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“Honor the Sabbath,” says the pastor who works on Sundays

“You’re a human being, not a human doing.”

This is some of the best wisdom I received from my pastoral care professor while in seminary, and something I do a terrible job of practicing. I am currently writing to you from my desk in the Friends Church office, where my planner is off to the side with a to-do list which includes a check box that reads “write midweek message.” So here I am. This is not a lament against writing to you now, I actually love to write. And making a to-do list for the week helps me to stay organized. But the reality of my check lists is that I tend to assign too much self-worth to the length of my lists and begin to feel uneasy when a list is too short for the week. I couldn’t possibly occupy my time by reading a novel, creating art, taking a nap, or enjoying nature, because then I would feel guilty about “not getting anything done.”

Another piece of wisdom that my pastoral care professor offered was to rethink the idea of idleness. We are so conditioned by our culture that prides itself on productivity that we convince ourselves that rest comes at the expense of “getting anything done.” But are we ever truly doing nothing? Sitting outside in quiet meditation and observing the world around you is far from nothing. We would not have the poetry of Mary Oliver were that the case. In knowing God, we are asked to be still.

I’ve been reflecting on what it means to honor the Sabbath. The first week of August, I spent a week with my family in the Davis Mountains at Bloys Campmeeting. Some of you may have heard me mention Bloys before, the ecumenical gathering in west Texas that has been meeting since 1890. Each year, four pastors representing different denominations take turns offering the sermon for the various worship services throughout the week. The Disciples of Christ pastor for the past few years, and the first woman to preach at Bloys, is Rev. Renee Hoke, Executive Pastor at University Christian Church in Fort Worth. Her sermon series for the week was on honoring the Sabbath and being out in the stillness of one of my favorite places on earth, I took that to heart. And I mean really took it to heart. I skipped church for most of the remainder of the week.

For many, church is an essential part of Sabbath, and it is sacred to me, as well. But I also have a hard time breaking out of pastor-mode, even though I am just as much in need of having my cup filled as everyone else. My first day at Bloys, I wrote a prayer for a service and helped Rev. Renee pick out hymns. I was on vacation, and I did what I do every week in our staff meeting. I needed Sabbath. So, on Sunday morning, the most attended service of the week at Bloys, I woke up at 5:30am (which I was really upset about at the time), and my partner and I walked under the west Texas moonlit sky to the cookshed for biscuits and gravy, and coffee. We were joined by some friends who hiked with us to the top of the mountain so we could watch the sun rise (see picture above). Then, when it was time for church, I went through the routine of getting dressed in my Sunday best and walking down to the Tabernacle with my family. And as soon as I sat down, I thought about that sunrise. I relished the Sunday morning of honoring my Sabbath. I turned to my sister and said, “I don’t have to be here.” So, I took my nephew for a walk around the mountains instead. As I pushed his stroller away from the church, I heard the bells ringing behind me, and the sounds of Sabbath echoed around us.


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