By Wil Worley
Do you suffer from Sabbath sickness? I hope so.
I hope you recognize the symptoms. What Sandor Frenzi called “Sunday neurosis”. A sickness which causes you to feel uneasy, even ill, on a Sunday. I’m not talking about the careless misprint in the bulletin or your child mischievously sharing a family secret during the Pastor’s children’s moment… I’m talking about that uneasiness that comes from resting. When you can’t relax because you begin to think about all that could be getting done. Whether you’re napping, reading, or playing a game. That instant when you no longer enjoy the moment. My hope is that you recognize these symptoms and have actually enjoyed them.
My thoughts on this sickness come from the scriptures, Mark 2:23-28. This story appears as the second of the three questions posed by the Pharisees early in Mark’s gospel. They have previously questioned Jesus about fasting and will later question Jesus about healing on the Sabbath. The scene is at the edge of a farmer’s field. The disciples are hungry and have picked some grain to eat.
One Sabbath, any Sabbath, some Sabbath—all that matters is the setting: Sabbath. Jesus is on the move but not at Mark’s typical speed. Jesus and the disciples are making their way to the Synagogue to worship. They are hungry and begin to pluck the heads of grain. I must point out, they would also have to rub them in their hands to get rid of the chaff and then pick the seeds out. Much too much work on the Sabbath by Pharisee standards!
You see, I get this mental image of the Pharisees hiding among the wheat and jumping up shouting A-HA!!! Pointing at the disciples with a gotcha finger! They have equated the picking of a few grains to the actual act of reaping. Deut. 23:24-25 allowed what the disciples were doing, basically satisfying hunger. “Sabbath neurosis” does the same to us. Pointing out when we have relaxed too much or read too long. The same finger that pointed at the disciples reaches over the ages to point at us. Keeping us from enjoying Sabbath with God. For the Pharisees, it was no more than a day of legalistic restrictions. But, this was not the way it was created. Look at Genesis 2:3:
3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
You see, we come along in the verses following these. God brought us to Sabbath. I like the way in which Barbara Brown Taylor sees this day in An Altar in the World, “When you live in God, your day begins when you lose yourself long enough for God to find you, and when God finds you, lose yourself again in praise.” (Taylor 140). Earlier, you might recall, I stated some activities and leisurely type things to do on Sabbath. I failed to mention any type of worship. Any kind of church attendance or prayer. Or did I? Can we be leisurely in God? Is your Sabbath worshipful? Do you have the symptoms?
A few weeks ago, during a discussion about, Sabbath and worship with my Youth group. I had to admit to them that I sometimes didn’t really worship or find rest on Sundays. Being a part of worship leadership was not necessarily worshipping. My Sabbath happens elsewhere, sometimes at Gardner Webb during Monday chapel. I realized my own Sabbath Day, no longer held a sickness for me. I myself had forgotten that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. Sabbath was made for me.
The Sabbath was made for man, for us, all of us! Those of you reading this blog, the folks you saw at the store today, and those maybe passing by on your street! A good case of Sabbath Sickness may just be the reminder you need to appreciate the gift that is your Sabbath time.
I am working to get sick, for those of you who need the sickness, won’t you join me?
Wil Worley is a CBF Leadership Scholar pursuing his M.Div. at Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity. He currently serves as the interim youth director at Viewmont Baptist Church in Hickory, N.C. Wil and his wife Denise have two adult and three school-aged children.