“On the sixth day God finished the work that God had done, and God rested on the seventh day…” Genesis 2:2
“Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy…” Exodus 20:8
“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did…” (Hebrews 4:9)
Summer brings opportunities to visit family we seldom see and nearly forgot how much we enjoy. On a quick trip up north for just such an occasion, I spent the better part of the day lost in a tumble of the arms and legs of small grandchildren.
While we sank into the couch telling stories, our daughter-in-law never stopped moving. It was as if she were a perpetual motion machine, from the time she sprang out of bed until her head hit the pillow long after everyone else fell asleep. Hillary weeded the garden while child number four searched for his bike helmet for a field trip to the park. She unselfconsciously folded laundry while we chatted as the passel of kids worked on an art project. Mid-day, she moved gracefully between the workstations of each of her four children whom she homeschools.
Observing her labor as she navigated the day hearkens back to the children’s great-great-grandmother, who taught 19 kids in a one-room, rural schoolhouse until each reached high school and followed the dirt road to town.
Not everyone overworks 24/7, of course. You may remember the television series Downton Abbey that documented the lives of English aristocrats through the early twentieth century. One night at dinner, a guest of the Crawley family spoke about an event scheduled to take place on the weekend. The Dowager Violet Crawley, looking quite puzzled as she gazed across the massive dining table, inquired of her guest, “What is a weekend?”
Many more of us have now left behind the demands of work that moved us around the country or world, sent us out the door away from family for days, weeks, or years at a time, and took the best of us until we were spent. Along the way, some of us rested, and others of us did not. Those who neglected Sabbath keeping, who honored the marketplace above all, often paid the price through exhaustion, cumulative health problems, or the consequences of estranged relationships relegated for too many years to the back burner.
We prepare now to celebrate this coming Labor Day weekend. Yet long before President Grover Cleveland signed the national holiday into law in June of 1894, our scripture counseled us, for our sake, to keep the Sabbath regularly. God knows our perpetual motion demands much of us, whatever our work, play, or avocation, and that regular rest and renewal lead to healthy, abundant life.
After the hurricane burns through and the clean-up begins…remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
In the midst of our labors, for wages, for family, for community…remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
Whatever consumes the daily round of our occupations…remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.
And on the seventh day God rested…
Prayer: Thank you, God, for those who break sweat today: harvesting crops, building roads, collecting the refuse of our lives, laboring for our sake and our pleasure. Thank you for your gift of Sabbath making and your invitation to Sabbath keeping, for our sake and your glory. Amen
God’s grace, mercy, and peace be with you,
Rev. Dr. Anna V. Copeland
The Community Church of Vero Beach, Florida