January 26, 2021

Looking forward to “Sabbath”

If there is no Sabbath — no regular and commanded not-working, not-talking — we soon become totally absorbed in what we are doing and saying, and God’s work is either forgotten or marginalized. When we work we are most god-like, which means that it is in our work that it is easier to develop god-pretensions. Un-sabbathed, our work becomes the entire context in which we define our lives. We lose God-consciousness, God-awareness, sightings of resurrection. We lose the capacity to sing “this is my Father’s world” and end up chirping little self-centred ditties about what we are doing and feeling.

• Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, p. 117

He is so right.

I easily become absorbed in what I am doing, saying, and thinking. I become consumed with my work.

I start to think that my contributions are what make the difference. God gets pushed to the margins, or forgotten altogether. Of course, I seek his help, but I define that in human terms. I think of a “helper” as an assistant, someone I bring in to help me complete my agenda. When the Bible says God is my “Helper,” it means I’m in desperate trouble and need him to rescue me. I have lost my way with regard to his agenda, and he picks me up and sets me back on course. In human terms, helpers may be optional. In God’s terms, without him I’m toast.

Of course God calls me to work. He does not call me to work autonomously. Nor does he call me to work compulsively, frantically. Even Jesus said, “My Father works, and I work,” putting the emphasis where it belongs. I am not God, and my work is but one small part of the picture. My work is a puzzle piece designed to fit just so within the landscape he’s creating. This means I work in partnership with others also — in no way does this all depend on me! It is God who finds my place and the places of those around me. It is God who fits us together to make something more than any of us could make alone. Also, at times the One constructing the puzzle needs to set a piece aside until it becomes apparent just where it fits. Imagine if puzzle pieces were autonomous little creatures running around trying to find their places in the big picture! No, there is a time and a place for my contribution and yours, and his eyes see it, and his hands fit us in properly.

When I am working, caught up in what I am doing, I find it hard to lift up my head and look around. Nose to the grindstone, I am focused on the task at hand. All well and good. But do I appreciate the larger work around me, the full scope of the production, the end product we’re creating? I cannot unless I take time to step back, come out of my little corner of the shop, and look around to take it all in, to remember the company name, mission, and vision, to take pride in the widgets we make and the good they do in the world; to wear the logo enthusiastically. Without that, it’s just time and a paycheck, and I’m livin’ for the weekend.

And so, I await October. Starting Saturday, and then especially in the middle of October when I will step back from everything for a couple of weeks, I’ll be seeking Sabbath. That is to say, I’ll be seeking Jesus as my Sabbath rest by taking an actual, physical and vocational rest.

This is my Father’s world, and I can’t wait to step out of my cubicle to see it.


  1. I really wish you a good sabbatical, probably well-deserved and certainly very welcome 🙂

    Your post made me think about the weekly Sabbath. Being discouraged to do any creation/work one day each week is not just about resting but also about seeing the Creator; realizing we cannot create, only put existing things together using glue and nails. A day to step back from the hassle, take a deep breath and get things back into perspective.

    It is interesting, to say the least, that many of us, including myself, have made even that seventh day a day of extreme busy-ness.

  2. Chaplain Mike,

    This time you’ll be spending on retreat will I hope bring you so much focus in just being, reveling in the silence and the holiness. For me it was intoxicating since I run at 100 MPH most of the time I am awake. The hardest part for me was clearing my mind of all those things outside that continued to distract me. But once I got there , wow, it was a release.

    In our 24x7x365 world its so hard to focus on God and family for an hour, not alone a day. But after the retreat I had a renewed vigor on what was really important, not what I and others who needed my time (from a work perspective) thought should be important.

    When you stated above – when I’m at work its hard to lift up my head and look around – that’s me – and if it wasn’t for my wife shaking my out of this fog – I might miss a lot of things.

    It’s about time I go on another retreat -articles like this will help to give me the push to take the next step.

  3. CM, I’ve been doing a teaching series on Henri Nouwen’s “The Way of the Heart: Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry”. If you have the opportunity to obtain this book to accompany you on your sabbatical, I highly recommend it.

    Peace be with you…

  4. Enjoy your sabbatical, CM! I’d say “Godspeed!”, but perhaps “Godrest!” would be more appropriate.

  5. Our church has been doing a series on rest. It is amazing to see how many parts of our life can get unbalanced when we do not experience true rest. We so often settle for respite, or a temporary reprieve, when what we need is a foundation of rest. Blessings on your time and may you find rest.

  6. I love the artwork! simple & beautiful.

  7. Andy Griffith Show – sermon on ‘taking life slow’

    forward to 5 minute mark. It’s a classic!



  8. As someone whose vocation it is to escort people to their eternal rest, it’s a good thing to practice some temporal rest. Kick your feet up! Take a load off!

  9. David Cornwell says

    Wishing you the best in this Sabbath season Chaplain Mike. May your mind be renewed and your body rested. And for just a bit of time may the extreme cares of the world fade away. May you catch a glimpse of the Kingdom and receive His blessing.

  10. Have a wonderful sabbatical, Chaplain Mike! And yes, we miss something when the Sabbath, whatever day we pick, is just another day. It is not a day of burdens, but of liberation, where we leave the cares of the world behind and enjoy our Father’s grace and bounty. It is always sad for me when it is over and I have to go back to the rat race. It is a foretaste of heaven, or should be. Some do make it into a burden, focusing on what we should or should not do on that day.

    And I see the consequences of neglecting a day of rest. Stress, depression, heart attacks, strokes, and a general feeling of meanness.

    For a long time, my place of work denied me time off on Sunday so I could fellowship with my brothers and sisters. It was a miserable time, and I saw first-hand what happens when we make it just another day. A madness seemed to take the people who came into Walmart on that day. Wild-eyed mania. Rush in, fill up your carts, shop till you drop, no rest day or night. Gotta keep moving.

    A picture of hell I can’t improve on. And they are particularly nasty on that day, even those who just came in from church. It is a madhouse when the churches let out at the stores and the restaurants, and they prove to be the nastiest people who come in, after they’ve just trampled the pastor at the door to get there. Both those who work at retail and the waitresses at the restaurants dread the moment the churches let out.

    I’m not condemning those who don’t see, just pray for them.I find it better for me when I wind down and enjoy God and enjoy myself on that day. It is such a delight that I never want it to end.

    But we are so used to being busy all the time that God had to command the Israelites to stop on one day. Don’t just do something, just stand there. Be still and know that I am God, says the Psalmist.

  11. One of the best books I’ve read about the Sabbath was The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan. It’s not an academic or even particularly challenging book by any means, but he makes the point that we have to remember that Sabbath was given to us as gift from God, not something we observe to simply appease God. Sabbath is when we can do what we want to do, not do what we have to do.

    Personally, I find that trying to observe a Sabbath on Sunday is very hard. Being involved in a church ministry to any extent really seems to be at odds with finding rest on that day. I tend to make Saturdays the day that I can simply enjoy. So if that means putting off work around the house, mowing the yard, or doing the grocery shopping until Sunday, then so be it. I find it makes my weekends a lot stressful. Growing up I never would have imagined trying to mow or whatnot on Sunday, but I actually find it’s actually more refreshing to have an entire day free. Going to church in the morning, worrying about what to do for lunch, etc. actually is kind of the opposite of restful to me.

    • I would heartily recomment Celebrating the Sabbath by Bruce A. Ray. He also points out it is, or should be seen as a gift from God, not as a burden. He points out if you rely on lists of what to do and not do on that day, you’re missing the point. It’s a day of liberation, not of hardship. I’ll look in on that book you recommended, Phil. It sounds good.

  12. Oh, and I too wish you a restful and restorative month, Chaplain Mike!

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