January 13, 2018
Royal Lane Baptist Church, Dallas, TX. Learn More »
Originally published in the August 2015 issue of University Baptist Church's e-newsletter The Beacon.
"Summer time and the livin' is easy." Maybe so, maybe not. I remember way back what a mental adjustment I had to make when I left the student life and took the role of pastor in the first church I served. Only a couple of weeks off?!! My mind was calibrated to have the whole summer to do something different.
The livin' is easy.
Tell that to the person putting insulation in attic spaces or installing a new roof on your neighbor's house this summer. My first "real" job was the summer after graduating from high school. I worked for my uncle at a salmon cannery on the far side of Kodiak Island, Alaska. Days off were few and far between. The 4th of July celebration happened on the 5th that
year because the boss said so. The long hours made for tired bodies, albeit with bigger paychecks.
These memories come as I reflect on the wisdom we find in the first creation story in the Bible. You know the words: "In the beginning God created …" The story concludes, "… and on the seventh day God rested from all the work God had done. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all the work of creation." Genesis 2:2–3, Common English Bible
A day off! Can you imagine that? Many people can't. Needing to work more than one job to make ends meet. Working every day with the threat that if you don't you won't have a job. Working every day in hopes of keeping the boss from stealing your pay. Working every day for fear of being turned in as "illegal."
I once wrote a paper on John L. Lewis, the man who led the movement to unionize American coal mines. Before unions, what was a day off? And who cared about working conditions, other than the wives of men who died in the mines. Before the Child Labor Act, how many kids crawled through the mine tunnels? What was a day off?
Those of us who work "with benefits" take a day off (or two) as something we expect. The US government estimates that over 35% of those employed are "contingent workers," working without benefits like paid vacation, health care, or sick leave. Three to four thousand years ago the Hebrew people got the message that a day off would be a good idea. After working six days it would be good for the body and soul to be refreshed.
They called the day "sacred" and a day of rest. A day for reflection, for worship, for rest—all needed for revitalization.
The problem is that I've been known to work as intensely on my day off as I worked during the week, just doing different things. One of the sayings in our culture is "Work hard. Play hard." That promotes reflection, worship and rest, right?
It's good to be reminded of the pattern of having a day called sacred. It may not be Sunday in your weekly cycle, but hopefully there is a day of rest on your calendar. I think it's important for those of us who have been fortunate in our working careers to have the "seventh day" off, to advocate for those who do not. It is for the health and well being of our society as a whole, one individual and family at a time.
See you in the meeting place where we can share together sacred time and space.