Sunday, April 5, 2009

Book For Thought - Sabbath Keeping

Several months ago, I became intrigued with the concept of keeping sabbath.  I wasn't really sure what that meant, I wasn't sure exactly what the biblical roots of sabbath were (besides the "on the seventh day God rested" part - that I got!), and I wasn't sure if keeping sabbath was something that as a "freed from the Law" Gentile believer should even be considering.  I had stumbled across the idea awhile ago as I was blog hopping, I researched some books on Amazon about the sabbath, but I didn't look much deeper until a few days ago when one of those sabbath books arrived in the mail.  

This book has been very thought provoking.  It's called "Sabbath Keeping" by Lynne M. Baab.  I am only on the third chapter, but I have already been challenged to rethink my view that there is no longer any need for God's people to observe a sabbath.  I am not sure where I will land on this idea of keeping sabbath, but I wanted to share some quotes I have read so far that have stirred my heart and mind.

The author writes:

The sabbath has been a great gift to me by slowing me down and inviting me to experience God's rest - not just analyzing it.  Jesus said to His disciples, "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls". (Mt. 11:28-29)  I have received that gift of rest because of the sabbath.  The sabbath has also enabled me to learn from Jesus, to take his gentle yoke on my shoulders rather than live in response to the world's demands and my own unhealthy desires.  (page 10)

The sabbath teaches us grace because it connects us experientially to the basic truth that nothing we do will earn God's love.  As long as we are working hard, using our gifts to serve others, experiencing joy in our work along with the toil, we are always in danger of believing that our actions trigger God's love for us.  Only in stopping, really stopping, do we teach our hearts and souls that we are loved apart from what we do.   (pages 17-18)

The fast pace of our world encourages us to forget that relationships take time.  Friendship is a slow art, whether it's with God, family members or other people. The sabbath can give us precious and much need time to grow in friendship, to have leisurely conversations that help us go deeper with people we love and with God.  Loving and being loved bring grace into our lives.  (pages 19-20)

I understand now that observing a sabbath enables us to encounter a significant yet paradoxical truth about God.  C.S. Lewis expresses this paradox in his space novel "Perelandra", where one of the angels says that we humans are both infinitely necessary and infinitely superfluous in God's eyes.  (page 27)  (Loved this thought!)

Ultimately, Carl says [Carl is a man who practices sabbath keeping], the sabbath keeps him from being dehumanized.  We are human beings and yet we live as if we were "human doings".  We move through our days as if what we do mattered more than who we are.  The sabbath is an opportunity to reclaim our heritage as children of God, created by God to live in grace.  (page 35)

I have been intrigued by the idea of keeping sabbath, and as I read this book I am more and more intrigued about the benefits of just stopping.  It seems like so much in the "Christian culture" is about doing and going and serving - and while I agree that those things are all good and vital to spiritual health, I have to wonder why we value those disciplines more than being still and being in deeper relationship with God and others.  

Like I said, I am only on chapter three, but I have been so challenged by this book that I had to share it.  I encourage you to get on Amazon and order a copy for yourself.  I would also love to know what others think about the idea of a sabbath.  What would that look like to you?  Does it feel possible in your life right now?  What do you think the benefits/sacrifices of keeping sabbath might be? 

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