Keeping Sabbath

I’ve been holding on to an interesting post by my friend, Peter Mayer. Apparently he preached about Sabbath last weekend, and some people didn’t quite get his meaning. He writes:

I heard many people say afterwards how hard it was for them to slow down and just take time for themselves, to recharge. I think recharging is a by-product of Sabbath, but it is not the reason to do it. The reason is because God did it, it’s a gift to us from God, and we should experience it. Think of it like communion. There’s not much nutritional value in the wafer; we don’t eat it for that. We eat it to remember that Jesus gave himself as holy food for us, and Jesus asked (re: commanded) us to keep doing it. We don’t do the Sabbath to unwind, or to save energy, but rather because God rested, and he commands us to rest as well.

Some of you told me that on your “off-day”, you walk, or visit friends. Again, those things are good, but they are not the Sabbath, as I understand it. My mom and I talked about it last night, and she suggested doing a retreat on the Sabbath, so we could study it. Again, studying the Sabbath isn’t the same as keeping it. In fact, that’s probably 180 degree counter to what the Sabbath is for.

So I can tell this is going to be hard work, for anyone who takes this stuff seriously (and by “this stuff”, I mean “living a Christian life”). I know now that if I am going to be a leader worthy of this community’s trust and respect, I need to go about doing this myself. So here’s what I’m going to do. Allison and Sarah are out of town towards the end of March. I’ll pick a night when the NHL schedule is light, and go from sundown to noon the following day–nothing turned on (I’ll research whether I should turn the fridge off), no reading, no work, no phone, no baking or cooking, and let you know how it goes. And if you have ideas about keeping Sabbath, or wish to argue with what I said or have written here, please let me know. Dialogue is helpful.

I posted a snarky suggestion over on his blog, but here’s what I really think. He’s right. Sabbath is hard to keep. But it’s important, because Sabbath time renews us for our pilgrimage. We may not “rest” by keeping Sabbath, but keeping this holy time refreshes us at the deepest level. I for one am lousy at doing this, but I know that when I manage to pull it off, life is better.

I wonder what it would mean for a parish to encourage keeping Sabbath. Would we avoid scheduling meetings at certain times? Would we give ministry leaders holy time to refresh? Might we hold worship services to begin and end Sabbath time?

So now that it’s the Sabbath (yes, it’s still sundown Friday until sundown Saturday; it’s not the same as the Lord’s Day that Christians keep on Sunday), give it a try. Let Peter know how it works, or leave a comment here.

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. i think he’s right to, but his mother was also right.

    My mom and I talked about it last night, and she suggested doing a retreat on the Sabbath, so we could study it.

    this is an ambiguous sentence (is “on” about the subject or the timing of the retreat?). of course he meant subject. but if we think timing, isn’t it exactly right? and after all, study, especially of God’s word and commandments, is the time-honored activity for the Sabbath. 🙂

    Might we hold worship services to begin and end Sabbath time?

    i think the answer is “yes”, but the Sabbatarianism of your suggestion that it must be Saturday and not Sunday misses the point, or at least, it misses about half the new testament. The point, it seems to me, isn’t so much about the day, but about the way it’s spent.

    Christian tradition suggests that Sunday is indeed the day we should spend in this way, and the canons of our church seem to agree: “All persons within this Church shall celebrate and keep the Lord’s Day, commonly called Sunday, by regular participation in the public worship of the Church, by hearing the Word of God read and taught, and by other acts of devotion and works of charity, using all godly and sober conversation.”

    I believe that our Sabbath keeping must be a Christian Sabbath keeping. Hence the canon’s mention of “works of charity.” I don’t believe the use of the term “works” here is an accident, and I am reminded of Jesus’ insistence that works of charity are exactly right for the Sabbath, no matter what Jewish tradition said. These must be our cues.

    So yes, let’s mark it with liturgy! How about evening prayer on Saturday, morning prayer and Eucharist on Sunday, and evening prayer on Sunday? The necessary liturgies are already there, waiting to be used for just this purpose.

    And then, such things as vestry meetings and weekly shopping might best be avoided, but working on the local Habitat for Humanity project would be exactly right.

%d bloggers like this: