Embracing Sabbath: The Gift of Rest // M-Note 6.15.24

I just returned from spending time speaking and teaching at the North Georgia Annual Conference of the UMC. They bought every participant there, lay and clergy, a copy of The Methodist Book of Daily Prayer, and then graciously invited me to speak about the importance of sabbath, rest, and having a spiritual healthy rhythm of life. It was a special time to be in the conference where I started my ministry both as a student at Emory and as a youth pastor at a church in Decatur. As I finished up and prepared to fly out, I was thinking about the responses from the clergy on my reflections about Sabbath. One clergy nearing retirement and passionate about the growth of the church said, “next time they should have you talk about growth and not rest!”
 
I understand the sentiment. I am wired to work, and I am passionate about working in the church. I want to do ministry alongside other people (both lay and clergy) who care so much about reaching people with the good news of Jesus that they will do anything. The work of God is the most important in the world, and I wish sometimes that we would treat it with the urgency and the passion it deserves.
 
So it is strange that God tapped me on the shoulder, nudging me to write a daily devotional that centers on prayer. Even stranger that out of that work, I became convinced that honoring the sabbath is the most overlooked and under-appreciated commandment there is. In a world that demands productivity, effort, results, busyness, achievement, and efficiency, establishing a weekly rhythm of rest and sabbath could be one of the more radical habits Christians are called to keep.
 
God in God’s wisdom decided that six days a week we should work, and work passionately – valuing the tasks that we have been called to do and people we have been given to serve (both at home and in the workplace). But one day a week, God set aside, God marked it as special, and God gave it to us as a gift. On that day, we are called to put God over self, relationships over responsibilities, enjoyment over productivity, boredom over busyness, and the present over worrying about the future.
 
Rest and work are not opposing forces. Stressing the importance of Sabbath does not take away from the need to pour the best of time, energy, and work into God’s mission. Sabbath is not God saying that the work we do is bad, or that we ought care less about it. Instead, resting allows us to do that work with greater joy, deeper passion, and lasting sustainability. We rest not to escape the work that God has called us to do. But we rest to do that work even better.
 
If you’re here this weekend, make worship a priority. I would love to see you at church as I continue our series, “Why Do We Do That?” by talking about the part of worship that is maybe the most misunderstood – offering! Enjoy your day, and I will see you Sunday.
 
Peace,

Matt

P.S. We’re preparing for Pride Fest at the end of the month, and I invite you to come and help us to show God’s love for all people. You can join us at Pride no matter who you are or how you identify - we’ll provide all the training you need to work the booth. It’s always a fun and powerful event. I hope you’ll join us. Maybe your Core Group can make it a mid-summer social and work the booth together!
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