The idea of Sabbath is a very old one, and recently a book on the subject revealed how important a rest day is for our mental sanity and health.
Wayne Muller, in Sabbath, Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest, shows how our relentless pursuit of progress and success is a form of violence we do to ourselves. In the passage I opened up this morning, he explains that our putting paradise or heaven off into the after life means that we only get to rest once we get to heaven. Heaven is where the green pastures are, the place we can lie down and be taken care of, but that we have to work work work until we get there.
"This then is the theology of progress. Only when we get to the end can we lie down in green pastures, be led beside still waters, and allow our soul to be restored. this is the psalm we sing when people have died. This is the psalm we save for death, because in the world of progress, you do not rest in green pastures, you do not lie beside still waters, there is no time. Never in this life, only in the next. ...
But we must ask this question: What if we are not going anywhere? what if we are simply living and growing within an ever-deepening cycle of rhythms, perhaps getting wiser, perhaps learning to be kind, and hopefully passing whatever we have learned to our children? what if our life, rough-hewn from the stuff of creation, orbits around a God who never ceases to create new beginnings? what if our life is simply a time when we are blessed with both sadness and joy, health and disease, courage and fear --and all the while we work, pray and love, knowing that the promised land we seek is already present in the very gift of life itself, the inestimable privilege of a human birth? what if this single human life is itself the jewel in the lotus, the treasure hidden in the field, the pearl of great price? what if all the way to heaven is heaven?
"Sabbath challenges the theology of progress by reminding us that we are already and always on sacred ground....the time to lie and love and give thanks and rest and delight is now, this moment, this day. Feel what heaven is like; have a taste of eternity. Rest in the arms of the divine...The time to sleep, to rest, is now. We are already home."
I am taking his mesage to heart this morning; lying here in the sun with Mollie, soaking up the warmth of an unusally warm November day. Recuperating after an osteopathic treatment on my shoulders yesterday, and following her advice to rest more today, drink more water, let the body readjust.
It is difficult to just lie here and do nothing. But I can feel the energy flowing inside my body, feel the stillness nourish me. "Heaven's in our hearts" sings Tracy Chapman on the CD playing right now, as if in synchronicity with the moment and what I am writing.
It is too easy to always be 'too busy' to give ourselves the gift of rest.
Sabbath used to be a law, a day imposed on us to rest, reflect, do nothing 'useful' or productive, experience the gift of receiving. In its origins, it was a day when it was illegal to work.
You can reinstate it in your life, make it a habit, even if there is no church to attend. Spirit can touch you in nature, spirit can call you to prayer right in your bedroom. Heaven could be right here on earth. If you allow, permit, surrender to the possibility :)