sabbath poem

jars on the counter

It took me several reads to notice that this poem ends in desolation. It doesn’t resolve.

But I live more Sabbaths like this than I care to admit, days that begin and end in turmoil for a hundred wicked reasons. Who among us is good at Sabbath-keeping? Even the Sabbath is touched by depravity’s fingers.

As I’ve been preparing a sermon on Genesis 1 and our care of the creation, as well as on God’s establishment of Sabbath rest, I’ve kept company with Norman Wirzba and Ellen Davis. They drive me back to good Sabbath practices, making me want to rest, for my sake and for the sake of my fellow creatures. So why do I so often fail?

I offer this poem to you as consolation if days like this pass as frequently in your household as they do in mine. And I offer it as one more reason to long for the coming of our Lord and not to give up at work and rest in the rhythm he has set for us. The spinning stars will thank us with their song.

Sabbath Poem V, 1980
Wendell Berry

Six days of work are spent
To make a Sunday quiet
That Sabbath may return.
It comes in unconcern;
We cannot earn or buy it.
Suppose rest is not sent
Or comes and goes unknown,
The light, unseen, unshown.
Suppose the day begins
In wrath at circumstance,
Or anger at one’s friends
In vain self-innocence
False to the very light,
Breaking the sun in half,
Or anger at oneself
Whose controverting will
Would have the sun stand still.
The world is lost in loss
Of patience; the old curse
Returns, and is made worse
As newly justified.
In hopeless fret and fuss,
In rage at worldly plight
Creation is defied,
All order is unpropped,
All light and singing stopped.

(This post is the final one in a November series for NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month. You can find the rest here!)


4 thoughts on “sabbath poem

  1. Hi Grace – I took December off from the internet and am only now catching up. I love this entry. In thinking about rest, I think part of what makes it hard is that we are so out of touch with natural rhythms – but also, we have lost so much of what “work” used to mean – both in the sense of vocation and in the sense of actual physical labor, labor from which we needed a real break. That necessary physical break helped create the psychic space, too. Now we are sort of working in reverse, if that makes sense. Anyway – I love the WB poem, and will keep it in mind this weekend as I seek the return of some sort of Sabbath.

  2. Sounds like you took your own Sabbath, Hannah — I hope December was good. I often think about our distorted work habits and how they make resting even harder. Sometimes I want to scrap everything and be a farmer! I think I could rest then, if I were laboring in that way.


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