One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for people, and not people for the sabbath.
~ Mark 2:23-27
I’ve always had trouble taking rest when I should. I promise this isn’t the kind of humble-brag you bring into a job interview (“Well, my biggest weakness is that I just work too darn hard.”). It’s not that I work too hard—I don’t think I do. It’s that as I’m going about my work, I don’t pay enough attention to the signs telling me that it’s time to step back and recharge.
Toward the end of this past school year I had been ignoring those signs for a while, and I didn’t realize how much my work had been suffering because of it. Then our preschool director, Erika, came into my office and said, “Are you Ok? You seem kind of checked out?” I had to thank her for that a week later because her statement forced me to look at myself and my work and say, “Oh, this isn’t good enough.” I had been moving along on fumes for a while and it was showing. It was time for a rest.
I don’t think I’m peculiar in this. Most of us simply go along, doing tasks as they present themselves, clocking in, clocking out, clocking in again. And when our bodies and minds run out of gas, we just sputter along, or we crash. We’re not very good at observing the Sabbath.
There are observant Jews who won’t flip a light switch on the Sabbath Day. They go to great lengths to ensure that the Sabbath is undisturbed. In some cases, this can lead to the Sabbath actually being more work than other days, still, there is something to be learned from their example.
From the very beginning, God built a day of rest into the very fabric of creation: “On the seventh day, God rested from all the work that the LORD God had done.” He set in motion a pattern that repeats week after week, calling us to rest. As Jesus reminds us, this rest doesn’t have to take a particular shape—it was made for our good, not as a means of proving our faithfulness to God. Yes, the Sabbath happens any time we sit and listen to God’s word. But sometimes the Sabbath happens on a Thursday when your manager calls and tells you they don’t need you to come into today. Sometimes the Sabbath takes the shape of a week of camping in South Dakota (though, sometimes our vacations can be more work than our jobs, and we should take care to actually get some rest!). But however and whenever the Sabbath comes, rest in it. Set down your phone or at least turn off the work email notifications. Don’t let your vacation days go unused or just build up year after year – take them, even if you just stay home.
Your Lord has given you the gift of rest for your benefit. So rest in it. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Amen.