TGIF is a well-known abbreviation that will be heard in many a location tomorrow. It’s a plaint about the difficulty of the winding-down workweek. It’s often an admission of workplace frustrations – long hours, low pay. It’s said as a sigh of relief for those anticipating some R&R over the next few days. Of course, since pastors only work one day of the week, and that workday happens to fall every weekend, they are exempt from participating in this weekly ritual.

The weekend. Greatly desired. Anxiously awaited. But strangely, rest is not commonly found during those 48 hours. Like students cramming for finals, these two days are often packed with chores, errands, travel, energetic sports and ‘leisure’ activities which leave now-exhausted workers returning to work on Monday mornings with an equally familiar malady – Monday morning blues. Little wonder the unattractive term ‘rat race’ was coined for this less-than-fulfilling lifestyle.

Squeezed in with these two frantic days is the lovely word ‘Sabbath.’ At least the image it evokes is lovely. It primarily means ‘rest.’ Yes, rest, which liberates hearts and souls and minds and bodies to worship the Creator of all things. He gave the blessed command to rest, take a break, take the weight off (slang for sit down, I guess). God intends that resting from work be restorative, refreshing, a happily obeyed order. In many circles, Jewish and Christian, Sabbath has been weighed down with an accumulation of restrictions and laws like a boat’s hull laden with barnacles. Sabbath was given as a beautiful gift. One dictionary defines it first, as ‘a day of religious observance’ then, as an afterthought, also a day of rest. So backward as to make God want to tear His hair out (to ridiculously  assign to God mere human responses).

My upbringing, as per my father, took Sundays as solemn and serene. Lovely sentiments, unless you are a kid for whom those terms translated, no bike riding, no boisterous playing, even outside (we were obnoxiously boisterous, apparently). There was also to be no TV, no games playing, in short, nothing above 30 decibels. Do I need to say that that made for an excruciatingly long ‘day of rest?’

Jesus’ disciples, indeed, all Jews living in Judea, saw Sabbath that way – as taxing and tiring, with Sabbath laws forbidding a very long list of daily activities. Additionally, these laws were scrupulously modeled by the religious elite of the day and rigorously policed by them. Recently raised case in point – the disciples’ eating of wheat grains one Sabbath – within eyesight of a group of Pharisees! Jesus calmly ‘flipped over the tables’ of the Pharisees’ thinking, reasserting God’s original intent, that Sabbath was to serve men by being a day of restful, joyful worship – and not 24 hours of painstaking, rules-keeping minutia. Jesus’ words ring clearly today. So, with the true sense of Sabbath ringing in our ears – TGIF tomorrow y’all.  PD

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