March 1, 2024

Theology for Everybody: Sabbath

“What does the word Sabbath mean?” Great question!

To Sabbath means to take a break from life’s work, to rest, and to give thanks to your Creator for life.

Rev. Drew Tucker has been at Capital since November 2017.

One of the most radical contributions of Judaism to global society is the concept of Sabbath. There was no such thing as a regular day off, much less a weekend, for the average worker in the ancient world.

Judaism’s insistence that all creation is called to rest for a day, just as the world’s creator rested for a day, revolutionized society. The idea of work-life balance would have been absurd, for without Sabbath, work was life. In Judaism, this happens on the seventh day of the week, Saturday, the original day of God’s rest.

As a Christian, which by the by is a sect or branch of Judaism, Sabbath is an essential part of my life.

When I’ve ignored the need of my body, mind, and spirit to rest, I get all sorts of anxious.

Grumpy Cat has nothing on me in these moments. Without Sabbath, I eventually wither away to nothing but a meme of myself, simply repeating the isolated dysfunction rather than living the full and abundant life that’s available.

While some Christians practice a Saturday Sabbath, many transferred the practice to Sunday, since Christ rose from the dead on that day.

In its ancient practice and Jewish context, community is a necessary consideration for Sabbath. The goal of this rest wasn’t just to not work yourself, but not force anyone else to work either.

Considering the original command to Sabbath in Exodus 20:10b, which says: “Do not do any work on it—not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your animals, or the immigrant who is living with you.”

In other words, resting means not just avoiding work yourself, but ensuring that no one else has to work in order to support your Sabbath existence.

You deserve rest, and so does your neighbor, and so do immigrants, and so do those with lower socioeconomic status. Even the livestock. All God’s creation deserves a chance to break, to rest, and to give thanks.

This is why the most strict observance of Sabbath includes prohibitions on cooking or turning on lights, because you’re forcing those at the electric company to work for you.

So, while I might like to golf on my day off, I’m forcing the staff to mow. A movie might be nice, but it will force concessions and ticket sales to stay open.

I invite you, as you approach the end of the semester, to find Sabbath practices in your life. How can you find ways to recuperate without forcing others to work on your behalf? How can you set aside the work that consumes you so that you can instead release tension and attachment?

Find space to read, to meditate, to pray, to nap, to simply enjoy the beauty of creation around you, and of equal importance, to invite others into the same practice. That’s a way to start understanding Sabbath with not just your mind, but with you body and spirit as well.


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