Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For 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 sabbath day and consecrated it. – Exodus 20:8-11.
The rhythms of our lives have been turned upside down these past six months as each of us has adjusted our day-to-day activities, our home lives, and our work lives to stay home, stay safe, and reimagine worship and faith formation remotely.
Some congregations continue to live-stream their services in real-time on Sunday mornings. Some have returned to in-person activity. Others pre-record their services on Wednesday afternoons. Still others collect the various parts and pieces of their worship services throughout the week, hoping it all comes together in time to post before Sunday at 11:00 a.m.
Similarly, Lenten and Holy Week activities, Confirmation experiences, VBS, summer mission trips, and now – Rally/Return Day festivities have been up-ended. The signposts we rely on to mark the rhythm of the church year have been knocked off kilter.
Still, as always, God’s people are not left alone in this wilderness time. God gifts us with Sabbath.
God established a rhythm for living in the first days of creation. A rhythm of work and rest. A rhythm of creativity, productivity, and labor accompanied by a day of resting. This rhythm has stood the test of time, giving God’s people respite, refreshment, and balance.
Observing Sabbath allows us a touchstone in our week; space to pause, to pray, to breathe. It offers us a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day, guiding us though these days of chaos and wilderness wandering.
A number of the world’s societies have incorporated a day of rest into their labor practices. The six-day work week is an established rhythm, codified in labor laws and in less formal social practices. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam each observe a day set aside for worship, prayer, and rest. Religious observances for these three faiths generally take place on the non-work day in the six-day work week.
In the late 1800’s, trade unions and labor movements in the United States organized to set aside a single day each year to “celebrate” labor. Their celebrations included a proposed public holiday “for the laboring classes” to be filled with parades, picnics, and speeches. Both Canada and the United States mark an annual Labour/Labor Day on the first Monday in September.
For many, Labor Day marks the “unofficial end of summer.” This three-day weekend stands as a turning point from the “carefree” days of summer to a return to school, fall sports, and a more regular rhythm. For many, this day provides a touchstone in the year as it signals a coming seasonal change, a shortening of daylight, and cooler temperatures (at least in the Northern Hemisphere).
This Labor Day weekend, we can embrace a pair of touchstones to restore our equilibrium, even as we anticipate more unsettling the days ahead. God gives us Sabbath – a day for respite, refreshment, and balance. Labor Day Sabbath comes as a three-day weekend – a time to pause and turn into the new rhythm of our days.
May you mark a day of Sabbath for yourself. May you steep in God’s love, care, and provision with a day of rest and respite. May you let go of your “doing” – for one day.
Practice Sabbath. Sleep in. Spend time with loved ones. Laugh. Pray. Enjoy God’s magnificent creation. Your work will be there when you return.