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In the United States, this is Labor Day weekend. This marks the unofficial end of summer. But few probably know that Labor Day, in the U.S., is a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of their country.
This is an appropriate time to talk about Sabbath Rest – since we mark Labor Day with a day off from work!
The internet went down. I had no way to access my Facebook pages – and I have several (my personal page, two for our church’s youth group, our church’s prayer page, our church’s main page, and two for True Men Ministries). I couldn’t listen to my online music station.
I couldn’t access my email.
I couldn’t read my twitter feeds (again, my personal feed, the youth group’s, and the TMM feed).
I was out-of-touch with many members of my church, followers of TMM, and my friends and family.
I’m pretty sure you know what I mean.
What I didn’t know was just how “connected” I was and how being so deeply connected can be a hindrance and drain on my soul.
Recently, my friend Dale Meyer wrote in Concordia Seminary magazine, “We’re busier than the first disciples [of Jesus] because our smartphones, our tablets and laptops and what-have-you keep us constantly connected. Our addiction to communication technologies makes everything ASAP and can rob us of the eternal dimension that comes from sitting in silence with our own thoughts and with God” (you can access this and other articles here).
This is why Jesus said to His disciples, “’Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat” (Mark 6:31).
The importance of Sabbath Rest is all but overlooked or ignored in today’s culture – even by those who should know better: pastors.
Pastors better figure this out, and quick! A prescient theologian wrote words relevant to us in the 21st century:
“Outwardly, the parsonage is a house like others, but whenever the devil goes about the village, seeking his prey, and planning where best he can spread his net, he goes about the parsonage thrice, and looks into every window. And most of all he rejoices if the door of that house be open to him and he cannot only make his way in accidentally, but rule there, and even hold his ground in the study, without being annoyed by prayer and the reading of the Scriptures. Watching and praying are the only bolts this thief fears. A parsonage is either a house of prayer or a very den of iniquity. There is no peace, indeed, for any of the ungodly, but a minister who lives without prayer and struggle is the poorest and most miserable man in the whole village.” (“Karl Buechsel, “My Ministerial Experiences,” in For All the Saints, II, 338ff.)
A few years ago I was reminded of the importance of Sabbath rest by another friend of mine, Len Sweet, who wrote, “A 24-7-365 lifestyle mandates the art of 24-7-365 sabbaticals. Life in the fish bowl and life in the fast lane require more frequent [Sabbath rests].
“Jesus was accused of being a Sabbath-breaker, but the truth was the opposite: Jesus was a master Sabbath-keeper. In Jesus we have a perfect example of how to insert instant sabbaticals into the midst of crushing, chaotic schedules.
“When Jesus felt the strain, when he had to take a break, when he was drained and exhausted he would simply announce to his disciples, ‘We’re out of here.’ Or in the more traditional verbiage, ‘Let us go over to the other side’ (Mark 4:35).” (Leonard Sweet, Aquachurch, p 153)
There’s no honor in being a workaholic. There’s no eternal value in working yourself to death. We need to honor God and find value in our lives by doing as Jesus did. Working for what God wants and taking the time to “be still” with God.
God wants us to rest. That’s why He made it a commandment and put it towards the top of the list. But is more, God wants us to rest in Him. We were created in His image. And we will only find true rest when we are still and know that He is God.