Chapter Five – Sabbath-Keeping
The Rule of Life
The Reverend Canon Charles LaFond
Being a Christian does not make one better than others, but it does make one different. And if not, is one really anything other than an on-looker, an observer? Jesus began a movement, not a religion. So being different is a mark of being a Christian. One way in which I am marked as a Christian is that I do not take “vacations” nor do I have “lunch hours” nor do I have “weekends” or take “days off.” I keep Sabbaths.
If I am “off on Friday” then actually, I use terminology such as “I am on Sabbath on Friday.” I do not mean to annoy those who consider this weird. I love that I annoy them, to be sure. But that is not why I do it – annoying them is a side-benefit! I take Sabbath days because I follow a God who made and named the Sabbath Holy and then commanded that we keep it.
My Sabbath Day is usually Friday. So, in keeping with the Christian notion that a feast begins on the night before at sunset, I do not agree to any work on Thursday nights (or my Sabbath eve) unless for pastoral need. On Thursday night at sunset, I wash my bed sheets and dry them (with lavender – back when I could smell). I then dress my bed gently, the way a deacon dresses the altar with the vessels of the Eucharist – lovingly, carefully, slowly, and reverently as a symbol to myself of the need we have for sleep and rest.
As a recovering work addict, I need to be careful to leave my cell phone in the car glove box and keep my computer off unless for something I will enjoy. If I am on-call for pastoral care in the congregation, I take another day as a Sabbath. A phone unable to ring is different from one not ringing – the rest is different. I realize that many, especially parents and the working-poor are denied Sabbath so I pray for them and remind myself of the goodness of the gift.
Silence is an important part of my Sabbath–keeping and so I only make plans with my closest friends – people I love and trust – on my Sabbath day. And I work hard to follow the monastic norm of doing only one thing at a time. A Sabbath day is a time for hand-written letters on cotton stationary, with a good pen and to people I love and who love me. It is also a day to tend “The garden” – the list of my closest 20 friends – what needs watering, what feeding, what pruning and what needs pulling up and out, to make space for new growth?
A Sabbath Day may be broken by carelessness (as I did last Friday – oops) in which case stopping, standing and acknowledging the mistake with a moment of un-scolding silence helps me re-orient. I will say my prayers but not usually in the morning and I will try to create something on my Sabbath day – some pottery, some Butter Crunch Almond Toffee or writing or a meal for friends.
Sleep is an important aspect of my Sabbath. I do the math. I consider my week and if I need extra sleep stolen from one day or another, I intentionally sleep long or stay in bed and listen to a book while my black lab Kai snuggles close for heat.
As Sabbath ends, I try to recollect it at bedtime with gratitude. I thank God for the gift of rest and ask forgiveness if I invaded and broke my Sabbath or if I was dull, lazy and lifeless, wasting time rather than enjoying it.
God made all things in heaven and on earth says Genesis. Each act of creation was named good or very good. Only one thing was called “Holy.” The first time that bombshell of a word is used in our scriptures it is used for the naming of Sabbath-rest – not a person, nor a place, but rather a time. If God is to attribute rest with such heavy glory, then who am I to do anything but bow and enjoy it. God gives it as a gift. Let no man break it asunder, least of all me.