Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
In the Wilderness where this story is set, the Hebrew People were cut off from many of the habits, routines and opportunities which had shaped them in Egypt. The 10 Commandments were a covenant to forge a renewed society, a society unlike Egypt, which was built of healthy relationships between God and the Hebrew People, the People with each other, and the People with the world at large.
The Sabbath commandment in Exodus, implies a rhythm built into the very fabric of creation which includes a pattern to set aside time to focus on God. While I understand that every moment of life is an opportunity to encounter holiness, this commandment suggests a fundamental human need (like our need for exercise or healthy food) to make time to keep our perception of holiness ever growing and open. Moving with the Sabbath Rhythm enables us to be continually refreshed in maintaining those healthy relationships with the Holy One, each other, the world at large, and perhaps even with ourselves. For many people that fundamental need to keep our perception ever growing and open, includes being with others for worship, growth and support.
The period of the Covid 19 Pandemic has been a wilderness space where we have been cut off from habits, routines and opportunities which have shaped our lives and society. For many, setting aside time to come together to focus on God has been challenging and we have had to forge new habits, routines and opportunities which previously were laid out for us. Having now lived with these ever-adapting restrictions for over a year, it is perhaps a good time to reflect on the new patterns we have developed and to notice what in these new habits has been effective and what less so? Which of our new routines might we want to continue into a post Pandemic world? How have these new opportunities to focus on God refreshed us and equipped us to develop and sustain healthy relationships with God, each other, the world and ourselves? How has this Pandemic wilderness revealed to us new ways of moving with the Sabbath Rhythm to keep our perception ever growing and open to the God who holds us in a Covenant of love today?
Holy One, Thank you for your Covenant of love which has held us through times of sorrow and joy. Thank you for your Sabbath Rhythm beckoning us deeper into wholeness. Grant us the wisdom and energy to seek regular refreshment, so that our relationships with you, with others, with ourselves and with the earth, may offer a taste of your Realm.
The Rev’d Fiona Bennett minister Augustine United Church, Edinburgh