At a recent lecture Dr. Matthew Sleeth discussed the necessity of Sabbath rest and why this command often gets overlooked or goes underappreciated even within the Body of Christ. In his attempt to remind us of Sabbaths past he asked that we remember some of the special things that happened on Sunday’s when we were children which, for most, meant recalling a time where Blue Laws were still observed which made it almost as impossible to break the Sabbath as today’s culture does to keep it.
As much as I could relate to the numerous people reminiscing about resting, worshipping, singing, or eating with family, the thing that most came to mind was how much my grandmother did on Saturday to make sure that Sunday’s Sabbath was both possible and pleasurable. From setting the table to preparing dinner and laying out clothes she took the time to do even the most mundane of things in order to make the most of her time to rest and be restored on that special day. Considering the lengths that she went to keep the Sabbath as it was intended, even walking to the store in the rain or cold the day before to purchase groceries and other necessities ahead of time, it has caused me to consider what things I could and should be doing in the same vain to model Sabbath keeping for my church and family. And, for me as a pastor, who typically has an alternative day to Sunday, intentional preparation is essential to successful Sabbath-keeping.
In order to have both the time and capacity to rest (physically, mentally, and spiritually), reflect, pray, and play there are certain things that must take place the first of which is to have everything ready for Sunday. For me Friday is often my Sabbath and so to actually be able to spend time in prayer and in the Word for my personal worship and growth as opposed to creating a message to preach or a lesson to teach I must make sure that everything that needs to be done for Sunday morning happens by Thursday night. This allows me to not have to dwell on it in the meantime and frees my mind up to focus on other things. Another area of intentionality for me is to be able to turn off tech. This requires both willpower on my part as well as a system in place where I can log off while still being available in case of an emergency.
There are other practices that that will help here but these two have helped me the most in my attempt to create sacred space in the midst of ministry. I hope others will discover what they can do and then will be willing to take the steps to do it. In recognizing that what we do or don’t do has a direct effect on what we are or not able to do on the Sabbath leads me to believe that intentional preparation and planning are non-negotiable for the serious Sabbath-keeper.
Randy LeBaron (M.Div. ’03, D.Min. C9) is pastor at Albion Free Methodist Church in Albion, N.Y.