Finding Sabbath

Since my usual ways of spending Sundays has changed with the arrival of COVID-19 and the need to close our church for a while, I am trying to find new ways to nurture my spiritual life with intention. A friend sent me this lovely poem, composed by Lynn Ungar, which has inspired me to use this odd and disconcerting season of isolation to rethink how I might practice Sabbath.

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath —
the most sacred of times?PastorsColumn March26
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love —
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

Knowing that we are connected in ways that are terrifying and beautiful just now, I find myself called to steward the beauty of the church campus in these early days of spring. From our manse, next door to the Education Building, I walk around the Chapel and Sanctuary and Ministries Center multiple times a day. Alone. With Larry. With our crazy little rescue dog Rudy. And I notice everything that is pushing up green shoots, everything that flowers, the squirrels scampering up trees and the birds enjoying the newly seeded lawn, themselves fat with new life. While I cannot reach out my hands to members of our congregation, it helps me reach out my heart to all of you as the Psalmist says, “in the beauty of holiness.”

I hope that we while we are apart from one another, you will connect to our worship online, and that you also might use this pandemic time to find new ways to practice Sabbath, to pay attention to the creative power of God in our midst, to enjoy the life around us and allow its beauty to buoy our spirits.