. Dr. Wirzba uses the example of an experiment he did by unplugging the television from Labor Day to Memorial Day as well as discontinuing magazines. During this time he had a doctor’s appointment where he was exposed to the magazines he had expelled from his life in the waiting room. Soon after seeing the magazines he decided that his car was no longer good enough and his kitchen needed to be renovated. This was due to the advertisements that he was exposed to however briefly while waiting at the doctor’s office. It is amazing the effects our consumer driven culture has on us. The simple effect being – we are never encouraged to just be.
Sabbath is a time to just be still with the wondrous creator and God of the universe. It truly is the moment that we can hear God’s voice. God’s call to keep the Sabbath is difficult to hear and understand in our world that calls for 60-80 hour work weeks, part time and/or temporary jobs that skirt vacations and benefits and pensions. We find ourselves asking what does it mean to keep the Sabbath? How do we find the rest that actually can re-create our spirit? Do we allow ourselves to take it? Do we set it as a priority? God’s law to remember the Sabbath is so much more involved than just trying to be in church on Sunday. God wants us to have the opportunity to achieve that deep rest that allows us to go into a deeper relationship with our creator and sustainer. It may be the very fiber of our well being and our salvation.
Our faith demands it.
The Rev. Jennifer Hege is the pastor of Antioch and Oak Grove United Methodist Churches outside of Winston-Salem, NC. She is married to Adam and they have a beautiful five-year-old daughter.