Summer and Sabbath

“Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” goes the old Nat King Cole song.

Does that sound like your summer? The description of the season as “lazy” makes us think of picnics and swimming and ball games and a lot of other recreational activities we don’t get around to often enough. We intend to do those things, but it’s easy for the “crazy” part of summer to take us captive. After all, kids may get a break from school, but the rest of us still have jobs and obligations.

Yet there is something about summer that calls us to slow down and enjoy, and in that sense summer reminds me of the concept of Sabbath. Let me suggest four points about Sabbath to ponder this summer.

1. Rest. God created the world in six days, then rested on the seventh (Genesis 2:2–3). When we rest from our labors, we recall the marvel of creation and God’s gift of the world for us to enjoy. Perhaps this is one reason people take pleasure in outdoor recreation in the summer and getting close to nature. Rest that connects us to nature also connects us to God in both body and spirit.

2. Rediscover. God said to the Old Testament people, “You shall keep my sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, given in order that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you” (Exodus 31:13). God did not give us the Sabbath as a rule to keep, but as a sign of the relationship God offers us and of the opportunity we have to be God’s people. If our schedules change during the summer for vacations, long weekends, or more sports with the kids, we can also use this time to rediscover our connection to God. Sabbath is a time to rediscover that we belong to God, not to the demands of our daily lives.

3. Restore. Perhaps the most familiar Old Testament phrase about the Sabbath comes in the Ten Commandments, “Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). We forget to rest. We deny our own need for restoration of body and spirit, so God reminds us. The commandment to keep the day holy helps us remember to set apart time for Sabbath. Creating this space in our lives brings benefits that restore our health. As you make your summer plans, think about how you would like to be restored through your choices.

4. Reclaim. The plain fact is that Jesus healed on the Sabbath (John 5:9), even though the legalistic Jewish leaders of the day regarded the “work” involved in his compassion as breaking God’s law. By healing on the Sabbath, Jesus reclaimed the day for God’s purpose of using it for our health and well-being. Maybe it is time for us to reclaim the Sabbath as well. Summer is a great time to consider developing new habits that are healing in body and spirit.

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