Sabbath

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2:2-3)

My senior pastor asked me a very, very difficult question last week.

“So, what day are you picking for your sabbath?”

He’s right to ask it: he has Fridays as his day off, and I’m trying to make sure to not disturb him then. He wants to return the favor, and know when I’m off as well. Pastoral ministry is hard work, I’m coming to learn, and it’s essential that a pastor not burn out. Especially, perhaps, ahem, one known to always be on the go and doing something, like I am. And I know he’s asking in love: “I don’t want you to burn out, I need you here!”

The trick is, I don’t have a very good answer for that. If–and correctly so, I believe–the purpose of a sabbath is to be at rest, so as to reconnect and recharge in God for what’s in store next, then a day at rest is certainly called for.

But remember, I still work a full-time Federal job, one that (this month especially) is not known for being reliably only a 40-hours-a-week commitment. So that rules out Monday through Friday. Sunday, of course, is a workday as a pastor, and while I lead services once a month, it would look very, very “off” to declare Sunday as my Sabbath. That leaves Saturday–but Saturday is my day for doing all the stuff around the house, the errands, the things that don’t get done during the week.

Somewhere around now in my chain of reasoning I start rationalizing…maybe what I need is just a sabbath from church work, and I could pick that almost any weekday.  Or, that a sabbath is just a rest from paid work, and so Saturdays could still count because only rarely do I need to work a Saturday.

But somewhere around then the Spirit reminds me that that’s not the point at all. The point is to find rest, to not burn out–and to find that rest, as Augustine memorably wrote, in God. And yes, that includes Type-A people like me who are always on the go and doing something. Rest, God says.

So the search for a meaningful sabbath continues. It’d be easy if they’d just add an eighth day to the calendar…

Author: Waiting For Life

Eric became the Associate Pastor of Sydenstricker United Methodist Church in Springfield, VA, in June 2019, as his first appointment on entering the pastorate. He is also a student at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, KY. He's been a Certified Lay Servant in the UMC since 2003 and has been preaching and teaching about Christ since 1995, and answered Christ's call to pursue ordination in 2018. Opinions and posts are my own, not those of Sydenstricker UMC, or the Alexandria District or the Virginia Annual Conference of the UMC.

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