When we take a day of rest, we help ourselves, others

When is the last time you took a full day to rest? By rest, I don’t mean from your daily tasks, work or profession, but from any labor including work on the lawn, garden or car. When is the last time you took a full day to simply be?

From the Book of Exodus, Chapter 20, verses 8-10a: “Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work “

All of us recognize this commandment as among those Moses received from God. While seemingly not of the same enormity as prohibitions against killing, adultery or lying, honoring the Sabbath is still one of the “big 10,” not among the other lesser 603 commandments to be found in the Hebrew texts.

So, back to the question, when is the last time you took some time out to truly rest? When is the last time you honored a Sabbath? Some observe the traditional Sabbath as sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, as Saturday is the seventh day of the week. Many who profess the Christian faith claim Sunday as Sabbath, contending that as Jesus’ resurrection occurred on a Sunday, the day of celebration and rest be moved from the last day of the week to the first.

Clearly, it is important to labor. We need to work, be it at home or in the workplace, be it for one’s own benefit and that of loved ones or on behalf of one’s community. But rest is important as well. Whether that advice comes from on high as in a commandment recorded in holy writ, from one’s physician or health care worker, or from common sense, good, solid, purposeful rest – beyond what we are to enjoy as sleep – benefits the self. Frankly, when we are rested, we are of more benefit to others as well.

Many people look forward to warmer temperatures to seek out times to rest if not enjoy a vacation away from their daily routine. Yet, even those times of supposed ease can be fraught with the danger of being so busy or scheduled as to not truly define “rest.” I know people who are so determined to cram as much as they can into their vacations that one is left to wonder if there is any time to truly relax, to rest, to enjoy a Sabbath, whichever day of the week one chooses to be one’s Sabbath. In 1969, a humorous movie was produced about some American tourists taking an 18-day tour of nine European countries. The title, “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium” is suggestive that in the pell-mell attempt to see as much as they could, the trip was so hectic as to suggest it was hardly restful.

It is easy to see how the word sabbatical is derived from the word Sabbath. After seven full years as pastor and teacher of the congregation I serve in Gloversville, part of this year is devoted to a sabbatical, a time to take some time away, take stock of my call to ministry, and recharge my spiritual being. As hard as it is for me to take time off, to follow my own advice about a day of rest each week, I do look forward to some time for reflection, to be refreshed, and then to return with renewed energy for the years which lie ahead.

For part of my sabbatical, my wife and I will spend some time this summer in Germany, touring many of the sites important to the Protestant Reformation.

Next year is the 500th anniversary of the start of Martin Luther’s efforts to reform the church. Sally and I decided to “beat the rush” and go in the 499th year instead. Part of our time in Germany will be on a guided bus trip. I checked. Our schedule is not as jam- packed or as rushed as for those tourists in the movie who spent Tuesday in Belgium. We will be in Berlin the first Tuesday, Mainz the second and Hamburg the third.

Peace, grace and rest.

The Rev. Ralph S. English is pastor of the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Gloversville.

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