Saturday, November 21, 2009

Preparing for Sabbath

It is Saturday evening and my Sabbath rest has almost begun. It was a day full of work to be able to enter into this rest. And now whether my work feels complete or not, I must rest.

Without rest, we become irritable, weary, depressed; we lose joy, stamina, patience. Our Heavenly Father rested and the world I care for is much, much smaller than His, so surely I can find the way to rest too.

The children are all snug in their beds, clothes and shoes laid out. Baby bags packed with bottles, diapers, and an extra change of clothes (because isn't it always on Sundays they want to leak through their clothes or forget they are potty trained?!) I remembered an extra snack for a quiet car ride home so hubby and I can enjoy the beautiful ride we have. Breakfast is made, the table set, even a slow-cooker dinner is waiting to be turned on. The house is clean and tidied (well, clean according my standards anyway) and we are caught up on laundry.

You may ask why bother with all of this extra work on Saturday, instead of spending it doing X, Y or Z?

It is because I am learning that the Lord's Day is the culmination of our week, as Abraham Heschel writes, "the Sabbath is not for the sake of weekdays; the weekdays are for the sake of Sabbath. It is not an interlude but the climax of living" (The Sabbath p. 14). And as Christians on this Holy Day, we celebrate the greatest mystery of our faith, Christ rose from the grave. Every Sunday is Easter again. And so, we worship and feast, kneeling to be fed spiritual food.

And amazingly, in a culture always driven for more, on the Sabbath we are told to stop.

Yes, there will still be some work to do: we live in a fallen world. Yes, despite my efforts, it will not be perfect day: we live in a fallen world. But this work was good work. This work will bring PEACE: rather than a morning rushed and busy, we will have calm and togetherness as we prepare for worship. This work will bring REST: rather than cooking and cleaning and folding, we will have time for a walk, a nap, good music, things which restore our souls. This work will bring JOY: a surprise baked into the morning oatmeal, a comfort meal for dinner, time for celebration. This work will bring THANKFULNESS: we can feel gratitude when we have time to delight in the fruit of our labor and in the great gifts we've received.

Norman Wirzba writes that the "Sabbath is a discipline and a practice" (Living the Sabbath p. 20) which means it is something we can get better at. Some weeks, I am not as prepared as this week, but God's grace is so abundant, He still accepts my worship and still restores my soul. Some Sundays, I enter church filled with worry, sleepiness, or nothing at all which is why I never tire of the opening prayer in our church service. Every week we acknowledge before God that He knows all that we bring and we ask for His help to worship aright:
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known,
and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our
hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may
perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(How amazing that until Thomas Cranmer, this was a prayer only for the priest as he prepared for worship but  now it is prayer that we all pray together.) However, while there is grace and forgiveness for all that we bring to church on Sunday, it does not lessen our need for Sabbath. The practice of Sabbath is an attempt to model or pattern our lives after God's: "Put simply, Sabbath discipline introduces us to God's own ways of joy and delight" (Wirzba p. 21). In Genesis, we see that God worked, rested, and delighted. This too should be our goal as the Commandment teaches,
 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20


Barb said...

Thank you for this post. I've been mulling it over for a few days with thoughts of my own. Is Living the Sabbath the book that you picked up recently? Would you recommend it as an Advent read?

Amy said...

I really enjoyed the book. I poured over the first chapters and read the last a bit more quickly. After he sets up the idea of celebrating Sabbath, he then shows how it would affect the rest of our life. I think you would really like what he says about Sabbath eating, since you already try to eat organic/local and garden, it would just give you reason to keep it up!!


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