Exodus 20, verses 8-11, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (NIV)
The days are shortening, the weather is growing colder. We are fast approaching the Winter Solstice. In our agrarian days, we would be finishing up the harvest, drying, canning and freezing, and bringing in wood to burn to keep us warm and provide light through the long winter rest. These days, though, we have gained the dubious privilege of being able to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We are connected to our jobs through our portable devices and the internet. We work at our jobs all week and then we take our weekends to work some more at our 2nd and 3rd jobs and to keep our households running.
My friends, it is time to talk about the 4th Commandment, because in our culture that values hard work, productivity, and materialism above all else, rest has ceased to be a virtue. We check our phones for messages as soon as we wake up and the last thing before we lay down to sleep – even on vacation. As my friend, Erin Dowd, once told me, “We need to remember that we are human beings, not human doings.”
Late in 2019, someone asked me how I like to relax and what I like to do for fun. I had a sudden realization that I actually don’t even know the answer to that question. My New Year’s resolution for 2020 was that I was going to discover the answer to that question. In anticipation, I proposed Requiem for the Living (Rest for the Living) for the Aspen Choral Society’s Spring Concert in 2020 – a concert that we never performed.
To be honest, I did not learn the answer to that question in 2020. I turned down the opportunity for rest, offered to me by the pandemic, and embarked on the most ambitious project I have undertaken – Messiah 360. Now here we are in 2021, and I still have not learned how my body, mind and spirit rest. But today, as I write this article, I again challenge myself, and I challenge you, gentle reader, to consider the question anew.
It’s not that there is anything wrong with our work and creative output. After all, we are God’s children and God is nothing if not hard working and creative – look at the world around you! If we are made in God’s image, then it is no wonder that we love to work. We long to roll up our sleeves and work alongside our Maker. But I believe that the lesson of the 4th Commandment is that our value does not lie in our output. God loves you exactly for who you are – not for what you can do. When we step back from our work to rest and connect with God, we remember that we are not made only for work, but for relationship.
Snowmass Chapel offers many opportunities to help us with this often-forgotten, often-neglected commandment. Our Sunday Services are an invitation to take an hour each week for rest, reflection, and relationship. Deb Johnston brought us our weekly Centering Prayer offering. Lisa Aanonsen invented the Daily Breath experience. We periodically set up the labyrinth walk – most recently in our newly-built yurt.
I won’t try to answer this question for you, but I hope that each of us will stop and consider what it means to, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” Let’s keep the conversation going – ask somebody how they keep the 4th Commandment. Leave a comment to this blog about how you take your Sabbath Rest. Let’s encourage each other as we journey together to stay healthy by remembering and valuing the opportunities that we are given for rest and relationship.
“It’s very important that we re-learn the art of resting and relaxing. Not only does it help prevent the onset of many illnesses that develop through chronic tension and worrying; it allows us to clear our minds, focus, and find creative solutions to problems.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” ~Matthew 11:28