Archive for May, 2011

Revisiting the Sabbath Question

May 26, 2011

I am sitting in the library writing the long-overdue missions letter. I open a book, the reading of which was intended to get my heart primed to write, but the topics of which have so overwhelmed me with thoughts that I want to share with you. Eugene Peterson writes:

“This Sabbath-psalmist [he is referencing the text writer of Ps. 92:5-9] is not off smelling the flowers, dreamily detached from the awful plight of the people. He is appalled that the wicked are “thick as weeds.” He is dismayed that evil-doers flourish. But he goes ahead and keeps a Sabbath of praying and playing. Pastors who keep a weekly Sabbath know full well the ruined state of the world. They play and pray anyway – not because they are heartlessly selfish or trivially giddy, but because they are convinced that these practices are God’s will not only for them but also for the battered world. There is a devil-may-care recklessness that sets the day aside for praying and playing despite compelling pressure to do something practical – and then discovers that this was the most practical thing of all to do.”

“…It is not a day when we do anything useful. It is not a day that proves its worth, justifies itself. Entering into empty, nonfunctional time is difficult and needs protection, for we have been taught that time is money.”

“Our secularized age is so fragmented that no consensus in the details of Sabbath-keeping is possible. We cannot prescribe a practice for each other. But les the command dissolve into a fog of good intentions, I will risk autobiography. The risk is that someone will try to imitate the details of my practice, or (more likely) will say, “That’s sure dumb; I don’t see the point of that” and dismiss the whole business on the basis of my inept practice. I excuse my example giving with Thoreau’s precedent: “I should not talk so much about myself if there were anybody else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience.”

“Monday is my Sabbath. Nothing is scheduled for Mondays. If there are emergencies I respond, but there are surprisingly few. My wife joins me in observing the day. We make a lunch, put it in a daypack, take our binoculars, and drive anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour away, to a trailhead along a river or into the mountains. Before we begin our hike my wife reads a psalm and prays. After that prayer there is no more talking – we enter into a silence that will continue for the next two or three hours, until we stop for lunch.”

“We walk leisurely, emptying ourselves, opening ourselves to what is there: fern shapes, flower fragrance, birdsong, granite outcropping, oaks and sycamores, rain, snow, sleet, wind. We have clothes for all wether and so never cancel our Sabbath-keping for reasons of weather any more than our Sunday church-going – and for the same reason: we need our Sabbath just as much as our parishioners need theirs. When the sun or our stomachs tell us it is lunchtime, we break the silence with a prayer of blessing for the sandwiches and fruit, the river and the forest. We re free to talk now, sharing bird sightings, thoughts, observations, ideas – however much or little we are inclined. We return home in the middle or late afternoon, putter do odd jobs, read. After supper I usually write family letters. That’s it. No Sinai thunder. No Damascus Road illuminations. No Patmos visions. A day set apart for solitude and silence. Not-doing. Being-there. The sanctification of time.”

“We don’t have any rules for preserving the sanctity of the day, only the commitment that it be set apart for being, not using. Not a day to get anything done but a day to be responsive to what God has done. ….[in Sabbath-keeping], we all need to quit our work and contemplate his, quit talking to each other and listen to him. God knows we need this and has given us a means in Sabbath – a day for praying and playing, simply enjoying what he is.”

Update

May 6, 2011

When April’s tornadoes hit Alabama, and in particular, friends of ours in Alabama with whom we have enjoyed good meals in their homes and fine fellowship, all of our “problems” seemed little. Insignificant. We have no trailer to live in next month — they have no home and no belongings. We have wisdom tooth issues and glasses that no longer work — they are in hospital.

The good news is that God has not forgotten either of us: we are OVER 2/3 of the way to paying for a trailer in which to live, and they have been inundated with the love of God in food, clothing, and housing options!

He has taken care of us; He will take care of you.