Time is a precious commodity which always seems in short supply. Is it because we are working harder than ever before? Or because there are so many choices of what to do? As the summer approaches and the evenings are lengthening, we hope for time to enjoy the outdoors as well as good weather in which to do it. There are lots of events coming up in our villages including fetes and the Carnival when we can come together and celebrate the beauty of our neighbourhood.
W. H. Davies in his 1911 poem, 'Leisure', wrote:
What is life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.'
However much we feel we need to do, taking time out is important to get a better perspective on life.
The Bible establishes this principle right from the outset in the book of Genesis. In the Creation Story, God created the heavens and the earth in six days, and on the seventh day he rested. This established an important principle for the people to follow. It recognised our need as human beings to include down time as part of our lives. The idea of a day of rest is enshrined in the Ten Commandments. The Sabbath was set apart as a day on which everyone could take a well-earned rest. That also included animals who worked, like donkeys and horses.
The concept of a day of rest continued into the New Testament. But Jesus was careful to point out that adhering to the spirit of the Law was more important than obeying only the letter of the Law.
The idea of Sabbath rest was to help human beings rather than to become a rigid structure. So Jesus healed people on the Sabbath if they needed it, despite criticism from the religious leaders.
The Jewish Sabbath was a Saturday, but the early Christian church established Sunday as a day of worship, because that was the day on which Jesus rose from the dead. So Sunday became a day of rest, a day on which to worship God and to lay aside the usual pattern of the working week.
Jesus often took time out to be with his Father in the midst of a hectic schedule. Despite demands from many people who crowded in on him wherever he went, Jesus made time to be alone with God. For those of us who are Christians, time out with God is important for us too. It is an opportunity to make space for prayer and contemplation. That can happen anywhere, but some people find that a church building helps them to connect with a need for inner stillness. St Mary's church has been used as a quiet space for reflection for almost 800 years. The church is open daily so that anyone can come in and spend a few moments of quiet in that sacred space.
Whatever our preference, it is good to be able to take some time out of our own busy schedules. In the long, hot summer days that lie ahead (hopefully!) perhaps we can make time to 'stand and stare'. It may help us sift out what is truly important and let go of some of the things which are not.
Wishing you all a very happy summer,
Joy (Vicar of Eaton Bray with Edlesborough)
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About the Vicar's Letter
The Vicar's Letter has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since August 2002.
The Rev. Peter Graham also used to publish The Vicar's Letter in the parish magazine of 1964. Please see the Vicar's Letter area for these.