Monday, March 24, 2014

Christian Practices - Sabbath

Lent is a time to take a broad view of our faith and the ways we practice it. Focusing on Christian Practices allows us to consider not just our heritage as believers, but also the manner in which we live out our lives in Christ. Craig Dykstra writes, "Christian practices are not activities we do to make something spiritual happen in our lives. Nor are they duties we undertake to be obedient to God. Rather, they are patterns of communal action that create openings in our lives where the grace, mercy, and presence of God may be made known to us. They are places where the power of God is experienced. In the end, these are not ultimately our practices but forms of participation in the practice of God."[i]

Giving attention to the Sabbath is a place to begin. Dorothy Bass explains, “Sabbath keeping is not about taking a day off but about being recalled to our knowledge of and gratitude for God's activity in creating the world, giving liberty to captives, and overcoming the powers of death.”[ii] In Judaism, Sabbath comes from the Hebrew shabbat, which means primarily to cease or desist. The Hebrews were instructed to cease work on the Sabbath – see Lev. 23:3 – in order to honor the covenant God. The key to experiencing the Sabbath is in recognizing the rhythm of once every seven days. There is relief in knowing that there is one day in every seven on which we can cease our working.

The message of Scripture is that our value lies not in what we produce or how much we have, but in the fact we are loved by God. Isaiah reminds us,” I have summoned you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.”  (Isa 43:1-4)

A second meaning  of the Hebrew verb shabbat is “to rest.” A day of complete physical rest gives us extra strength for the tasks of the other six days. Many times Jesus insisted on time apart from his disciples and the crowds. It gave him opportunity for prayer and time with God. To give ourselves a day’s break from emotional and intellectual problems enables us to come back to them with fresh perspectives, creative insights, and renewed spirits.

Practicing Sabbath allows us to stop worrying about accumulating more and to embrace the values of the Kingdom of God. The grace of God offers stability for our lives; the word of God provides authority; the fellowship of the church offers intimacy. These supports help us find a sense of order, direction and hope in a chaotic world. What would it take for you to practice Sabbath for a day, a half-day, or even two hours a week?

[i] Dykstra, Craig
[ii] Bass, Dorothy C  Ibid

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