Summer time is vacation time. Children and students are out of school. Many of us will take time off work, spending time in the back yard or doing fun things in the community. Some will take a tent or pull a trailer or move to a cabin by the lake, go hiking or fishing, or go on a longer trip somewhere else. Even retired people go on vacation, because, as some say, they are busier than ever. Whoever, where ever and whatever it is, I wonder whether we really understand what’s going on when we vacation. Are we resting from work? Or are we re-treading the tires?
A pastor in New York by the name of Peter Scazzero has written extensively about the topic of Sabbath and the need for a weekly day of rest. I want to share some of this thoughts with you, because I believe they also apply to vacation. A brief definition of Sabbath-rest Scazzero gives is: “Stop, rest, delight, and contemplate God for a 24-hour period”. Think about what that might look like in the context of vacation. For me it involves long hikes by myself through the trees or in the mountains, with stops to eat lunch, read a book, pray, and contemplate nature.
Resting, according to Scazzero, means saying “No to Perfectionism. Sabbath is first and foremost a day of “stopping” – even with our to-do lists unfinished. We embrace our limits. And we trust God.” I find this a hard one. I always have a huge list of stuff I feel I need to complete before I can go away. I don’t even trust myself to actually lock the door behind me. Better go back and check again…
Scazzero links Sabbath with scripture. “We need time and space to meditate on the biblical text so that it becomes part of us. We need time and space to hear God speak and to transform our lives through the text.” In the small catechism, Luther says that keeping Sabbath is to “fear and love God, so that we do not despise preaching or God’s word, but instead keep that word holy and gladly hear and learn it.” Make plans to take your Bible and reading plan with you on vacation, and find a church on Sunday, so that you can be reminded of God’s love for you!
Here is an aspect I found particularly challenging: “Sabbath by its very nature humbles us. We become acutely aware of our frailty as humans. [ …] we are a work in progress with enormous limits in our perspective and experience in life.” Vacation is about embracing our limits and accepting our dependence. Sometimes, however, our vacation times themselves become so busy and exhausting they seem more like an achievement, rather than a reminder of our limits. I will try to remember this the next time I want to hike further than is good for me.
In other words, “Sabbath is about being before we do. Sabbath is essentially about how much we cannot do because we are not God.” How often do we structure our days off and vacation time by doing more? Collecting “air reward miles” during months of hard work, and then “rewarding” ourselves by flying to some exotic destination in the hope feeling “divine”, is not what Sabbath is about. Besides that, we always fall short of the goal. How much easier, and better, if we would strive to learn our limits and use vacation to try and feel human instead of divine! For that we don’t need to go anywhere, we just have to do less and be more. We are after all human beings, not human doings.
Wishing you a summer that includes delightful, restful vacation time,
Pastor Markus Wilhelm
(Quotes are from Pete Scazzero’s May 24th e-Newsletter “Preaching out of Sabbath Rest”)