The Reverend Dr. Wayne Muller, a best-selling author and therapist writes, “When the scripture refers to God resting on the seventh day, the reference could also translate as, ‘God exhaled’”.
When Jesus was accused of working on the Sabbath by healing someone, He replies with a reminder that everyone feeds and waters their ox or donkey on the Sabbath. In another of the Gospel accounts, Jesus asks them, “Who among you, if you have an ox in a ditch, would not go and get it out on the Sabbath?” (See: Mark 3:1-6; Luke 13:10-17)
For the Hebrew Jews, working on the Sabbath was forbidden, except under certain circumstances, such as those mentioned above. But there is more meaning to be derived here. Sabbath is a day of rest; one day out of seven to refresh and recharge. It is also a day to enjoy the gift of life and the beauty of creation.
We live in a society that rewards productivity and activity 24/7/365. The true meaning and purpose of Sabbath has been fundamentally lost. We fill our calendars with activities that we believe are important, and we rarely bother with resting, unless we are asleep, and that is not always restful.
Meanwhile, without Sabbath, or rest, we suffer burn-out. How many of our high-achieving young people will suffer burn-out before they are 25 years old? How many adults are driving themselves to heart attacks and stress melt-downs by not observing a Sabbath? Perhaps our stressed-out, angry, frustrated society is so dis-eased because of our neglect of the Sabbath.
This is not a religious matter; it is a matter of health, even life and death. If we don’t stop and smell the roses, we may be dead before we realize the roses exist. Our production-oriented society leads us to miss the beauty of creation, and worse yet, the beauty that is in all of us.
It is important to remember that “God rested”. (See: Gen. 2:3) Or as Dr. Muller teaches, “God exhaled”. When we exhale in a physical, spiritual, and emotional sense, we are releasing the stress of completing a task. The Bible story indicates that in the cycle of creation there is also a resting period, or stepping-back, that is crucial to the process.
It is not that God got tired, or needed to rest, but that God took time to see the entirety of creation and celebrate the fact that “it is good”. (See: Gen. 1:31) When we neglect the Sabbath of rest we are depriving ourselves of the opportunity, even obligation, to exhale, recognize what is “good”, and remember how fortunate we are. Sabbath gives us renewed strength for the next six days of work, and greater productivity in them.
Attending church on Sunday, or whatever day you choose, is a great way to observe the Sabbath in a place specifically designed to be “sanctuary” from the busy-ness of life.
Blessings and Peace to You All,
Rev. Dr. David Bridges is the pastor at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Grove. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. St. Andrew's worship service is at 10 a.m., every Sunday, and broadcast on KWXC 88.9 FM at 5 p.m. on Saturday and 7:30 a.m. on Sunday.