Reflection for Sunday 2nd June Trinity I by Canon Dean Fostekew

“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.” Deuteronomy 5:12-13

Although keeping the Sabbath is not in the top three commandments, it is closer to the number one spot that say number 10. So, like all the commandments in their due it is important in our faith and religious practice. Why though, is it one of the Ten Commandments and does it have much relevance to life today?

Personally, I believe that we should pay great attention to this commandment (and all the commandments in fact) if for no other reason for our own individual health and well-being and for the good of our community and society as well. All of us need at least a day ‘off’ each week, even if we are supposedly retired, for all of us tend to live busy lives and a day doing

something different is important, as it enables us to re-charge our batteries and gain new energy to give to the things we do on other days. Even God had a day off:

“Thus the heavens and the Earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day god finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work he had done in Creation.” Genesis 2:1-3

The opening chapters of our Scriptures tell us that God worked on Creation for six days and then rested on the seventh. No matter how you interpret these chapters, they tell us that after a period of intense activity God rested. God has set US a template by which to live our lives. We are to work, to be creative and active but we are also to rest. Taking a rest, however, is something many in the 21st century need to be reminded of and that many employers need to be instructed to ensure.

None of us can work seven days a week, week in and week out without damaging our health, well-being, bodies, mind and souls. If you work all the time or are forced to work all the time, then you have no time to spare for yourself, let alone God or anyone else. So if God rested on the seventh day, then so should we. If we fail to get everything done, then we need to examine our own time management or our employers need to be brought up sharp regarding their exceptions and working practices. this is not to encourage underperformance but to ensure that we give of our best without destroying ourselves. Everyone needs time off to ‘just be’ to recharge, in order to be productive and creative in the longer term.

I know what I am like. I tend to drive myself to get ‘everything done NOW’! When sometimes I do not need to do so and actually if I can step away for a time, I can usually get things done in half the time once I am refreshed. I also know that I am quick to ensure others take time off or are encouraged to do so but slow to do the same myself! I have to constantly remind myself that taking a rest does not mean that I am giving up, far from it.

When God rested he was not absent from the Creation he was just sitting back and watching it happen. He was not removed from it in doing just that he was in fact allowing it to develop in its own way without his contain tinkering with it. God is not removed or absent from Creation today, he is still intiamertky involved with it as we are, co-creating creation day after day after day.

Creation as we perceive it is not an act set in stone but an ever evolving process, in which God is involved intimately with and at the same time distant from it observing its development. God is both immanent and transcendent. In our lives we need to try and take a leaf out of God’s book, to ape God’s way of working; to be able to be involved and observing at different times. We need to be able to stand back and watch as well as being up to our elbows in everything. In that way we can make change and difference more easily.

God models for us a way of working that we need to copy. Like God we need a regular break from our work or routine life. we need to take time off and to enjoy it. To do something different and to appreciate the difference it can make in our lives. at least one of the days each week needs to be a ‘day off’. I know how grumpy and tired and narrow visioned I can become when I don’t get time off in a week. And, don’t think because you may be retired that you don’t need a day off each week either. For retirement can be just as busy as a working week, except you don’t get paid for it!

On of the important things about keeping the Sabbath is that it can offer us opportunities to spend quality time with God. I don’t necessarily think that a Sabbath rest has to be on a Sunday, it isn’t for me; but as the German Theologian Jürgen Moltmann suggested it needs to be a 24 hour period in the week. A full day off in which to relax and do something different or not much at all. As people of faith if we take a sabbath for no other reason we shoal take it to give quality time to God.

Modern life, despite all its gadgets and labour saving devices is busy and fast and all too often 24/7! Emails, texts, social media notifications, calls and meetings all demand our instant attention and response and after a wheel we can easily be left drained, with nothing left to give to anyone. We clergy are just s bad as everyone else at taking time off and we need to change our ways and to lead by example - and I’m talking to myself here as well.

Make one day a week your Sabbath. Try and do something different and learn from God who all those aeons ago set us a template to follow. Never feel guilty about taking time off either, for if it was good enough for God then it is certainly more than good for us!