As a pastor I have worked to try to find a rhythm of ministry that organizes my areas of responsibility around the days of the week. Study is focused on Mondays and Tuesdays. Drafting my sermons is on Wednesdays. I have meetings with staff and elders as well as counseling appointments sprinkled throughout. There are evening meetings and early morning meetings.
Over the years it has been hard stick to a routine Sabbath. I was re-reading one of my favorite books, “The Pastor” by Eugene Peterson when some of his comments about teaching his congregation to Sabbath by example struck me. That thinking is the cause of this blog post. I need reform in my routine, in order to more regularly pull back from the “it all depends on me” attitude that creeps into ministry. There are some misunderstandings about Sabbath that I hope to dispel in this list of five observations about the Sabbath Rest.
1. As Soon as We Think it is Required We Hate It
It would be humorous if it wasn’t so sad, but our rebellious hearts will refuse things we enjoy if someone else is forcing it on us. I grew up with some fuzzy notion that Christians should treat Sunday as a special day. I remember that we were not supposed to go out to eat, and we went to church. I also remember a stretch where my step-dad would not let us play sports on Sunday to “keep the Sabbath”.
But when we understand that the Sabbath is not a day of restriction, but instead a day of reflection. A day of remembering it doesn’t all revolve around our work and our effort. Sabbath is a reminder that we cannot work without taking some breaks. And Sabbath is a day to reflect on the goodness that God has given to us. If we take this seriously, we would find a better sense of balance. Instead of packing too much into our lives, we need to have some intentional downtime. And God has kindly offered to us some instructions to provide structured rest into our work week.
2. God Likes the Idea
In His LOVE for us, God has granted us permission to take a day of rest. It comes from His desire. The model of the creation week in Genesis 1, serves as the pattern for the way we are to perform our responsibilities with an intentional day of rest in each seven.
The creation of Sabbath is not to harm our productivity, to restrict eating out, or to keep people from being active. Sabbath is about taking a day out to delight in the Creator, to rest in the goodness of his provision, and to walk with him more slowly and intentionally.
3. I Need a Day to be Off Call
I am always on call. And as a pastor who loves ReCAST Church, I will always be on call for crisis like a funeral or the death of a loved one. But since my Sabbath is on Friday, I need to request that anyone who wants to contact me on Friday, please ask yourself if it could wait until Sunday or Monday. I do not write this to be self serving, but to honestly attempt to be a better model of Sabbath rest.
4. I Need to Respect My Congregations Sabbath
And for this reason, I will work harder at attempting to honor Sunday rest for my church. I will work to avoid planning things that interrupt their Sabbath rest. I obviously hope that Sunday mornings and the several community groups that meet on Sunday evenings can be incorporated into the routine of Sabbath rest, and is not considered work for many in the Church. But as the church seeks to honor my attempts at Sabbath rest on Fridays, I will seek to honor their Sabbath rest on Sundays.
5. I Need to be Reminded That the World Doesn’t Crumble Without Me
One of the biggest helps to me during seasons of life where I have been better about an intentional Sabbath rest pertains to my own pride. I find that early on in keeping a routine rest, it is hard to do. Surprisingly, when I feel like I need the time off the most, is often the time I feel the most needed. And that has often been the time that God wants to deal the most with my pride. I am not as important as I might think. And if I step out for a day, nothing crumbles, and I often come back refreshed and more ready to tackle the next week.
We are frail creatures. We are not sovereign. We need rest. Feel free to share with me here or on Facebook your observations about Sabbath Rest.