Good morning.  My son’s football team had a campout last night, which I signed up to attend thinking it was on a Friday…we spent last night a tent on a football field—so today felt like a good time to talk about the need for rest!
          I am going to talk about rest this morning—about sabbath.  Whenever I speak on this subject, two thoughts come to mind.  A part of me feels like you’ll find the idea to be archaic and out of touch—who takes a sabbath anymore?  But the other part of me realizes that sabbath is more relevant than ever.  “Why do we need a Sabbath?” you ask.  And the answer that comes is so obvious.  Because we are tired.  We are exhausted.  Exhaustion is one of the most common threads among people who sit in our pews each Sunday; exhausted by stress, exhausted by world events, exhausted by worry, exhausted by work… there always seems to be too much to do, and a deep desire to have more time to rest.
           This sermon is not going to be an appeal to you to drop everything on Sunday and return to some bygone era when everyone else does that too.  Even if we could, there are things about that model that were not so good.  But I am going to argue that sabbath is something that is necessary and good and that there are quite a few ways to find it.  And I’ll start that argument with what the Bible says about it.
          You’ll recall that the Book of Genesis introduces the concept of sabbath right from the start.  Chapter 1 tells the story of the seven days of creation, six days of God creating the world, followed by a seventh day upon which God rests.  There is a typical understanding of sabbath from this story:  that God rests on the seventh day following the all the work God has done, and we should do what God does.  But theologian Karl Barth said that interpretation misses a vital detail:  we are not God in the story, we are the humans.  And if you look at what happens to the humans in the story, humans are created on the 6th day, so the first thing humans do is to have sabbath.  Sabbath is not something we earn, it is something God gives us and tells us that we need.  Some time to rest, to remember our relationship with God, and to care for our souls; sabbath is not a reward we get if we work hard enough the first 6 days of the week, It’s a necessary preparation for a healthy and joyful life.
          But what else do we know about sabbath?  Let’s continue with the biblical roots.
          Sabbath appears in the 10 Commandments, and if you’ve forgotten or didn’t know, the 10 Commandments actually appear twice in the Bible, once in Exodus 20 and then also in Deuteronomy 5.  Each version teaches a different lesson. The Exodus version is the one most of us are familiar with:  “Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy” the text says, and then a verse later it gives the reason:  “In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the seventh day and consecrated it.”  So we should do as God asks.   Sabbath is an act of reverence and holiness toward God, and remembering it connects us to God—sabbath is an act of sustaining our faith.
          The Deuteronomy version is different:  “Observe the Sabbath day” it says, and then a different reason is offered:  “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep it.”  The reasoning here is different.  The Hebrews were once slaves and now are free; as slaves they could not take a day of rest; but free people can.  It’s a reminder of the injustice of the world and God’s desire that all people should live free and enjoy rest.  The horrible plight of Palestinians or Uyghurs or Native Americans in our own land should remind people of faith that God never wishes for us to take our own freedom and sabbath at the expense of someone else’s.
          There’s one more story that tells us about God’s intention for the sabbath, and it also occurs in Exodus.  This is the story of manna.  You may remember that as the Hebrews wander in the wilderness, God sends bread that falls from heaven.  Five days a week, the manna falls from heaven, then on the sixth day, twice as much manna falls so that when the Israelites go out to gather it, there’s enough for them not to have to gather it on the sabbath.  Another detail of this story is that God tells the Israelites not to gather more than they need for each day, and when the Israelites are disobedient and do try to store it up, the manna rots, and in this God is teaching them one more thing.  Not only is a day of rest important, but that we ought to avoid excessive work in the name of gathering more than we need.  Take only what you need for the day.
          So I hope you are seeing that this 3000 year-old idea of Sabbath is one that has some merit to it; Sabbath reminds us of where we came from and observing it connects us with God; Sabbath reminds us of God’s commitment to justice; Sabbath even teaches what modern folk call work-life balance:  if we don’t have enough time for sabbath, it may be because we’re working too much, we’re gathering more than we need; another name for that is greed.
          So we’re getting an idea of where sabbath comes from, but what does it look like today?  In the not too distant past, just about everything shut down on Sunday, but not only was that bad for people who were not Christian, it had a way of making Christians judgmental and self-righteous toward one another and that wasn’t good either.  Instead, theologian Dorothy Bass writes that Sabbath done well suggests some kind of a regular break from three things:  from work, from commerce, and from worry; sabbath keeping can take a variety of forms as long as it allows that break.  A break from work is good for us and good for others too.  The world can get by without your work for one day a week; in fact, when we take a break once a week, most of us are more productive and pleasant to work with the rest of the time.  The break from commerce that Bass recommends is more related to the lessons about justice.  Our constant need to produce and consume is often what forces other people to work, and whether you take sabbath on Sunday or at other times throughout the week, taking intentional breaks from the flow of buying, selling, and delivering has a cumulative effect of extending justice in the world.  And worry is worth taking a break from as well.  Excessive worry is so damaging to our spirits.  It might seem hard to imagine how to just stop worrying, but you could take a pause from things that tend to cause worry:  your bills, your list of things to do, your phone or news feed—what if you lay these things down for a day, or even just part of it, what if you ask God for help in doing so?
          So within those parameters, I invite you to think this week about what Sabbath might look like for you.  For plenty of us, Sunday might still be the most obvious time:  to come to worship, to take a break from work and shopping, to pause the things in life that cause you to worry: For others, Sunday doesn’t work; I fall into that category for my agreement with you is that I show up and work on Sunday.  But I do choose intentional times throughout the week to lay down my phone and set aside my email, and to take breaks from my to-do list, to read and pray and spend time with my family.  And I do find a direct connection between the quality of my work and whether or not I took time in the week for my own spiritual health.  And I believe that all of us, if we’re creative, if we make thoughtful choices, if we resist the desire to do and have everything, probably all of us can find ways to have sabbath.
I want to leave you with a couple of examples of ways to think about sabbath and an invitation to you to think about it some more.
That great sermon I once heard on the creation story I mentioned earlier came from a guy named Nate Stucky.  He writes a lot about Sabbath, and I want to close by sharing a couple of his ideas.  Stucky is the director of the Farminary at Princeton Theological Seminary.  The Farminary is a farm, operated by seminarians—ministers in training, with the intention that they would learn how to lead by stepping away from the culture’s demands for constant productivity, and instead learn something by paying attention to the rhythms of nature.  In nature, land lies fallow in order to be restored.  In nature, winter seasons pass in order for roots to deepen so that greater growth can follow.  Nature is often beautiful without doing or producing anything.  Nature exposes the lie that we must be working in order to be valuable or loved.
Stucky also does a great job of connecting the spiritual side of sabbath to the justice side; he talks about an idea called “Rest as Resistance.”  Stucky says that when we ourselves take time to rest, we actively resist the systems that require work and productivity from everyone.  You can imagine how intentional breaks from shopping, or ordering takeout, or firing off emails have the effect of giving rest to other workers, the environment, and people we love.  As an example that is right here close to home; when I take sabbath as your pastor, I’m not asking the other members of our staff or our church volunteers for more of their work.  And when more and more of us commit to such a lifestyle, there is a cumulative effect that helps everyone rest.
Now I can imagine the counter-arguments; I know about how engaging in commerce is a means of job creation, etc. etc.  I know plenty of excuses to keep on working—because I make them myself.  But I am convinced that most of those arguments are far outweighed by the fact that so many of us are truly tired, and that great benefits come along when we commit to the rest we so desperately need.  Additionally, I am convinced that there is enough creativity and wisdom in this church to come up with wonderful and realistic ways that we can add more sabbath to our lives.  So I’m going to invite you as the sermon concludes today, to pray with me about how and when you might add some sabbath to your week—a break from work, from commerce, and from worry, and to think about what the benefits might be.  And I’m going to remind you that each of these summer sermons is linked to a Wednesday night supper where we practice the faith together.  This week we will be thinking together about sabbath so that we can offer you some ideas and you can share wisdom with each other.  Together we can all add a little more rest to our lives.  With that, would you pray with me?
God, help us take a moment to rest, breathe, reflect, give thanks.  Help us to consider how to let go of work, of production and consumption, of worry.  How do we hold less tightly to these things?  Help us God.  May we hear the words of Jesus, to consider the lilies of the field, they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet their heavenly parent feeds them.  Amen.