Rebekah Hutto: Working Toward Sabbath

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As ministers, we are called to service in the church, and within this call we have fallen into the pattern of leaving little time for ourselves for exercise, rest, or Sabbath.

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

~John 11:1, 3-6

As ministers, we are called to service in the church, and within this call we have fallen into the pattern of leaving little time for ourselves for exercise, rest, or Sabbath. Our professions do not fall within the category of 9-5 work, nor do they fit the patterns of week and weekend.
We work when others have a day off.

We work when we take others on retreats or trips.

We work when others celebrate in a wedding or grieve at a funeral.

How do we set new patterns that rejuvenate our own spiritual, mental, and physical health while providing the pastoral care our congregations need? How do we make time for ourselves during a weekly pattern that doesn’t make time for our schedules as clergy?

I think the problem is that we wait for our schedules to change so that we can make healthier choices, as if our time belongs just to us.  Moreover we compare our professions to those within the corporate world and think our work week should look similar. But because we work within God’s time, we have the opportunity to begin healthier patterns and be more creative with our time. And because we follow a Lord who would not let others define his time for him, we must not let the demands of our congregation dictate our work patterns for us.

When Jesus did not rush off to heal Lazarus in John 11:6, many of us remain baffled at his lack of respect for the family’s needs. But could we imagine that Jesus defined his time based on God’s will rather that another’s anxiety? Throughout his ministry, despite the pressing crowds and his imminent death, Jesus took time to rest, he took time to eat, and, most importantly, he took time to pray. Why, then, do we view ourselves and our work as so important that we can’t follow his example?

Don’t wait for your schedule to change. Don’t wait for others to give you permission to rest and exercise. Don’t wait for a health crisis to intervene before you put yourself first.  Instead, teach the church that our overworked world is not a healthy pattern for spiritual living. Rest in the patterns and time of God, a God that calls us to work as a response to the Sabbath.

Our guest blogger is The Rev. Rebekah Hutto, a young Associate Pastor at Mt. Bethel Presbyterian Church in Durham, N.C.

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