I would like to thank the parish of St. Bartholomew’s for funding a sabbatical in January 2008 to celebrate my 30th anniversary of ordination. Though the Sabbatical year occurs every seventh year, this was my very first sabbatical. I finally had gotten to a place where I was ready and eager to travel to the land of Jesus’ life and ministry, a place I had only dreamed of visiting. It was the death of so many beloved parishioners over 24 years – 165 that I had buried in that span of time – that finally motivated me to go. I needed to get away and cease my labors.
The command to keep the Sabbath occurs as the 4th command in the Ten Commandments. There it refers to the seventh day of the week and is kept by resting from one’s labors. But that is just the beginning of the notion of Sabbath, for every seventh year is the Sabbatical year, and every fiftieth year the Jubilee year (7 times 7 years plus one). All in all the Sabbath laws are well worth learning and observing for in them one will find a key to personal well being and the foundations for a more just, equitable, and peaceful society, not to mention a way to live in harmony with the natural world.
At first one may think the Sabbath is burdensome since one must refrain from so many activities that seem to give our life its purpose. But this refraining proves to be a form of restraint that allows for receiving things (and people) as they are with out any desire to fix or change them. It allows for the “otherness of things” as one of my former professors, Diogenes Allen, defined love in his book by that title. Or, it allows for us to receive another as “thou,” as Martin Buber expressed it in his book, I and Thou. This too is love and it takes us far beyond purpose into the realm of meaning.