Sunday, July 29, 2007


I am on vacation! Actually, because I didn't go anywhere this week, I'm sitting in my house while parishioners worship in the early service. What a strange sensation to watch from my window as they go into worship – I'll worship somewhere else today, slipping out while everyone is inside so they won't see me and wonder why I'm skipping out. Of course, I announced vacation long ago, but somebody always misses the memo.

Vacation brings up two quick thoughts. First is, it's really fun to go to someone else's church now and then, almost always a non-Episcopal one. It's great to be able to sit with my family, too, something I rarely get to do. It's a refreshing joy to just sit there and be a regular worshiper who doesn't have to say anything powerful or compelling or even controversial. I don't even have to stay awake through the sermon! It feels like, well, vacation.

Second is, how very important vacation is. This has been an annual discussion ever since I became a priest. In fact, I know a lot of folks upset that I get so much of it – four weeks, five Sundays. They think of it as a little decadent, lazy, and maybe even French. Too many proudly proclaim that they haven't had vacation in years. Now, it is true, some of them live in fear of losing their livelihoods if they dare to claim their rights. I remember once asking a grocery store employee what her day off was, and she said, "Day off? I don't get days off." Let alone vacation.

This is tragic. And it is wicked on the part of those who deny their employees the rest and re-creation they need.

I spend a lot of time trying to convince people that they need to rest – not all the time because there is work to do. But we all are designed by God to stop our work from time to time and rest. God never made a commandment about overtime, but the fourth commandment says "Rest." Not only rest, but make provision for your servants to rest, too. Even your animals. The penalty for working on the Sabbath? Death.

The church wastes a lot of time and energy squabbling over things that are barely mentioned in scripture – like gays – but it virtually ignores the systematic dismantling of Sabbath time. But our society has done just that – we consistently shrink the rest time for employees in the name of becoming more "efficient" or "competitive." Competition, by the way, is not a biblical value.

What we need is not more people working 70-80 hour weeks (whether because they are forced to or because they want to "get ahead."). We need, as a society and as the people of God, to do our work and then take our rest so we can appreciate the world God has given us. The very tired appreciate very little, neither their hard-earned money nor each other. Think about it. You and I will die someday – and all that money will disappear, and eventually nobody will know we even existed. That's not depressing; it's liberating.

So take vacation. Take what you can get as long as you're putting in your proper work as well. It is not so much a right as a divine responsibility – and a divine gift.