Word for Word 6/5/19

Rev. Kim Gates
Rev. Kim Gates

From all that I’ve learned about the Almighty, God doesn’t take vacation - at least not like we do! I think it’s good news that God doesn’t go off and leave us to our own devices - just think what more of a mess our world might become if God was absent for weeks at a time! But human beings, on the other hand, don’t function well if they are “on” all the time with no breaks. Once again, this is a clear reminder that we mere humans are NOT God.

However, Jesus did take time away from his busy ministry itinerary. Jesus was as fully human as he was divine so the humanity of Jesus needed to “take a break.” In the UMC, our clergy get 4 weeks of vacation every year and a week of continued education (plus every four years we get a 4 week “Renewal Leave”) which are all designed to give pastors the needed breaks that are healthy and rejuvenating so that our ministry doesn’t stagnate or “burn out.”

All people need to “take a break” and rest from their regular/daily routines. This is how we were designed to function by our Creator. God may not take two week vacation stints but God did rest on the seventh day of Creation. So we need to take a rest - a Sabbath. According to Wikipedia, Sabbath is defined as: “a day set aside for rest and worship. According to the Book of Exodus the Sabbath is a day of rest on the seventh day, commanded by God to be kept as a holy day of rest, as God rested from creation. It is observed differently among the Abrahamic religions and informs a similar occasion in several other practices. Although many viewpoints and definitions have arisen over the millennia, most originate in the same textual tradition of: ‘Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy’.”

At Dictionary.com Sabbath is defined as: noun

1. the seventh day of the week, Saturday, as the day of rest and religious observance among Jews and some Christians. [Exodus chapter 20, verses 8–11.]
2. the first day of the week, Sunday, similarly observed by most Christians in commemoration of the Resurrection of Christ.
3. any special day of prayer or rest resembling the Sabbath: Friday is the Muslim Sabbath.
4. (sometimes lowercase) a period of rest.

But in this nation we are “on the go” all the time. On our weekends we may not be working at our jobs but we don’t just sit down and rest from activity!

It has been said that Americans “work themselves to death.” Considering some of our unhealthy life-style routines, and the illness that result from them, I’d have to agree as so many of us don’t get the sleep we need nor eat a healthy diet nor give our bodies a well-rounded exercise/rest routine - let alone give our minds and souls well-rounded exercise/rest routines! Perhaps this lack of self-care is yet another symptom of what ails the Church? Our members are not taking any REAL Sabbath so we’re not just “sin-sick” but a bunch sick sinners ‘cuz we don’t obey God’s commandment to “rest”!

So since we have been commanded to “keep” the Sabbath this pastor is being obedient. I take my vacation days and continuing education days and my renewal leave. If I didn’t do this I probably would have left the ministry years ago as one burned-out, tired, “sick puppy”! In these days of so many mental health issues I would highly recommend you take ALL your vacation time and create some Sabbath time each week. Let your body, mind and soul rest from the routines and stresses of daily life. Set aside time to communion with God and to worship as the Church, the Body of Christ. Connect with the divine and with Creation. Truly, a new appreciation and zest for life can be cultivated from times of restful habits such as these!!

Be obedient and “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” and thus keep yourself, your family, and your community whole! (If you don’t see me around this summer, I’m off keeping Sabbath!)

Rev. Kim Gates, Waukon St. Paul’s and Forest Mills United Methodist Churches

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