May 9, 2023

From the Rector…

St. Paul’s in Selma once had a rector who always responded, “I’m tired,” whenever asked how he was doing. It happened so often that it became a joke. Even when you ran into people from the rector’s previous parishes, they would ask, “Is the reverend still tired?” Apparently, he had been tired a long time and hadn’t figured out how to rest.

We live in a fast-paced society with tons of options and lots to do. Since the pandemic began to fade and is now no longer an international health crisis, we have continued to increase our daily commitments and activities to the pre=pandemic level of rushing around hither and yon to children’s events, social gatherings, family time, and any of the other numerous engagements we commit to and then wonder what we were thinking! Life has returned to that level of chaos that was not truly fulfilling and incredibly exhausting.  

In the church world, we talk a lot about Sabbath. In the Old Testament, Sabbath was the setting aside of one day and keeping it holy. That meant no work was performed on the Sabbath day—even the number of steps a person could take was limited. You can still find “Shabbat” elevators, thermostats, even electronic devices in places that support a dense Jewish population like New York and Israel. The Victorian era embraced this idea of minimizing work such that businesses were closed on Sundays and, in more extreme places, after church you were simply to sit in your living room and do nothing. As we transitioned out of the Victorian era, Sundays after church became the time to visit neighbors and friends—businesses remained closed in many places. It has been only in the last fifty-ish years that the shift to our 24/7 lifestyle has been made.

We are good at doing; we aren’t so good at resting. And yet, biblically we are told that resting is holy work. God rests on the seventh day after his work of creation. Jesus preaches and teaches and heals and feeds and then he goes away to a hilltop to rest. God promises us that if those of us who are weary and burdened come to him, he will give them rest. In the letter to the Hebrews, we are told to rest so that we might not perish from disobedience. The psalms tell us that rising up early and tolling late are vanity. The Bible says a lot about resting—and that rest is always a gift from God. Resting is holy work.

During the pandemic, I heard from so many people how much they appreciated the opportunity to spend more time with their loved ones—to be together as families without the distractions of extracurricular activities. We focused in on our most important priorities—sure it was because we had too, but it was also a bit refreshing. Now that we are outside of pandemic and back to the ninety-mile-an-hour-living-in-the-fast-lane kind of life we are tired and cranky and unsatisfied.  How easily we’ve forgotten the lessons of pandemic.

The modern world with all of its technology and opportunities makes things more convenient but that simply serves to free up time we feel the need to fill up. I wonder if we might take our rest—the rest God invites us too—as seriously. That kind of rest isn’t what you fit in where you have time for it. It is prioritized. Sabbath doesn’t have to happen regularly to be holy. I am not advocating that you sit around on Sunday afternoon and do nothing—though maybe that is exactly what you need to do. You don’t have to pick a regularly occurring time to practice Sabbath (though some should). Instead, become intentional with your life. Know your red flags—those cues that tell you you’re tired—and begin to honor them.  

When you get cranky or your running mantra is “I’m tired” pay attention to that. Learn to listen to your body and your mind when they are asking you to slow down because you’re moving too fast. And then learn what truly feeds you as a Sabbath practice. It might be TV or sitting in the backyard or laying on the beach or hiking in the mountains or napping with your dogs—whatever it is, it will offer you peace and refreshment and you will know it is of the Lord.

Light and Life,