catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 3, Num 20 :: 2004.12.03 — 2004.12.16



Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.

I don?t know about you but for years I shut down whenever someone suggested I remember the Sabbath. Believe me I had plenty of more immediate, more pressing, more important things to tend to. The idea of a day of rest might sound promising, maybe even tempting, but it was completely unrealistic.

So I didn?t want to hear about it?and I wasn?t about to feel guilty for it. I simply could not fit one more thing into my schedule?especially something as unproductive as a Sabbath. And you were utterly na?ve, irrational or unsympathetic if you suggested that I could.

The Sabbath was given as a command?and an unreasonable one at that. Oh, maybe not for everyone. But for anyone with the kind of demanding schedule I had?it was the one burden that I refused to carry. It was simply not possible for ME to take a day off. Truth is, I was too self-important to think I could be so self-indulgent.

Then I heard Marva Dawn speak at one of our synod?s leadership retreats. She caught my attention first by telling me that God knew something that I didn?t know. (Big surprise, huh?) Well, she said that God knew that if I didn?t learn to relax and honor a Sabbath Day that I would die?not at God?s hand, but as a result of my own stress. She also suggested that the Sabbath was not a day off but a day to


A day to rest from work, from worry, from anxiety, from guilt. A day to remind myself that in the end, I?m not really in charge of this world. A day to turn it all over to God and trust that for one day God can handle things without me. Yeah, that?s right. The world wasn?t going to fall apart because of me.

This past summer there was a crisis in the state of Virginia. The State got rid of the old laws on the books that said businesses couldn?t be open on Sunday (the day we have traditionally observed as the Sabbath). But they accidentally left a loophole in place that gave workers the right to refuse to work on Sunday. It took almost no time for the State to correct its mistake?and in their speed they also reminded us that in this country Sunday has largely become just another day of the week. For a lot of us Sunday is another chance to run to Wal-Mart, a day to travel to a soccer game, a day to catch up on chores. For some of us it?s a day to come together to worship?but only if there isn?t something more important calling us in another direction. The move toward Sunday as a business day has given families more flexibility, companies more profit, and a too busy culture one more day in the week?but at what cost?

Albert Schweitzer said, ?If your soul has no Sunday, it becomes an orphan.? Pope John Paul II wrote that, ?When Sunday loses its fundamental meaning and becomes merely part of a ?weekend? people stay locked within a horizon so limited that they can no longer see ?the heavens.?? It seems when we lose the Sabbath, we risk sacrificing a part of our soul.

Once upon a time, forces outside of our control dictated much of our life. The sun rising and falling set the pattern of our day. The seasons turning set the pattern of our enterprise. There was a time to work and a time play?and mostly there was a time to rest. A time when even the land needed to be allowed to renew. A time when there was no more for us to do but to wait, and to trust, and to know we were not God.

Now it seems that we race ever faster to get too much done. Our sense of connection to forces outside our control is compromised as we make every effort to manipulate our environment and exert our own control.

Our need to honor time has been lost. We work in shifts under artificial lighting. We buy our produce throughout the year. We carry our pagers and our cell phones because it?s so important that we be accessible to everyone all the time. We have erased many of the boundaries that used to separate day and night, weekday and weekend. We have convinced ourselves that we are in control?and in doing so have robbed ourselves of the peace that comes in knowing we are not.

How then can we learn in this day age to let go of control? Perhaps we can start by trying to remember just one day out of the week that Sabbath is not really a command at all. It is an invitation. It is an invitation to rest from all our doing, our working, our producing.

Human beings were never meant only for work, but also for repose. The Sabbath is an invitation to let go of our need to control and master and make?in order that we can simply be. What peace can be ours! What wonderful release! On the Sabbath we are invited to remember what is essential; we are invited to be free from the powers, possessions and knowledge of the world that limit us and fill us with worry and weight.

On the Sabbath we are invited to rediscover a place and a time of tranquility, to experience anew the simple pleasure of being who we are while remembering whose we are.

It is no easy task to surrender ourselves to the presence of God in and around us. It runs counter to human nature, to our upbringing, and to the expectations of society. But by practicing the art of being just one day a week, we can take the first step toward learning to live in the promised reign of God every day of the week.

So then how in a culture that allows for no free time and that shuns the very idea of boredom do we create a space in our lives for the sacred? How do we embrace the holy in the midst of all of our practical concerns?

Dawn suggests we just do it?cold turkey, starting this week. She says to pick a 24-hour period?any 24-hour period, maybe noon one day to noon the next?and make it a Sabbath time. My Sabbath is Monday. Talk to your family and decide together so that you can support each other. Mastering relaxation is not something you should attempt to do on your own. When everyone is telling you to move faster and to do more, you need people around you helping you to resist?helping you to put first things first.

Ceremony can help?choosing a ritual to begin and end your Sabbath time. You may find it impossible to begin keeping a Sabbath by just being?by doing nothing at all. If so, do things that free you?read, take a walk, feast on glorious food, have a conversation, listen to music, meditate, pray. Experience some kind of worship.

If you have children, ask them to participate. Children don?t know how to talk to parents and they are starved to hear the stories of the family and their place in the community. Don?t spend this precious time actively trying to solve problems. And don?t worry if it isn?t perfect?remember that Sabbath keeping is a way we ?practice? our faith. Next week you?ll have a chance to practice all over again.

I wonder if you would be willing to practice with me? Lately in my personal overextension I have spent some of my Sabbath time doing homework. An unexpected meeting sometimes arises. Sometimes I miss a Sabbath completely. But I never miss a Sabbath without feeling the loss. I never miss a Sabbath without knowing the craving of my soul to return to that place of peace?the spiritual need we all have and so often deny to face for a time in a different direction.

Sometimes on my Sabbath I?ll answer my cell phone and someone says to me, ?What are you doing answering your phone on your Sabbath?? Thank you. I hope you keep catching me when I don?t walk the talk. That is an important part of community. I need gentle reminders and I need support. None of us is so self-sufficient that we don?t need each other, especially when we are challenging the expectations of this society. And Sabbath keeping is a perfect example of breaking the cultural rules.

What a difference it makes just knowing that there is a day?the most important of all the days of the week?set aside for God and me and us?

Doing absolutely nothing at all?

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