Throughout 2018, Wesleyan clergy encouraged each other to “Reclaim Sabbath” by coming to a full stop every seven days in order to recognize that our ultimate center is God.
Not our work, or our pedigree, or our ministry, but God himself.
Henri Nouwen encourages us to live from this center, which is like the hub of a wagon wheel:
“When I move along the rim, I can reach one spoke after the other, but when I stay at the hub, I am in touch with all the spokes at once … The wagon wheel shows that the hub is the center of all energy and movement, even when it often seems not to be moving at all” (Here and Now, pg. 26).
Our natural tendency is to spend our time and energy running around the rim from spoke to spoke, task to task, person to person. But Sabbath pulls us back to the center. Every week, Sabbath reminds us that our dependency is on God alone. God says we need to come to a full stop in a regular life-giving rhythm of Sabbath living (see Genesis 2:3; Exodus 31:17).
The truth of this experience is exemplified by Jason Parker, an apostolic pastor of Woods Harbour Wesleyan Church in Nova Scotia. Jason’s testimony is similar to others who have reclaimed Sabbath:
“Sabbath has really challenged me and blessed me at the same time. I have learned that someone who is hard-wired with an apostolic bent is consistently called to break limits … but there are limits to what I can and cannot do. When I arrived here in Woods Harbour, I was having a difficult time finding a rhythm of Sabbath and eventually I had to draw a line. I [eventually] communicated to my church board and publicly from the pulpit that Saturday is going to be my Sabbath and I won’t be responding to text messages, Facebook messages or phone calls unless it is an emergency. I should confess that this is a work in progress and it is still a battle for me to not look at emails or texts, but I am really working on it. This needs to be part of my rule of life although it is one of the least natural disciplines for me.”
Jason’s testimony reminds us that Sabbath is about trusting God — it is an act of faith that for 24 hours God will “have my back.” Workaholism might just be the new drug de jour, a way of living that deadens the heart cries in our life. Sabbath slows us down so that we can listen to our souls. It is then that we can bring our own hearts before the Lord in prayerful reflection.
Sabbath reminds me to rest as well as trust. Andy Crouch, executive director of Christianity Today, points out in a video that machines are designed to work 24/7 and we simply tinker with them to keep them going.
We are not machines, but fragile creatures who need rest and relaxation. Sabbath gives us the permission to do nothing “productive,” nothing that we have to do. This is restful for our bodies and our minds and is necessary for living as God has designed us.