A few months ago I was at a church leadership conference held down at Kanuga, the sprawling and well-appointed conference and retreat center of the Episcopal Church located in Hendersonville, NC. One of the speakers at this conference was the Rev. Jay Sidebotham. Among other things, he is most well-known for illustrating the cartoons on those large church calendars (one of which is hanging in the parish house where the Sunday offering is counted). And in a previous life, he was an illustrator for the old School House Rock animation bits.
One of the things he does as a priest is a weekly meditation piece, similar to my Wednesday Word, but his come out on Mondays and are called Monday Matters. My reasoning for writing on Wednesday is to help give a little “pick-me-up” in the middle of the week. His reasoning for writing on Mondays is to give his readers a good start to the week.
In his reflection last week, he reflected on Sabbath rest. He was primarily focused on the gospel reading from June 3 where Jesus healed the man with the withered hand on a Sabbath. Where Jay was going with this was that Jesus spent so much time challenging the rules of the day about Sabbath rest because we need to be reminded that sabbaths are occasions to recall that God is love and we are to show that same love to all people all the time. “The Sabbath,” he wrote, “is a time to get to know God better.”
But in taking the time to get to know God better, we must also take the time to get to know ourselves better, and this is another aspect to sabbath. Jay said he once received advice from an older priest to make sure he took a Sabbath day for himself. Weekly. Religiously. I don't remember asking an older priest for advice along those lines, but somewhere someone let me and my classmates know to do this. Since my first week as an ordained clergy person, I have always taken Friday & Saturday off. And I've been pretty good about making sure that those days are not interrupted (obvious emergencies and rare instances being an exception).
I bring this up because this week I am taking a type of sabbath rest. I am down at Virginia Theological Seminary engaged in the first week of that preaching seminar thing. It's a type of Sabbath because I can spend time learning more about myself as a preacher. I can spend some quiet time (hopefully) learning more about where God might be calling me along these lines. And I'm trying not to worry about what my in box is collecting.
Sabbath time is important for everyone. It was important for God to rest after six days spent creating. It is important for clergy to rest so they don't burnout themselves, or their families, while living into their calling. And it is important for all of you as well. Do you spend quality time away from those things which push and pull you in different directions? Do you spend quality time reconnecting with those you love? Do you spend quality time with God?
If not, take some time for a Sabbath rest. After all, both God and Jesus did.