Sabbath Rhythms of Rest & Peace
For the past few days I have been in Portland Oregon, participating in the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Although it's been a few days, my body still hasn't gotten used to the time change. The clock on my phone and the clock in my body have not yet sync'd up yet, you see.
I've woken at 5 AM or earlier every day since I've been here. It's served me pretty well because I've been able to beat everyone else to breakfast in some of the hard-to-get-into breakfast joints in town. But around 8PM, I start to fade to black, as my East Coast circadian rhythm begins to kick in, and leaves me feeling weary.
As human beings we know that we have these rhythms of wakefulness and rest. Our bodies become accustomed to these rhythms, even when our particular rhythms might be pushing the limits of what we should be experiencing.
For example, I went to bed exhausted last night after a long day of meetings. I figured I would sleep until my alarm went off, but I was mistaken. A full 30 minutes before my alarm sounded, I awoke and could not go back to sleep, regardless of how tired I felt.
I started thinking about all of the nights I stay up too late, working, watching TV, answering emails, and the like. I also started thinking about all of the stressors, busy-ness, deadlines and such that are always on my mind, sometimes causing me to wake long before my alarm---often lying there in bed working through problems, thinking about my schedule, and a host of other things.
There is this passage in the book of Hebrews that talks about what it really means to keep the Sabbath--that it's not just one day of not working. Sabbath, as it was intended, was a way of orienting your life, of living in a rhythm that was life-giving and God-honoring.
"There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for those who enter God's rest also rest from their own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following [the ancient Israelites] example of disobedience." Hebrews 4:9-11
The writer of Hebrews is affirming the Jewish belief that a lack of Sabbath-keeping leads to death. In other words, if you keep pushing the limits... if you keep working like you are enslaved... if you don't take the time to do life-giving things, to rest and find peace... you will end up killing yourself: physically and spiritually.
Mother Teresa famously instructed a rule that the Sisters in her mission take Thursdays off for prayer and for rest. "The work will always be here," she said, "but if we do not rest and pray, we will not have the presence to do our work."
Maybe it's time for some new rhythms. If you are living your life from one crisis to the next, one stressor after another... perhaps it's time for a change. Sabbath is more than just taking a day off--it's a way of thinking and being. When you have a Sabbath mindset, you discover time for rest that compliments your time for work. You also find an inner peace that defies busy-ness and the frantic lifestyle that so many of us are tempted to lead.
May you find Sabbath rest today and every day. May you keep the Sabbath with your whole life--finding rhythms of rest, work and play that give you eternal life both now and forever. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.