It’s the middle of summer. Arizona is hot, and we are all beginning to hope for the return of the cooler days of fall. (The keyword in that sentence is “er” on the word “cool.”) The warmth of the summer begins to get to us around this time – when we know we have many more weeks of hot temperatures ahead of us. And…while we might be thinking about the refreshment of the fall months, it is hard to believe that some of our ministries will begin to ramp up much sooner than September or October. In fact, some of them are going to be ramping up to high gear as soon as the end of this month!
The months of June and July seem to be the two months in which things slow down a little bit around Epiphany. We know the hot days of summer are here for a while, and it is better for us to take a little slower pace with things in parish life. Our formation programs take a summer hiatus, and the choir takes a break from singing in worship as a full choir. We might even be taking a trip or two – up to northern Arizona where the temperatures are moderated enough for us to enjoy the evenings or perhaps to another geography entirely. These are the months that we all take a breath, slow down a little bit, and pass the summer in less of a rush than normal.
In a sense, it is a season of sabbath practice in the life of the parish. We need a few weeks in which we are able to have a more relaxed pace so we are able to return to our ministries refreshed and rejuvenated. The practice of sabbath is, in many ways, an elusive practice. In the movie The Shawshank Redemption, Brooks is released on parole well into his elder years, and he writes back to “the fellas” he left back in prison. In the movie, we see Brooks trying to navigate crossing the street with cars slamming on brakes to avoid hitting him. The number of cars is somewhat overwhelming to Brooks as he tells the fellas that “automobiles are everywhere now.” He sums it up rather simply if not somewhat vulgarly when he says, “The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry.”
The hurried nature of the world around is hard not to take on for ourselves. It is difficult to feel like taking the time to rest, to relax, to breathe as being valuable and important in ministry. It is all too easy for us to think that taking the time to rest is not as important as doing the work of ministry and sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is easy for us, as Christians, to think that the hurried pace of the modern economy is something the church has to keep up with and then finding ourselves just as exhausted as the rest of the world around us.
The truth is that the church needs to remember that the practice of sabbath – in large ways and in small ways – is an important practice that allows us to continue in the journey of faith that we are taking. The practice of sabbath in the church is a prophetic practice in the world around us. We are saying to the world that rest, renewal, and rejuvenation of the spirit is essential to flourishing of humanity. We are practicing something that cuts across the grain of the worldwide economic engines that would have things going full blast at all hours of the day and all days of the year.
We do something quite different when we invite and practice small moments of rest in our daily lives to have an ongoing refreshment of our spirits. While some of us might take trips to see family or visit a new place or simply to escape to a cabin in the northern reaches of our state in the summer months, it is also important to find ways to practice rest and renewal in smaller ways so you are able to be renewed more regularly. There is a need for us to practice moments of sabbath throughout the day – those 10 minutes in the car without sending an email or talking on the phone. It comes in the moment that you take a bit of your lunch to spend it in conversation with God. It comes in the morning hours when you are sitting on the couch enjoying the quiet of the morning before others wake. It comes in the moments you sit down to read a book or to pray just before turning out the lights for bed.
These are moments in which our spirits are renewed in smaller ways. They are moments of rest between the meetings on the calendar. In those moments, we are noticing the rest notes on sheet music or the comma in the sentence. We are entering into those spaces that are calling us to stand up, stretch, have a quick chat with God, or simply to get outside for a bit of fresh air. In the everyday hustle and bustle, we are invited to find moments of sabbath, moments of rest, moments of renewal.
What are the moments in your life that are inviting you to practice small sabbaths? How do you practice rest and renewal in the midst of your everyday?