The Impossibility of Sabbath

sorry, i’m not using caps anymore.  too lazy to use my left pinkie to press the shift key any longer.  only for proper nouns.

as a pastor, my weekly work schedule is a little different from the average.  to be honest, i think most people assume that i only work one day a week – sundays – but that’s totally not the case!  in reality, i usually need to do some kind of work every day of the week.  my main work day is sunday, of course.  but i do work on mondays as well, even though i’m not supposed to because that’s my day off.  you see, some issues at church require immediate follow up – for instance, did you know that if a newcomer receives a welcoming email within 24 hours of church, they are 15% more likely to attend again?!  i didn’t know that.  this is also the perfect time to record details from the service, like attendance, how the sermon went, things of that nature – if i did it any later, the details would get pretty vague.  so i often end up doing quite a bit of work on monday, but hey, i need to!  if i didn’t, then i would lose that chance with those visitors, a crucial loss for a pastor and for a church.

on tuesdays, i do administrative work, taking care of denominational matters or stuff relating to my ordination, paying our bills, answering the mail.  i work on the church calendar, also email out to our leadership team to let them know what is coming up and what they can keep in prayer, all very important to the operation of church.

wednesdays, i’m usually out for visitations, usually 2 or 3 a day.  and i also try to lay the foundation for my sermon, doing some background reading and studying – not my favorite thing to do, but very important for the quality of the sermon.  thursday and friday i try to devote almost completely to sermon writing if possible – not always possible, but necessary.

saturday, i usually have one meeting or study to attend, and the rest of the time i am preparing for sunday: practicing the sermon, printing bulletins, prepping powerpoint slides, stuff like that.  i do that until 11 at night, go to sleep, and BAM!  it’s sunday again!  apply, rinse, and repeat.

i’ve tried to figure out what day would be best for a Sabbath, a day where i can rest in God, but i don’t feel like i have a day to spare.  mondays are important…but so are tuesdays.  let’s not forget all the stuff i have to do on wednesday, and thursday, friday…saturday too.  to be honest, i feel like i don’t have enough days of the week to do all the work i could and should be doing for church.  so a Sabbath is just not realistic for me.

and i have a feeling that all of our lives are something like this, filled with this or that, work, the commute, kids, groceries, dinner, cooking, all stuff that is not unimportant.  and before we know it, another week has passed by and we didn’t take care of nearly everything we were supposed to!  and in light of this, how are we supposed to be able to devote an entire day of rest to God?  completely unrealistic, and consequently, completely unimportant.

but the Sabbath has nothing to do with realism.

what i’ve realized is that as hard as it is for me to give up one day for God, imagine what it was like for the early Israelites, agrarian farmers and shepherds from ancient times for whom their very survival depended on constant work.  If a storm or locusts destroyed a crop, they ran the very real risk for starvation, they and their entire family.  perhaps they could beg for grain from a neighboring kingdom, as Joseph’s brothers were forced to do, but that was it.  There was very little redundancy, no welfare and food stamps ensured by a massive national government, no way to preserve food for very long even.  Constant toil was necessary for survival, something that very few modern Westerners can fathom.

and yet, God commanded them to take one day out of seven, 14% of their week, and just rest.  do nothing, no work at all.  can you just imagine how maddening and frustrating that must have been for them, how such a command must have went against their better judgment?  their situation is so much more difficult than our own – if we don’t work for one day, we might fall behind.  if they didn’t work for one day, they might fall DEAD.  okay…a little dramatic, but you get my point.

but i don’t think Sabbaths are supposed to be an exercise in organization, a way to make sure that we are faithfully structuring our days so that we can accomplished 7 days of work in only 6 – although that it is one of the helpful consequences of keeping a Sabbath.  neither do i think it is something that God demands of us in a legalistic way – after all, Jesus tells us that the Sabbath was made for us, not the other way around.

Sabbaths are about faith, and whether we have faith that God is good to complete the work we choose not to do that final day.  Sabbaths are about our beliefs, whether we believe that it is our works that ensure our future, or that it is the One who wrote our future.  Sabbaths are about trust, whether we trust ourselves and our wisdom, or we trust God and his.  when we keep a Sabbath, one day completely devoted to God, what we are in essence saying is this:

“God, you told me to do this crazy thing.  i don’t understand it.  i’m not comfortable with it.  i’m scared if i do it.  but i’ll do it because you told me to, and i trust you.”

so you see why Sabbaths are so incredibly important.  when we do not keep the Sabbath regularly, our faith muscles become weak and flabby due to extreme underuse, and so when a time of trial or shortfall comes, we are absolutely STRICKEN by it, foundering like fish out of water.  that’s because we haven’t been exercising.  the Sabbath is a weekly exercise of our faith and trust in the love and the providence of God.  it is a regular time that we take every week to live out that above statement, and place our trust for that week in the Lord.  through the Sabbath, we learn how to place our trust in God for the gaps in our lives, of which that one day in our week is an apt metaphor.

so my day of Sabbath will be monday, a day i spend with my family, enjoying God’s presence and Word, and consciously trusting that He is a far better Shepherd to my church than i ever will be.  what day is yours?

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The Impossibility of Sabbath

sorry, i’m not using caps anymore.  too lazy to use my left pinkie to press the shift key any longer.  only for proper nouns.

as a pastor, my weekly work schedule is a little different from the average.  to be honest, i think most people assume that i only work one day a week – sundays – but that’s totally not the case!  in reality, i usually need to do some kind of work every day of the week.  my main work day is sunday, of course.  but i do work on mondays as well, even though i’m not supposed to because that’s my day off. Continue reading “The Impossibility of Sabbath”