Summer is a great time for Sabbath

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, June 1, 2016

I love this time of year. Or at least I did when I was a student. And it’s not because of the increasingly warm temperatures, or the mosquitoes that seem to accompany said temperatures. There are two words that capture my love of this season: “summer” and “break.”

Summer break is an amazing gift that you can only fully appreciate when you no longer have one.

A good friend of mine enjoyed summer break so much that he decided to become a teacher. He liked Christmas break, too; but summer break was the driving factor of his vocational choice. (And just for the record, he’s a fine teacher who no longer teaches simply because of summer break—although it’s still his favorite time of year.)

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One of the great benefits of school calendars is that there are clear beginnings and endings, with breaks in between. These beginnings, endings, and breaks provide a helpful rhythm that help keep you engaged and fresh.

But the rest of the world rarely works this way. While weekends and vacations provide leisure and renewal, we essentially go from one day to another without great distinction. And while the church’s calendar and the culture’s calendar do provide rhythm and structure, neither provides anything like summer break.

There is, however, a commandment within the Jewish and Christian traditions about taking a break.

The Hebrew Scriptures begin with a beautiful, poetic account of Creation. For six days, God creates the cosmos and after a long week’s work God kicks off his shoes, whistles a tune, and sits for a spell.

The Scriptures record it this way, “So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:3)

These rythmns of work and rest are such an essential part of our being that God commands us to do nothing for one day out of every seven: “Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work” (Dueteronomy 5:12-4a).

If the Almighty needed a break, is it probable that we might too?

Keeping Sabbath isn’t a mere suggestion for Jews and Christians, it’s one of the ten commandments. Ironically, we (by we, I mean Christians; Jewish tradition continues to take the practice of Sabbath seriously) tend to ignore the one commandment that says we can “kick back, relax, and do nothing for the day.” Doesn’t make any sense.

Except that our culture doesn’t reward Sabbath. Instead, we worship work and celebrate busyness. We keep busy at all costs; ultimately believing we are what we produce. Limiting our busyness does little to enhance our status. While doing more makes us feel important and needed. So we go and go and go.

Taking a break is hard.

Sabbath invites us to slow down, breathe deeply, and open our selves to the Creator who longs to renew us. After all, Sabbath isn’t something we have to do, it’s something we get to do. Sabbath is a gift. As Jesus explained, “The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

So I hope you can enjoy some Sabbath-breaks this summer.

Take a nap. Enjoy a hike (Black Balsam Knob is hard to beat). Walk on the beach. Read a book (or three). Go swimming. Use the grill more than the stove. Eat at least one really good watermelon. Feast on tomato sandwiches (with Duke’s mayonise and black pepper). Go fishing. Soak in the river. Lounge on the couch (or by a shade tree). Listen to live music. Dine with friends. Catch a baseball game. You get the idea.

Take a break. Do no work. And enjoy it!

Thus saith the Lord!

~ Jeff Harris, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Tryon.