One of the key components of my doctoral curriculum this year is Sabbath. We've been studying the ancient Jewish and Christian traditions of Sabbath as well as studying scriptural dynamics of Sabbath. I've become acutely aware of just how badly I am guilty of breaking the 4th commandment...and of how most christians today ignore regular Sabbath keeping altogether.
Now, I'm not talking about taking a day off work. I'm talking about completely ceasing for the Sabbath. Sabbath is about removing work from your schedule as well as from your heart and mind. It involves ceasing from all the things that dehumanize us...not just work, but the marketplace, technology, and even the thoughts that burden us and keep us awake at night. And Sabbath is not intended in a legalistic manner, but more simply to remind us that we're not merely machines.
Sabbath is a celebration of the freedom we experience as people of God. It's a celebration of creation. For God didn't cease creating on the seventh day. No, God created on the seventh day. He created Sabbath on the seventh day. Abraham Joshua Heschel says that "the Sabbath is not for the sake of the weekdays; the weekdays are for the sake of the Sabbath" (The Sabbath, 1951). And as such the weekdays prepare us for the glorious celebration of a God who created us with freedom and with a chance to experience peace.
But how many of us observe this kind of Sabbath? I personally don't know anyone who does so regularly. How might our lives be different if we treated the 4th commandment with the same attention we give to the others? How might our world be changed if keeping Sabbath were as important as not murdering?
One of the activities we did today was to get in groups and debate different points of view regarding the necessity of Sabbath keeping in today's culture using scripture and the traditions as our guides. My group was assigned the devil's advocate position of arguing that Sabbath keeping is altogether unnecessary in today's culture. I must say it was fun. But without prooftexting scripture and subscribing to Dispensationalist theologies it was impossible. So we had some fun with it. But it got me to thinking...all the arguments we used were just horribly impossible stretches. But at the same time, they're all the same rationalizations we allow ourselves to use in our heads when we try and justify our workaholism. Interesting.
Tomorrow we'll depart for the Holy Wisdom Monastery for 24 hours of Sabbath. I can't wait to celebrate the peaceful rest that will surely come in the restful celebration of God's creation.