“Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” Exodus 20:8
“Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.” Rabbi Abraham J. Heschel
So, as most pastors are every week, I’m tired, stressed, and emotionally drained. It’s approximately week 2.5 for me, and just this week held multiple meetings with people along with multiple losses/deaths and random accidents within members of the congregation (in one week!). Our head of staff is doing a series on the 10 Commandments and he asked me to give a short message on the topic of keeping Sabbath for this upcoming Sunday.
I’m so exhausted…and when I found time to write, I realized the irony of trying to “preach” on Sabbath…a topic of resting–pausing–when I couldn’t even do that myself. Even the process of writing a sermon is definitely work for me! I know I’ve been doing this regularly, but I feel new to it every time. It takes me a LOT of time to write sermons…even short ones. How do I preach about Sabbath to others when I can’t even find Sabbath time and rest for myself?
Someone suggested I preach it to myself… so since I found myself stuck and not writing anything and getting more and more tired, I decided to try it. I decided to stop writing my sermon and pause… and hear what God would say to me in that moment about Sabbath.
I’m so glad I paused to listen. Here’s what God said to me:
Guess what? I know you’re tired. I know you have an important job that I’ve called you to do. I know you’re new. I know you’re trying to memorize a bunch of names and retain loads of new and exciting information. I know you’re excited about this new call and position. I know you have a bunch of ideas swirling around your brain and heart. I know now that you’ve settled down and you are easing in, your body is relaxing and now you’re feeling like you’re getting sick. I know in your second week of work you feel like you’ve been there for 2 months. I know your car is having issues. I know the grief the church members felt this week with different deaths and losses and random bike accidents. I know about the pile of laundry and about the phone calls you keep meaning to return to your friends. I know you’re tired. I know you’re trying to write a short message to share with people you know are just as tired, if not more so, as you. I know you feel like you have to be perfect or good or at least decent in what you say to them on Sunday morning. So what am I trying to say to you?
I know you. You are wondering why in your weary state I am asking you to talk about Sabbath—Here’s the thing. I need you to take Sabbath because I want you to remember me. I need you to remember me. Yeah, you’re a pastor and you should be doing this all the time, but believe it or not, you’re probably the worst at it. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. I know that sounds like another thing to do, but I promise by making space to remember me—remembering what I would say to you even as you prepare a message—will help bring life to your soul and into your bones. It’s more than just a recharging system. It’s not just a time where you charge up only to be drained again. It’s taking a time out from everything YOU try to be and accomplish…it’s taking time to clean out the clutter of your own performances and skills and powers and remember that who I have created in you is already GOOD. I call you good. I make you whole.
Did I mention that I know you’re tired? I know you feel like there are a million things you could and should be doing right now. I know you’re kind of a perfectionist. In this commandment of Sabbath, I’m not saying “You shall not” do this or “You shall”…do that… I’m not demanding Sabbath. I’m asking you to REMEMBER. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Remember me—and remember those whose image I bear… the whole point of this time is to bring you and others the healing you might need… the healing you know you need and the healing you didn’t know you needed. I realize you might not know how to be with me anymore… maybe you forgot or maybe you never quite knew… but since you want to know what I have to say to you in the midst of your crazy… Here it is: you are my beloved. I need you to pause so if nothing else, you can remember that. I need you to step away from the noise of judgment and busy-ness to hear me, your God, in the stillness, whispering your name and reminding you that my arms are open wide… come as you are… as broken, as crazy, as doubting, as faithful, as grieving, as angry, as bubbly as you are… The Sabbath, it’s just a time to remember that I breathed you into being-and it was good. You forget that too often.
You need this time so the compassion and love of who I am may grow more fully in you. I get it. I know you. I want you to remember who you are, and whose you are. Thank you for stopping and listening to the love song I’ve written for you in this moment. I want you to always hear it. So remember the Sabbath, and keep it holy.