upper room daily devotions

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Practicing Sabbath...Is it Possible?

For a little over three years, I have wondered if/how Christians can keep Sabbath? I suppose more accurately I have wondered if I can keep Sabbath. It has become clear to me that if I mean what I say when I profess God to be at the center of my life or that I intend to live in the center of God, it is incumbent upon me to give God God's day - to rest as God rested, to engage in acts of worship, and to participate in the act of justice of allowing all the earth to rest as well. So I am committing to keep Sabbath in my own way.

The evolution from Sabbath to the Lord's Day was a natural one for Christians. Initially we were not asked to give up Sabbath but to add a day of joyful celebration and communion on the eighth day, the day that Jesus was raised from the dead. It didn't take long, however, for the Lord's Day to supplant Christian observance of Sabbath, and thus began our tradition of meeting and worshiping on Sunday. In many places, the Lord's Day retained a sense of Sabbath, even though we weren't remembering and keeping the seventh day as commanded by God.

Even when I was growing up Sundays were lazy days. We got up and went to church. Other than a few choice restaurants the entire town was shut down. Nobody went to malls or shopped. Dinner was a big family affair, but mostly we didn't do a lot of cooking on Sunday itself. Food was prepared the day before or cooked by a crock pot to allow us time to attend worship and come home to a steaming hot meal. I'm sure that other families, towns, and cultures had/have their own traditions. However, in the United States, with increasing secularization and awareness of other religions the lazy Sunday has disappeared. Those few who attend worship squeeze it in between brunch with secularized friends and the afternoon soccer game/birthday party. Sabbath is gone and so is the Lord's Day...and I feel it...AND I'M A PASTOR.

In an effort to quell this growing desire for more intentional spiritual practice and more serious commitment to discipleship, I have been talking with several people about covenanting to keep Sabbath - of a sorts. The overall vision is to begin by covenanting around Sabbath, eventually covenanting around Sabbath, Sacraments, and Service. At some point I would like to see an intentional living community in which people give a specified amount of time 1-2 years (you can stay longer if you like) in the community and give time for the benefit of the neighborhood. And one day I hope that we can add a farm/retreat center. For many years I have wanted to participate in this kind of intentional and deep Christianity and it seems that I need to take responsibility for making this happen.

So, I'm starting with Sabbath. Twenty-four hours (evening to evening) of resting as God rested, having fun with family and community, and worshiping the Author of us all. I pledge to do this for at least one month and then assess how things are going. I am interested to see how this Sabbath experiment works for all of us who are covenanting to do this.

As always, I'm interested in your thoughts... My file on Sabbath and the Lord's Day is growing leaps and bounds!

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