Can we talk about sabbath for a minute?
I like to think that people read the creation story in Genesis and they imagine God creating, as the story says, with their own image of God. A farmer, perhaps, or an engineer or an artist. God does all that creating each day, he makes human beings, declares that it’s all good and takes a day off. That’s the sabbath. A day of rest. A day off.
Really? That seems like such let down to me. I like to imagine God doing all that creating, from the plans on the drawing board to the heavy lifting and the final touch ups. And then God takes a day and just admires how awesome it all is. God looks around and wonders how there’s a little bit of God in each and every stone and leaf, river and stream. And those human beings, they’re just the coolest thing ever. Created in my own image, God wonders, full of love and promise.
Things happened after that, of course, but in that moment was a connectedness, an embracing of the bond which is in all life. A moment of wholeness. The seventh day isn’t a day off, it’s the climax and culmination of all that creating. The celebration of the completeness of creation.
I think that’s what sabbath is.
It’s hard to put that in a commandment. Especially when people have free will. And a hard time deciding what’s work, what’s play and what’s really “rest.”
There’s a story in Luke - there’s a few of these - about the leader of the synagogue chastising Jesus for doing work on the sabbath when he heals a woman (Luke 13:10-17). Jesus replies that even on the sabbath, everyone unties their ox and donkey so that they’re free to get water that is essential to life. How could it be less appropriate to free this woman from the bondage of her illness?
For Jesus, this moment of healing isn’t about physical infirmity, it’s about wholeness. It’s about being free from the bonds that keep this woman from the world, from being fully engaged with life.
Our lives can get very much like this woman’s. We get bound up by the work we do and the desires we have, the need to acquire things, the need to be always busy with work or play. Even a “day off” can be so full that we can’t find a real moment of freedom.
But that’s what sabbath is: freedom from the busy-ness that keeps us from connecting to God and all that creation that God is in, including the part created in God’s image, and wondering at the marvel which it all is. It’s a moment of healing for our spiritual health, contentment and well being. It’s a moment of completeness that renews us. And that could be a day, any day, or a week or a year or even just a moment set aside in which we break free of our own bonds and reconnect with love, grace and wholeness.