Sabbath Keeping 3, a Reflection by Mary C. Earle

But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray..  ~Luke 5:16

The Trappist monk and author Thomas Merton once wrote, “There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence and that is activism and overwork.” The vast majority of us are formed to rush incessantly, without pausing between one activity and the next. We seldom give ourselves time to reflect on the lives that we live. And we seldom allow ourselves to be still.

Going against this dominant pattern is not easy. And yet Jesus himself withdraws from the crowds and the press of needs. Luke tells us that Jesus would go off by himself and pray. He had a rhythm of work and rest, involvement and disengagement.

Jesus, raised as a Jew, would have lived each week in the expectation of Sabbath rest. He would have come to Friday night knowing that for 24 hours all work would be put aside. He would have been brought up welcoming the Sabbath as the sun set, and wishing ‘Shabbat shalom’ (Sabbath peace) to those gathered for Friday night observance.

If we are to practice resurrection, if we are to be an Easter people, it behooves us to remember that we are created for Sabbath. We are created for time without noise, without work, without incessant demand. We are created to embody humane rhythms of work and rest, activity and restoring sleep.

In those spaces of quiet and rest, the God who gifts us with an empty tomb will have a moment to get our attention, to replenish our weary bodies and souls, to quicken our imaginations, to tend our wounds. Then, and only then, will we be ready to be sent out, to do the work we have been given to do.

    Gracious Christ, may I hear your invitation to withdraw, rest and pray. May I not fall into the habit of overwork. May I remember that in resting, I come to know your restoring grace. Amen.

Mary C. Earle, Posted on Explore Faith, Signposts 4/27/07

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