Summary: Stop. Encounter God. Be refreshed.
The Uselessness of Sabbath
According to a Greek legend, in ancient Athens a man noticed the great storyteller Aesop playing childish games with some little boys. He laughed and jeered at Aesop, asking him why he wasted his time in such frivolous activity.
Aesop responded by picking up a bow, loosening its string, and placing it on the ground. Then he said to the critical Athenian, “Now, answer the riddle, if you can. Tell us what the unstrung bows implies.”
Have you ever stopped to think how busy God is? The story of the creation in Genesis tells us. God spent 6 days creating the earth, the animals, the plants, the sun, moon, stars, waters, sky, darkness, and light. “And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.” The Bible tells us clearly that God took time for rest.
What does it mean-that God rested on the seventh day? Let me help you out here, what does rest mean to you? When you rest do you read, watch TV, go camping, take a nap? I don’t think God loaded up his SUV and went camping or kicked back in his La-z-boy to watch “Touched By An Angel”. God rested, but his idea of rest is different.
God rested, that is, he “ceased activity”. He did no more work. Now you might question the verse I just read (above). How can God finish the work he had done AND rest? On the seventh day God finished God’s work. That means the creation was incomplete, unfinished until the Sabbath, the day of rest. The part of creation that was incomplete was the day of rest part.
The balance between work and rest is seen in the creation story. We must have a time of “ceasing activity”, of resting from our labors. We should follow God’s example of resting by resting ourselves. We should observe a “Sabbath time”.
Later, in Exodus 31:17, we read that “in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.” I love that word! God was REFRESHED! If we follow God’s example of resting we, too, can be REFRESHED! Don’t you want to be REFRESHED?!? The dictionary defines refreshed as “to renew the well-being or vigor of oneself”. We can “renew” ourselves or, in other words, become “like new” again through rest.
BACK TO OUR STORY: The man looked at it for several moments but had no idea what point Aesop was trying to make. Aesop explained, “If you keep a bow always bent, it will break eventually; but if you let it go slack, it will be more fit for use when you want it.” People are also like that. That’s why we all need to take time to rest. God showed us how. Loosen your bow and be refreshed.
Genesis 2:3, “and God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.” Sabbath time is not just rest; it is sacred rest. It can be a holy day, according to the Jewish tradition, the seventh day. Or it can be the first day, according to Christians. In addition to a Sabbath day, we can have a Sabbath time, consisting of a Sabbath afternoon or even a Sabbath hour. It can be an event. A walk through the woods, an early morning cup of coffee watching the sun rise. It is when you connect with God.
Sabbath is not just time off from work. It is not a time when we do all the stuff we couldn’t get done during the week. It’s not a time to run to Walmart, pick up the dry-cleaning, shop for little Bobby’s birthday party, cut the grass, change the oil in the car, clean the cat box, and all of our other errands. Sabbath is not a time you take off from work to do more work.
Ecclesiastes 3 tells us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” In his book, “Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest”, Wayne Muller says “Even if we were to leave work behind and seek the comfort and security of a monastery, we would be handed a broom, and told to sweep the walks. Even in monasteries we must cook and clean, build and repair, garden and sweep. But there is a time to sweep, and a time to put down the broom and rest.”
We push ourselves so hard that we become weary. Moses led the people through the desert and, at one point, God tells him, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” In one of our scripture readings for today, Jesus tells His disciples, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Rest is invaluable.