24 August 2014

Give It A Rest

Sabbath is that special time when we come to the end of ourselves. It is a time when we realize we are not the master of our own fate. We are limited, finite, contingent. We cannot make a perfect world. We cannot acquire the perfect life. We are dependent on something outside ourselves. So, God invites us to enter into a place where we give all our doing—including all our attempts to make things just right—a rest.

That is what the word Sabbath literally means: quit, stop, take a break. The paradox of Sabbath is that we do not practice it by more doing; we only experience it by not doing. That is a hard truth for modern day American Christians to apply.

Sabbath is not something that we master by tweaking the way we hold church services. You don’t get Sabbath by having a perfectly decorated sanctuary space. You don’t get it by sermons that are just the right length. You don’t get it by a band of musicians playing a balanced complement of instruments, mixed well by a sound technician.

Sabbath is not something we practice by doing better at our usual doings. It is the time when we come to admit the futility of our usual doings, a time for being still to let God show us that God is God and we are not. Sabbath says, “You don’t meet me by more doing. I am only met by being received.”

Sabbath is like grace which Frederick Buechner describes as saying,

There is nothing you have to do.
There is nothing you have to do.
There is nothing you have to do.
There is nothing you have to do.

God desires that each person would have a unique, personal experience of Sabbath. Sabbath cannot be received by insisting that the world conform to our liking. Sabbath says, “Just give it a rest. Reality will not be refashioned in your image.”

So, the beauty of Sabbath is that she meets us in our uniqueness. That is why Sabbath for you may be different than Sabbath for me. We do not all receive Sabbath the same way. And that is okay. The question that’s put before each of us is: “How does Sabbath appear to me?” That is a question I cannot answer for you and it is a question you cannot answer for me. If you don’t find her in the same place I find her, where do you encounter her? My hope is that each of us will have a sense of where and how we meet Sabbath.  

Sabbath reminds us that there is a God who made all things so wonderful that even his making was restful. Because God is the maker and we are those whom God made, we are dependent on him. Sabbath is that special time when we come to the end of ourselves. What do you need to lay down to rest?

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