By Preston Clegg
“Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.”
This command is one of the 10 Commandments, just between “Don’t take the name of the Lord in vain” and “Honor Your Father and Mother.” The command to honor the Sabbath was of supreme ethical and spiritual importance to the Jewish people. For many in our day, however, the command to honor the Sabbath simply means “Go to church on Sunday.” By and large, we have forsaken the command to rest from our labors, allow our employees to rest from their labors, and to allow the earth to rest from our labor upon it. We have forgotten the lessons the Sabbath has long taught us: being human is more than production and consumption, both work and rest are gifts, and we are not measured by our achievements. We have neglected the day that mocks our social ladders, treating us all as equals and inviting the child that lives in us to play and delight. By and large, we have locked the Sabbath into a chest and placed it in the church’s attic where it has done little more than collect dust.
However, this season of life invites us all to recover the practice of the Sabbath in our lives. In a way, we are all being mandated to Sabbath. So observe it. Yet, our reluctance to do so and difficulty in doing so is a sign that we’ve neglected the Sabbath for too long. We’re uncomfortable with the Sabbath and we don’t know what to do with ourselves when we’re not doing anything productive. We have too much identity tied up in our doing.
If you need some wisdom to begin, listen to Jesus who said, “The Sabbath was made for humanity, not humanity for the Sabbath.” The Sabbath was meant to bless our humanity, to fulfill our humanity, to redeem our humanity. So what is it that makes you feel most human and others most human to you? Do that, whatever it is.
If it’s hunkering down and reading a good novel, read up. If it’s taking a nap and trusting the world to God’s care, rest up. If it’s working in the flowerbeds, get your hands dirty. If it’s cooking family meals, then enjoy the dining room table. If it’s watching your favorite movie, I bet Netflix has it. If it’s a long hike in a beautiful place, I know a few spots. If it’s a phone call to a friend, I bet you still have their number. If it’s praying, then by all means.
But whatever you do, don’t waste this difficult season. Practice Sabbath. Remember your own humanity. Play a little. Get to know the people whom you love most in this world. Pay attention to the inner world you’ve long neglected and the natural world you’ve too often ignored. Rest. Renew. Laugh. Think. Pray. Worship. Recognize the sanctuary that is all of creation and the holy time that is the Sabbath day, and every day.
In these days of quarantine, O Lord, grant us rest and renewal and remove all obstacles that prevent us from doing so. Give us a few days to remind us that we are much more than patrons and clients, employees and employers, producers and consumers. Re-create us in our recreation. Strengthen our bodies for your service. Teach us to be human beings, not just human doings. In the quiet of these days, help us hear the inner music of your presence. In the distance of these days, help us to reconnect with your abiding Spirit.
And we also remember before you those who cannot rest in these days. Doctors and nurses. Chaplains and first responders. Police and firemen. Moms and civic leaders. Give them peace amidst their labor and quicken the time until their rest.
And whether we are resting or working, make us more human, which is to bear your image, in which we delight.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we pray. AMEN.
Preston Clegg serves as the Pastor of Second Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., and is providing his congregation a daily noonday daily devotional during the COVID-19 crisis. If you or someone you know would like to submit a devotion or reflection essay in these days of quarantine, please send these to firstname.lastname@example.org.