Shannon Gammon Articles, Carla Aday

The pine needles have been swept up and the snow globe boxed up until next December. Now we return to some sort of routine and for many of us, fewer tugs on our time to make the holidays happen. In this first week of 2023 I’ve been sorting through what goals to adopt and what seems like too much to promise. Then out of the blue the podcast I was listening to ended and a new one started playing on the theme of holy rest, or “sabbath.”

I have preached, written and taught about the Biblical notion of sabbath many times but honestly, it seems like an antiquated concept in our modern age. We live in a 24/7 cycle of news, shopping, social media, books on tape, movies on demand, streamed worship so that it seems like we are never “off” or purely at rest. So why was the Ezra Klein show interviewing the author of “The Sabbath World,” Judith Shulevitz? It seems that even in the secular world, folks have begun to seek or long for a deeper sense of “rest” from the constant demands that a spinning world makes upon us.

The podcast reminded me that in the Bible the word for rest is “menuha” which is more than taking a day off but actually finding something like “tranquility, serenity, peace and repose.” In the Bible, we are taught to rest because God rested on the 7th day. And we are reminded of the freedom found in rest because we are no longer slaves as were our spiritual ancestors in Egypt. So rest is not a burden to keep but a gift to savor.

But it is not a gift we easily open or practice. Author Judith Shulevitz says one reason we have trouble resting is because we need the support of a community that rests. We need to be part of a culture, a faith community, a family, a friend group, a neighborhood, a city that rests. It’s easier if the atmosphere shapes us. About holy rest or true sabbath, the kind where we actually feel tranquility, peace, repose; she says “If it’s not happening collectively, it’s not going to happen”.

When our son Connor was young we tried to practice “sabbath” on Saturday since Sunday was a work day for me. We were semi successful for a few years though never 100%. One day after our son got a little older I said to him on a Saturday morning, “don’t you have any homework to do” and he replied “Mom, it’s the sabbath.” So I guess we do need each other. We need to lean on a faith community to call us to holy rest, to repose.

Grace and Peace,