According to our Judeo-Christian tradition, each week we are called to celebrate sabbath. When God freed the ancient Hebrews from slavery and gave them the law and promised them land, God commanded a sabbath day to be set aside as holy. Near the top of the list of the Ten Commandments, Exodus reminds us that even God rested on the seventh day of creation after all the work God had done! So too, we are meant to work during the week and set apart a day to rest and devote to God.
What I have come to treasure about summertime is that it affords many of us a longer season of sabbath. While a Sunday intended for rest and devotion is meant to be a gift each week, most of us fill up our weekends with lots of things to do. One day a week is not enough for physical and spiritual renewal. Yet in the summer, many of us can slow down, slip away to the shore or the mountains, travel to favorite destinations or seek adventures to new places. I have found summer’s sabbath opportunity to be a more promising time of rest and restoration. A length of days offers a better reset for what Mary Oliver describes so beautifully in her poem The Ponds:
Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled --
to cast aside the weight of facts
and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking
into the white fire of a great mystery.
For me this verse describes what I think the Fourth Commandment is after – a time for deep and reverent gratitude before the great mystery of God. My hope is that all of us have a summer sabbath opportunity to float above this difficult world.
Project HOME, Philadelphia’s non-profit which seeks to break the cycle of street homelessness, offers a four-week sabbatical to every employee, and this year my husband Larry and I are taking advantage of his time away from work. We leave this Sunday evening for a trip to Italy, followed by two weeks in western North Carolina with our sons. Engaged in affordable housing ministries for over 30 years, this is Larry’s first sabbatical, and we are grateful. This also means I am taking my vacation a bit earlier than my usual summer routine, but this earlier time away allows me to be back at BMPC to celebrate Brian Ballard’s ministry in mid-July as he prepares to move to Princeton.
While I’m putting finishing touches on our itinerary, pulling together my travel clothes, preparing to preach on Sunday and then fly out in the evening, I’m excited about having a special summer sabbath this year. I hope that you too will be able to find time and create space to cast aside the regular rhythms for a while and be dazzled, to rest, reflect, have adventures, as well as to enjoy God and God’s good creation.