Friday, April 13, 2012

sabbath as destiny

If you want to recover a sense of Sabbath in your life, I highly recommend reading The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel. Here’s something that stuck with me when I had the joy of reading it recently.

In the biblical creation account we come across an interesting juxtaposition. God creates light and sees that it is good. God creates the sea, the land and plants. He sees that all this, too, is good. He creates the sun, moon and stars—and sees that they are good. Notice what happens next:

He creates the creatures of the sea and sky. He sees that they are good. And he blesses them.

The first blessing.

On the sixth day, he creates the creatures of the land--both animals and humans. He sees that they are good. And he blesses them, too.

The second blessing.

He views all his handiwork and says of it all, “It is very good.”

Then, the seventh day comes.

And he creates rest. A whole new kind of creation. We tend to think of rest as the cessation of creation, but here we see that rest represents the pinnacle of creation.

And—notice!--God blesses the seventh day. And makes it holy.

The progression:
Good and blessed,
Good and blessed,
All of this is very good. But, the seventh day is even better; the seventh day is—notice!--
Good and blessed and (the text says) set apart as holy.

You will notice that the first two blessings are for the movers and workers (days five and six) in the space that God created (days one through four) but the final blessing is for time—a day!

It is a pity the seventh day appears in our Bibles as the beginning of chapter two instead of the end of chapter one because lyrically speaking the seventh day represents the climax of the text--not the sixth day as we often suppose.

Though all that God made is set apart as holy, in the text our attention is drawn to the seventh day--for this aspect of creation alone is especially named as holy.

The words “made holy” may also be rendered “sanctified”. Heschel points out that in Hebrew to be “sanctified” is to be “married.” The two English words are one and the same in Hebrew.

The picture here is of a groom (all of creation) meeting his bride (Bride Sabbath) for which we were all made.

We see here that we do not meet this Bride in a particular space as much as we do in a particular time, because the Sabbath is not bound to a place. Rather, she approaches us via time. In short, Sabbath is holy time. And, like a Bride, the Sabbath yearns for her groom to consummate the marriage of space in time.

Viewing Sabbath as our destiny means we do not rest one day so we may work six days; rather, we work six days so we may rest one day. Our work should be directed towards (and flow out of) the rest of God because we were made for this kind of rest.

The New Testament tells us that, in Jesus, we are able to enter into eternal rest. In Christ, the rest of one day, becomes the rest of One Day (eternity). The space in which we move (that was made the first four days) and the work we pursue (along with all living things made on days five and six) point to a rest in time--and, ultimately, in eternity (as specified on day seven).

So much of our modern world tries to negate the fullness of Sabbath! We work to become masters of space, to subdue the world around us. We view this work as our teleos. We have even extended our desire to subjugate space to encompass the subjugation of our fellow creatures. Either way, all our energies are directed towards subduing things and places.

But the Sabbath woos us—she would subdue us with love and restful acceptance of her gifts. She says, “Come away to my palace in time. Here there is no need to subdue. Here--in this soul-space--blessed desire is awakened and finds its fulfillment. Come away and feast. Come away and celebrate. Come away and kiss Eternity who comes in time. You do not need to produce incessantly as you suppose.”

Here, in this palace in time, we discover our true selves and our God-who-is-love; Sabbath is a Queen and wedding ourselves to her makes us heirs of an eternal kingdom.

May we truly hear Jesus’ words to us as an invitation to Sabbath when he says, “Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest.” Let his words sink in: Rest is what he wants to give us. Let us receive it.

No comments: