Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor 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.
"For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth..." You remember that story, don't you?
It starts with, "Let there be light," and it progresses through sky and earth, sun and moon, plants and animals. All blessed, all good, so very good. And then, on the seventh day, God rested.
Here's what I want to know: What did God do while he rested? How did God spend her day off?
Did God sit around all day in her pajamas, gorging on Netflix and Ben & Jerry's straight from the tub? Had God been so busy working all week long that he had to spend that seventh day doing laundry, running errands, catching up on email, paying bills? Did God feel guilty about taking time off because there was so much work still to be done?
Of course, we can't know exactly what God did on that seventh day. But the rabbinic tradition gives us a wonderful way to think about it. The rabbis have interpreted this story to mean that there was, in fact, something yet to be created on that seventh day, something without which the universe would be incomplete. That something is called, in Hebrew, menuha. We often translate this word as "rest," but its meaning runs deeper than that. Menuha is not just the absence of work - it is the presence of delight.
Can you imagine God on that seventh day, strolling through a field of wildflowers, taking a dip in the ocean, savoring the sweetness of a strawberry, playing fetch with a golden retriever, listening to a child laugh, sitting down to dinner at a candlelit table?
What God created on that seventh day was rest, to be sure, but it was an active, appreciative, relational rest, a rest characterized by delight - a rest that is both a gift and a commandment.
What would it be like if we approached our sabbath days with that kind of eagerness, that kind of joy? And how might that spirit of sabbath delight spill over into the rest of our days?
God of the seventh day and the other six, grant that all of your children might have fulfilling work and joyful rest. Shape our days and our weeks so that they might bring delight to our hearts and to yours. Amen.
Jocelyn B. Gardner Spencer
The Rev. Jocelyn Gardner Spencer is the President of the Southern New England Conference and the Senior Minister of United Church on the Green, New Haven CT.