“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.” Genesis 2:1-3
People who study public education have noticed the remarkable advances that have occurred in the past twenty years in Finland. Finnish students have moved from the bottom to the top in assessments of academic improvement. The United States is stuck in the middle. Why? That is what everyone is trying to figure out. This is one paragraph from the above linked article:
“Teachers in Finland spend fewer hours at school each day and spend less time in classrooms than American teachers. Teachers use the extra time to build curriculums and assess their students. Children spend far more time playing outside, even in the depths of winter. Homework is minimal. Compulsory schooling does not begin until age 7. “We have no hurry,” said Louhivuori. “Children learn better when they are ready. Why stress them out?”
How is it that children are learning better when they play more, when they are given very little homework, and when their formal education is delayed until they are more physiologically equipped to learn? How is it that teachers are more effective when they spend less time in the classroom, when they are freed from focusing on preparing students for standardized tests to spend more time giving individualized instruction?
The answer is the power of Sabbath rest.
Athletes are beginning to understand this. You don’t get stronger when you are lifting weights. Lifting weights, or any other type of athletic exertion, actually tears you down. The improvement comes when you are recovering. Eating the right foods and getting plenty of rest rebuilds your body and prepares you for the next period of exertion. Without such rest and nutrition, you quite literally burn yourself out. Rather than getting stronger, you get more brittle and injury prone.
Rest is holy activity. And when we rest, we need proper nutrition. Thus it is that we set one day aside to gather together in public worship, to be fed with the Word and the Meal. In this we connect to God, the Universal Power Source. Worship is not a sign of our weakness but of our strength. Worship rebuilds our communal connective tissues. It gives us resilience and courage. Doing yard work on Sunday morning does just the opposite – it binds us ever deeper into a world intent on appearances, keeping up with the Jones’, worrying about what the neighbors will think, and disconnecting us from the rest of the family.
Too harsh? I don’t think so. Not only does this creation story end with a day off, God cares enough about our need for rest that it made the list of the Ten Commandments. Check those out again – show me where getting high scores on standardized tests, winning football games, or getting a high paying white collar job are commanded of us?
Let us pray: Gracious Lord, thank you for the gift of rest. Every day and throughout the day, encourage us in setting aside time for play, for quiet, for pondering, for imagining, for recovery. I pray that everyone reading this will make time this weekend to attend a public gathering of people seeking to center the meaning of their lives around you, your Word, and your Meal. And in those gatherings, let your love guide us that we not miss the point of Sabbath rest which is your desire to give us salvation, healing, wholeness, and life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.