How much time do you waste in worry? It’s one thing to be concerned with something. To care so much about something or someone that you engage yourself out of concern seems Christ-like to me. But worry is something different. Concern breeds engagement. Worry breeds anxiety and fear.
Do you truly trust God? Do you rely on God’s creation to provide all your needs? Do you ignore the temptation to lose confidence in God’s creation and rely on your own cleverness instead? We are, after all, pretty clever. Humankind has figured out how to cure all kinds of ailments. We can share information at the speed of light. And we live in a culture where hard work pays off. We can achieve our own happiness. Do we really need to put trust in God when our own hard work can fill those needs (and wants) with more certainty?
How much energy do you put into excluding yourself from ‘others’? Consciously or unconsciously we divide ourselves by race, gender, socio-economic levels, language, religion and lots of other ways. But to successfully exclude others from our lives requires effort.
How divided is your heart? “Multitasking” is a badge of honor in our culture. “Look how many things I can do at once!” We manage time, money and energy in the most efficient ways so that we can accomplish and attain the most stuff, achievements and success. Yet, most of us grieve our own inability to focus on the things that matter most to us. We wish we had the time to _______ . Typically, we wish we ate together more, were able to worship more and could spend more time with the people and friends we love.
Worry, self-sufficiency, excluding ourselves and multitasking are human behaviors that God knew we would struggle with if we don’t honor the Sabbath. Pastors are not immune to these deathly habits. In fact, research has consistently shown that pastors are worse than most when it comes to taking the time that humans need to rest in the Spirit of God and receive the abundance of life that comes from Sabbath. When compared to the general public, pastors have a higher depression rate, are more likely to be obese, have a higher divorce rate, are more likely to suffer from an addiction and experience burnout faster than almost any other profession. Although more than 90% of pastors say they are indeed honored to serve as pastor, about the same number say their church has unrealistic expectations of what a pastor can or should do.
Walter Brueggemann is one of the most influential Old Testament scholars of our lifetime. He has written a book called, “Sabbath as Resistance”. In preparation for Lent in 2017, I have been creating summaries of the book’s six chapters so that First Lutheran can consider how much sabbath rest shapes the “Time of Your Life”. He argues that worry, a lack of trust, exclusivism and multitasking can be resisted. Sabbath is God’s answer to all that de-humanizes us.
As our culture sneaks up on the holiday season, we will ramp up our busy-ness. Many of us will worry whether we have enough money for Christmas. Although we crave the meaningfulness of Christmas (God becomes one of us!) we will multi-task our way through the season, dividing ourselves between too much work, not enough sleep and far too much consumption. And then there is the election where every media outlet assumes divisions based on many worldly concerns. De-humanizing each other results in de-humanizing ourselves.How will you resist these temptations and take Sabbath? When will you take time to receive the gifts of the Spirit which will provide you with peace, trust in God and focus on what really matters? If you don’t circle a date on the calendar NOW, it probably won’t happen. Make a commitment today to resist ‘rat-race’ living, as Brueggemann calls it, by keeping the Sabbath. Worship. Look forward to Lent when our congregation will read through this book together. And know that I am deeply grateful for the gift of sabbatical that you are offering me from January 5 through April 5. I do not suffer within my vocation like many of my colleagues do. I am thankful First is willing to provide me with time away so that my wellness remains true for years to come.