This is an article written for the Bennington Banner. Here is a link to the original article: http://www.benningtonbanner.com/stories/keeping-sabbath,539423?.
The last time I sat down to write for the Banner I wrote that I knew spring was upon us because I finally took my snow brush out of my car. Hey, that’s a good and wonderful thing, but it’s just a mark of the end of winter. It doesn’t really mean that the warmth of summer is here.
But this week I got to do something else.
Wednesday was gorgeous, and for the first time of the young season I was able to take my motorcycle out of the garage, and hit the road.
I don’t even remember where I went, I just remember sitting in the saddle and riding. I know at some point I was supposed to take a right turn, but instead I took a left, and I spent the next three hours just… riding. Being lost in the miles. Hearing the roar of the motor. Feeling the wind.
It was glorious.
When I get lost like that, lost on the road, lost in the wind, I feel myself relax. I feel the pressures of my life just melt away. I become one with the road, one with the machine, and everything else just takes a back seat to the sight of the yellow line slipping by, mile by mile, moment by moment.
The Bible tells us that we are to honor the Sabbath day, and keep it holy, but we focus so much on the day that we forget that the important part of Sabbath is keeping holy. It has nothing to do with the calendar, and everything to do with being present to God in our most basic selves. The selves that we can’t experience when we are stressed about work, about what we have to accomplish, about deadlines and commitments.
In Mark’s Gospel, the Pharisees are furious with Jesus because he won’t honor the Sabbath to their liking. Sabbath after Sabbath Jesus encounters those who are hurting and heals them. He finds those who are suffering and eases their pain. He finds those who are hungry and feeds them. The Pharisees accuse him, saying that’s not lawful on the Sabbath.
But Jesus tells them, no, you just don’t get it. The Sabbath isn’t when you are supposed to honor God; we should be doing that with every step and every breath.
The Sabbath isn’t a requirement set forth by God; it’s God’s gift to us.
God understands that life is stressful. God understands that the pressures of our day-to-day lives can be overwhelming. So God gave us the gift of Sabbath: a time when God requires us to set aside those worries and stresses, and just be with God, bask in God’s presence, and be reminded that God’s desire for us is not that we suffer without end, but that we live our lives fully, committed to God’s service, and refilled and refueled by God’s presence in our rest.
Jesus tells them, “The Sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath.”
And so it is with us.
Because stress of being who society wants us to be is hard. Navigating our shifting culture is challenging. The connectedness of our world brings the pressures of life fully to bear on our daily routine. We are inundated with the twenty-four-hour news cycle; with politics gone rampant; with social, financial, and religious divisiveness in all that we do.
Social media, opportunistic politics, and sensationalized news drive us to the point where we can’t stand face-to-face with our neighbors without worrying whether we might cross some line, say the wrong thing. In all of our interactions, the stress of being in community where we are, in the moment, presses down on us until we can’t live into our call of neighbor love for fear that we might alienate those very neighbors.
But God does not want that for us. God does not want us to live in fear of relationship.
Now, more than ever, God’s gift of Sabbath is one we must be willing to receive.
For you it may not be the wind in your hair in the saddle of a motorcycle. For you it might be playing the guitar, or hiking in the woods. It might be reading a good book, or spending the time playing catch with your child. There is no “right” way to Sabbath. But it is important, for all of us, that we remember to take those Sabbath moments to recharge, to refresh ourselves, and to be reminded that the conflict in our world is not God’s dream for us.
Sabbath is not necessarily a day of the week, but a calming of the soul. And keeping the Sabbath holy isn’t about marking that one day in the calendar week that we set aside for God. It’s about remembering that God understands our stressful lives and loves us enough to give us a break.