Holy Leisure

by Luke Hertzler, MIP at Whitehall and Ripple congregations

My Ministry Inquiry experience this summer at RIPPLE and Whitehall congregations helped me think differently about keeping Sabbath. Growing up I was not really taught about Sabbath. I knew the basics: You go to church on Sunday. You hang out with family. You eat meals together. As I got older, and especially in college, Sundays became the perfect day for homework since Friday and Saturday were full of activities. Then when Monday came around, I was confused about why I was so tired at the beginning of the week.

When I first began my internship, the pastors were planning out my schedule with me, and one of the first things they had me put on my calendar (on repeat) was “Monday=Sabbath.” After that meeting, I remember thinking how it was one of the first times in my life that I had truly devoted one day to ultimate rest.

“God gave the Israelites the law and Sabbath to change their Egyptian mindset of productivity,” Pastor Rose Bender told me. I’m a doer, so dedicating a day to take a break from running around crazily turned out to be a beautiful experience. I’ve soaked in slow mornings that start off with a good breakfast and scripture. I’ve fallen back in love with prayer. I’ve practiced introspection of my personal state, questions, and possible callings. I’ve experienced many little observations that remind me of the Holy Spirit’s presence. I’ve meditated in nature, putting things into God’s hands and being excited for what’s ahead.

Some Whitehall youth and I enjoyed the view of the valley from our evening hike. (Photo courtesy of Ser Luther)

Even though this contemplative nature of Sabbath was the most meaningful, I also found that I enjoyed a Sabbath that included fun activities and the deepening of relationships. For example, one day I went to Hershey Park with a friend I hadn’t seen in over a year. Another day, I went for a hike with some Whitehall youth to see a view of the valley. The other week, I drove to Beltzville State Park to swim in the lake, run some trails, and rollerblade in the parking lot. Throughout the whole summer, I thoroughly enjoyed discovering the many different forms of Sabbath, intertwining personal reflection, social interaction, and play.

The rooftop was always my favorite place to read in solitude or gaze at the evening sky. (Photo courtesy of author)

Sabbath has also provided me with energy for engaging in ministry with others. I am an introvert by nature, but I also love people, so Sabbath was the perfect amount of time in solitude to prepare me for my day-to-day encounters in the community. My thoughts were clearer, my actions were more purposeful, and that enabled me to be my best self throughout the rest of the week. 

This summer, I believe I have only scratched the surface of what Richard Foster, in his book Prayer, calls “holy leisure.” “It is a sense of balance in life: activity and rest, work and play, sunshine and rain. It means the ability to carry on the activities of the day filled with the cosmic patience of God.” Holy leisure means living life reflexively, where my heart, mind, and actions are on the same page. As I continue on in life, that balance is what I desire for my week, and whatever ministry experiences come my way, I’m excited to continue exploring the life-giving spaciousness that is Sabbath.