Even Resurrection Pauses For Sabbath Rest

Photo by Monette Chilson

Photo by Monette Chilson

It is Holy Saturday, that day between death and resurrection when most of us pause to draw breath. What did not occur to me until I read these words Even resurrection pauses for Sabbath rest, in the Episcopal Relief and Development Lenten guide this morning, that today, for the Jews is indeed the sabbath day. This full day of Jesus time in the grave is the day into which all their hope and longing for the future is poured. A day to look forward with anticipation to the day when God does indeed make all things news.

The last words that Jesus cried before his death are It is finished. The work that God has sent me to do is done. It is indeed time to pause for rest, but what is God’s sabbath rest all about? Sabbath rest is not a rest of exhaustion, a pause before we get going with the next busy thing. Sabbath rest is a rest of fulfillment, of satisfaction for a job well done and as I sit here this morning I can well imagine God resting in the satisfaction of the amazing job that Jesus had just completed.

For the Jews Sabbath also carries with it a sense of longing and promise. It is the culmination of their week, that day on which they hoped to glimpse God’s eternal world and on this Sabbath rest 2,000 years ago they did glimpse it, though they did not know it. As Jesus entered Hades and released those who had died, the first signs of God’s resurrection world emerged in expectation of the fullness of God coming into the world on Easter morning.

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How Much Time Do You Spend on the Porch? Wisdom From Barbara Brown Taylor

Enjoying the world of Mt Rainier

Enjoying the world of Mt Rainier

Here in Seattle we are enjoying glorious spring weather with lots of sunshine and warm days. The temptation to sit outside and just soak in the glory of God’s creation is overwhelming at times. Trying to work on my book Return to Our Senses: Reimagining How We Pray, seems like a total distraction, so I was delighted to come across this in Barbara Brown taylor’s book An Altar in the World. 

In the eyes of the world there is no payoff for sitting on the porch. A field full of weeds will not earn anyone’s respect. If you want to succeed in this life (whatever your “field” of endeavor) you must spray, you must plow, you must fertilize, you must plant. You must never turn back. Each year’s harvest must be bigger than the last. That is what the earth and her people ar for, right? Wrong god!!!!!! (exclamations mine)

In the eyes of the true God, the porch is imperative – not every now and then but on a regular basis. When the fields are at rest – when the shy deer from the woods graze the purple clover grown up between last year’s tomato plants, and Carolina chickadees hang upside down to pry seeds from the sunflowers that have taken over the vineyard – when the people who belong to this land walk through it with straw hats in their hands instead of hoes to discover that the wild blackberries water their mouths as surely as the imported grapes they worked so hard to protect from last year’s frost – this is not called “letting things go”; this is called “practicing Sabbath.” You have to wonder what makes humans beings so resistant to it. (p134)

She goes on to share this poem Welcoming Sabbath from Gates of Prayer

Our noisy day has now descended with the sun beyond our sight.

In the silence of our praying place we close the door upon the hectic joys and fears, the accomplishments and anguish of the wek we have left behind.

What was but moments ago the substance of our life has become memory; what we did must now be woven into what we are.

On this day we shall not do but be.

We are to walk the path of our humanity,, no longer ride unseeing through a world we do not touch and only vaguely sense.

No longer can we tear the world apart to make our fire. 

On this day heat and warmth and light must come from deep within ourselves.

So my question for all of us today is: Do you we have enough heat and warmth and light bubbling up from deep within ourselves to see us through the day?

Jubilee in Christ – Sound the Ram’s Horn

Yesterday I wrote about Jubilee in the Old Testament and its proclamation of the rest and release that God intends for all of us to enter into.  Today we will look at the concept in the New Testament and delight in the fulfillment of Jubilee in Christ

Jubilee in Christ

The core theme of the gospel is this same proclamation of Jubilee.  Throughout his life, Jesus, demonstrated both release and rest to those he discipled, healed and redeemed.  He released individuals from all that enslaved them – captivity, poverty, oppression, disease, religious legalism – showing all who followed him that the Jubilee release foreshadowed in the OT was being fulfilled.

The Magnificat is a great song of Jubilee proclaiming from the very outset, that Jesus would bring freedom and justice for the vulnerable.  Then in Luke 4:18-19  at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus uses the words of Is 61:1-2 saying that he has come to ‘…proclaim release to the captives and…to set at liberty those who are oppressed…’  and ending the reading with the words  ‘…to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord’  What Jesus is announcing, is that God’s promised new world of release and rest for all including creation, foreshadowed in the legislation of Jubilee, has arrived.

In Matt 11:28-30  Jesus also proclaimed a rest from the toil of human labour that often set an unbearable yoke on all humankind.  The yoke Christ offers his followers is freedom from legalistic religion and release from the worry of daily provision.  Jesus also brought rest from the misconception that salvation came as the result of our own efforts.  He proclaimed that salvation was received as a gift into a person’s life rather than being earned. The ‘kingdom’ is not a reward for good works and right living.  It is offered freely to all through the gift of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross.

Jesus cut through the bondage of the sabbath restrictions and proclaimed true rest for the day. The inference for the Pharisees was plain – their legalistic way of pleasing God was worthless.   God was not bothered about regulations to safeguard the commandments. God was anxious to remove them so that men and women could find rest from their strivings to know YAHWEH.

It’s as we participate in the sacrifice of Christ offered on our behalf as the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), that we’ll see the promise of the age of Jubilee spring into existence in our lives and through us into the lives of others, effecting both release and rest.

Lent – Educating Us Into Freedom

A couple of months ago I came across this quote from Thomas Merton’s Seasons of Celebration. Please forgive me for using it again.

God’s People first came into existence when the children of Israel were delivered from slavery in Egypt and called out into the desert to be educated in freedom, to learn how to live with no other master but God himself.”

I could not help but think of it as I was rereading Dorothy Bass’s chapter on Sabbath in Practicing Our Faith She talks about the fact that Sabbath had two meanings for the Hebrews.  The Exodus commandment to remember the Sabbath is grounded in the creation story when God rested in appreciated and satisfaction of all he had created.  In the Deuteronomy account Sabbath observance is tied to the experience of a people newly released from bondage.

Slaves cannot take a day off; free people can…. Sabbath rest is a recurring testimony against the drudgery of slavery.

Together, these two renderings of the Sabbath commandment summarize the most fundamental stories and beliefs of the Hebrew Scriptures: creation and exodus, humanity in God’s image and a people liberated from captivity.  one emphasizes holiness, the other social justice.  Sabbath crystallizes the Torah’s portrait of who God is and what human beings are most fully meant to be.

The journey through Lent is a journey into the freedoms of Sabbath not just for ourselves but for all humankind.  First we must learn to rest in the freedom of gratitude and appreciation.

So much of our efforts throughout the week and the year are focused on striving for more – more money, more success, more stuff and few of us ever take the time to be grateful.  We are caught so easily caught up in the same forces that motivate people who are not followers of Jesus.  Moving into this freedom requires inward reflection and examination of our motives and the forces that drive us.

The second freedom we should work towards during Lent is the freedom of liberation from slavery – not just for ourselves but for all humankind.

For millions of workers, long Sunday hours for rest and worship may be impossible within the current system.  People who know the Sabbath pattern of creation, liberation and resurrection nurture a dissatisfaction with this system and work for change.

Part of the purpose of Lent is to become dissatisfied with our own bondage and the bondage of others.  It is about looking for ways to bring freedom and liberation not just for ourselves but for all who live in the bondage of poverty, imprisonment, servitude or injustice.

Easter Sunday was the fulfillment of the Old Testament Sabbath principle.  Christians started to celebrate Sunday (the eighth day) rather than Saturday as the Sabbath day because they believed that with the resurrection of Christ the future of God had burst into the present world.

So how do we follow Jesus toward the Cross and ensure that this Easter something of God’s Sabbath rest comes not just into our own lives but into the lives of all who are in pain or suffering in our world?

Refresh Renew Restore

Sundays are my Sabbath day – at least when I am at home.  Tom and I go out for breakfast and spend time journalling then share our thoughts and reflections on the past week and our hopes for the future week.  This is such a good time for me and has become even better this year as I have started focusing my journally around 3 questions that are based on the prayer of examen

  1. What am I grateful for this week?
  2. What have I struggled with?
  3. Where do I see the fingerprints of God?

I am amazed at how this simple exercise has given me a greater sense of God’s affirmation of who I am and in the process has brought me closer to God and has helped me connect all that I am doing to my faith.  Yesterday I spent much of my time processing our MSA Board meeting from the day before.  We are reinventing our meetings to follow the same format that we use in our MSA team meetings – starting with a time of group discernment and checking in before getting into the business of the day.  On Saturday we shared the consolations and desolations we have experienced since our last meeting.

Part of what became obvious is that consolations and desolations are often intimately intertwined.  One member shared about his son’s depression and how coping with that as a family has brought them closer together.  Another shared about the joy she is experiencing in looking after her new baby and contrasted it with the desolation of knowing that her mother is struggling with cancer.    It is often in the midst of calamity that family and community bonds are strengthened.  Heartache and disaster forges friendships that would not otherwise arise – and these kinds of friendships often endure far longer than those that depend on good times.

One Board member’s comment that he is too busy to reflect on what are consolations and desolations brought me up short however.  It made realize how easily our busyness disconnects us from the appreciation of life in all its joys and struggles .  It is easy for us to dismiss or to overlook what God is doing in the midst of our struggles and concerns simply because we do not take the time to reflect and acknowledge where God is present and what God is doing.

I am discovering that my Sabbath journalling discipline is a wonderful way to maintain this connection to God’s presence in the midst of all the struggles of life.   I think that the unexamined life is shallow and often results in starvation of the soul.  Reflecting and reconnecting to God restores and strengthens our faith in amazing ways.

What disciplines do you adhere to on a regular basis that reconnect and renew you in this way?