November 9, 2012

The Rhythm

Sabbath-keeping is more art than science. It is more poetry than arithmetic... It's like painting: Done by numbers, it comes off stiff and blotchy. But done with discipline and imagination and passion, it both captures and enhances life. ~Mark Buchanan in The Rest of God
In reading about and talking with an Orthodox Jew, you learn right off the bat that Sabbath has a lot of rules with it. From sun-down Friday to sun-down Saturday evening no work is to be done. All the food has to be prepared in advance, the house has to be cleaned, and if you're going to take a shower, yep, that has to be done before as well. Depending on which stream of Orthodox/Conservative Judaism you look at, there are different activities that are considered work and therefore prohibited. For example some would not allow you to drive a car or to use electricity... you can't tear a piece of paper in half, thus creating two pieces of paper, or boil water, because that's changing liquid into a gas.

Sigh your relief though.

I'm not suggesting we practice Sabbath as Christians as so. I'm not even going to give a list of rules of any kind for us to follow. But, I do think we should consider the idea behind all these rules: For one day, people don't create anything, in order to remember that they're the creature, and God is the Creator. God ceased creating on the seventh day and instead rested. Again, not gonna ask you all to avoid boiling water or abstain from baking muffins on Sunday, but there's comfort and peace to be found in resting in the fact that God is the one in control, not us. And in order to enter into that celebration, we have to put aside other things for a while.

The past couple months, while thinking about this whole Sabbath thing, I found it really weird that we orient our week and planners around the work days, because it seems to me that it should be quiet the opposite: full orientation focused around the Sabbath.
For Jews, the Sabbath shapes all the rhythms of calendar and time; the entire week points toward Shabbat. ~Lauren F. Winner in Mudhouse Sabbath
...the three days that follow Sabbath are to be spent in reflection upon--remembering--the one just past, and the three days leading up to Sabbath are to be spent in preparation for--observing--the one approaching. In other words, Sabbath makes claims on all the other days, they make none on it. ~Mark Buchanan in The Rest of God
Traditionally, in the Jewish faith, the focus is always on Sabbath. The one that's past, and the one to come. A time for remembering (book of exodus), then a time for observing (book of Leviticus). For some, God... church... Sabbath... faith... it's a Sunday morning thing. It's a struggle to carry that worship and that relationship with Christ throughout the week, because let's be honest, it's easy to re-direct our gaze and focus on a billion other things. And I have to wonder if maybe our orientation to Sabbath plays a bit of a part in that. If we're thinking and orientating our lives around the Sabbath during the entire week, then are we not in some ways focusing our gaze on the God of rest more? I think so. (Kinda why I'd argue for having "Sabbath moments"...or "quiet time" for everyday.)

God established a rhythm to life. In order for us to have the best life, we should be living to that rhythm, to His beat. And the beat sometimes slows so that we learn to slow as well.


  1. I like this Natalie -- I had a question I was thinking about Sabbath and maybe you've come across it as you did your research -- Do you think that the 6 days of creation were God's only "work days" and that he rested on the 7th and continues to rest eternally? Or is it an irrelevant point because God was simply giving humanity an example to follow but he himself is exempt from time? Just some thoughts.

  2. I honestly never thought of it this way, "to remember that they're the creature, and God is the Creator." That puts the whole Sabbath topic into a much grander perspective.
    Definitely going to have to check out that Rest of God book.

  3. Focusing on the Why behind the rules is so important to keep it from getting legalistic. I know that's my tendency. I would so like to have a better Sabbath, but we lead the youth group on Sunday nights. It makes Sunday a long, stressful, busy day. :(

  4. @Eimile: Interesting question... I'm not really sure since I didn't read anything on that, but I'll have to do so soon =)

  5. hmm, this is quite interesting. It's giving me a lot to think about. I should have to try this soon! Rest is something I have to work on: to stop creating and just be.

  6. This post reminds me of the best part of God's love. He loves us because he made us, not because we must do in order to be loved. The world believes that we loose our value when we can no longer perform, but to God we are always valued even when we can no longer perform. Lovely.


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