From the Pastor’s Desk: Sabbath Keeping

At the beginning of June I traveled to Green Lake, WI for our denomination’s Wisconsin Conference Annual Meeting. While the keynote speakers are always good and I enjoy the privilege of having a voice and vote on issues at the business meetings the real highlight of this weekend for me has always been the various workshops. Whether you are passionate about music and worship, biblical studies, mission and outreach, the future of our denomination, camp and outdoor ministries, there is always something offered that is sure to pique your interest. This year I found myself drawn to workshops that talked about stewardship of our physical health (and how to live longer and healthier lives) and about “the spiritual practice of enough”. One of the great takeaways of these workshops for me was the importance of caring for myself both physically and spiritually. This is not about being selfish but about maintaining oneself in order to be able to provide quality care for the people and churches I serve. Honesty is important and I must be honest in saying that I struggle, at times, in my obedience  to the commandment of Sabbath listed in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15). In my desire to meet the needs of others and offer my best to both churches I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking I must be constantly working, constantly striving to do more and more. The reality is that all this does is become a physical and emotional drain, and can lend to the false belief that it is all up to me, rather than to rest in God’s provision. So I hope you will be hearing me talk about Sabbath more in the future. What this means is that I am committing myself to take the fourth commandment seriously, to set aside one day of each week for rest and renewal (typically this will be Thursday or Friday, as church needs dictate). This does not mean I am not available in an emergency…I will most certainly be checking my messages and responding to any urgent needs. But it means I might not answer my phone right away, and non-emergency emails and phone calls will be returned the next day.

Sabbath is not a luxury, but a necessity, a call to trust in God and to recognize that we are truly to be “human beings” not merely “human doings”. It is to recognize that God is the one in control and that it is God who provides. All week long we work and strive, and so on one day of the week we are called to slow down, to reflect on the goodness of God, to recharge and renew ourselves with God’s grace. And Sabbath-keeping isn’t just for pastors; all God’s people are called to obey these words and recognize and respond to God’s creative work in our lives. Sabbath is not to be a burden or drudgery but a gift, another example of God’s abundant grace and desire for us to live life with joy. In the gospels we often read of Jesus taking time away from his ministry to pray and rest. There is no one way to keep Sabbath…and as Jesus said “the Sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). What matters is using the time to refresh yourself, to enjoy the goodness of God.

Now, admittedly, as one prone to saying “yes” to every request made of my time and my energy, the observance of Sabbath can be a challenge. It can even cause anxiety over what is left undone. But as Richard Carlson wrote in his best-selling book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, there will always be things in our life left unfinished, things that must be left for another day. But this is one of those journeys that we can share with one another, speaking of the joys and the challenges of being faithful to this command. As I commit myself to this practicing of keeping Sabbath, I invite you to join me on the journey, let’s hold one another accountable. I welcome your responses and reflections as you keep Sabbath in your own life. For those interested in reading more on the subject of Sabbath keeping, there have been a number of excellent books and articles written on the subject. Stop by my study and I would be happy to share these resources with you.

Keep the faith!

Pastor Tara