Book Review: Souls at Rest

Souls at Rest: An Exploration of the Idea of Sabbath
by Charlotte Ostermann, 2008

Charlotte Ostermann invites us to take a deeper look at the Sabbath day in “Souls at Rest: An Exploration of the Idea of Sabbath.” While it certainly can be read straight through, it is intended to be used as part of a book study group or in conjunction with a journal, so that one may explore the ideas in this book while reconfiguring what the sabbath looks like in one’s life. Ostermann wishes to “offer you an opportunity to see more fully a gift God has given to make you more (not less!) free, more authentically yourself (not more like me!) and more abundantly alive (not more burdened by obligations!).” Observing the Sabbath offers us the chance to reclaim what it means to be a whole person, not merely a cog in the economic engine. The rest of Sunday gives us the strength to give our all to the rest of the week. “Sabbath asks us to relinquish some of our incessant doing, and – in contrast to laziness in the pursuit of spiritual goods – to be keenly, joyously present to God’s presence.” Sabbath invites us to just be.

Ostermann then explores different ways to reclaim “being” rather than “doing” in our lives. With chapters titled “Be Quiet,” “Be Still,” “Be in Community,” and “Be Not Afraid,” she offers concrete means of incorporating different aspects of Sabbath into our lives. She then turns her attention to the history of Sabbath with its roots in the Jewish tradition and its new evolution in the Christian tradition. Ostermann also explores the ways in which observing the sabbath can transform our sense of personhood and help us rediscover and create beauty in our lives. The study guide at the end of the book provides probing questions for reflection.

“Souls at Rest” offers much food for thought. While most of us will not be able to incorporate all of Ostermann’s suggestions, we all can make at least one of them part of our Sunday observance. Taking a day each week to worship God and rejuvenate our bodies and souls can only help improve our quality of life and our relationship with God.