catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 2, Num 16 :: 2003.08.01 — 2003.08.14


Sabbath: Cultivating a God-conscious Life

It was a beautiful summer day. I was in my backyard studying and writing a lecture when my bright red friend, a cardinal who greets me often during each day, joined me. He lured me from my writing as I listened to his ?Gloria in eccelsis.? He got me to follow him around my yard, to see his wife and to observe the lilies, geranium, impatiens, begonias, to smell the evergreens. I sat and did nothing but enjoy the gentle breeze. A quiet moment of awe and wonder that fertilized my soul. A Sabbath moment on a Thursday afternoon in the garden.

A rabbi friend once said to me: ?Sabbath time is like a return to Eden. A reminder of the way things are supposed to be.? For Sabbath is as ancient as Creation. A practice that occurs before

the fall of humankind into sin. God did it! It is a God-practiced and God-given rhythm of work and rest woven into the fabric of human life. ?On the seventh day God finished the work that he had done and rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done in creation? (Genesis 2:2). God took a break, caught his breath and was refreshed. (Exodus 31:17) What a radical thing for God to do. For obviously God was not done with Creation. It had only begun. But God said, ?I?m finished. Whatever is done is done. Now I rest.? Radical. But God did it.

Adam did it. According to the Genesis story, first human was created at the end of the Creation week and began the first full day of life on the day that God rested. Adam began life on the Sabbath—relaxing in a garden! Before he produced anything, achieved anything great, dug any dirt, planted any tulips or tomatoes, or named a cardinal or kangaroo, Adam received a day of rest to enjoy God and life! Grace right at the beginning of existence. And as time went on, God showed up in early evening to visit the new couple?Divine Happy Hour. They shared a time for rest and refreshment; an experience of grace.

God did it. Adam and Eve did it.

Jesus did it. Jesus would withdraw from the crowds to honor a deep spiritual need for rest and quiet and refocusing. ?Everyone else cannot always come first,? writes Joyce Rupp in Cup of Life. Even the Healer and Savior ?put himself first at times when he prayed alone or went apart from his ministry so that he could renew his inner resources.? Jesus knew we also need rest and gave us a personal example. And an invitation: ?Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you?ll recover your life. I?ll show you how to take a real rest?Learn the unforced rhythms of grace? (Matthew 11:28, 29, The Message) Rest. Just what we need but find so elusive.

I invite you to stop reading and take a few minutes to simply listen to that invitation to tranquility and refreshment. Hear it with your ears, with your mind; hear it deep in your heart. Be with God in an Eden-like place. Take a ?Sabbath moment? to catch your breath and let your soul catch up with you.

Sabbath. God did it. Adam and Eve did it. Jesus did it. We are invited to do it.

?Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy?The seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work!? (Exodus 20:8-10) Who really keeps that commandment? Yet here is a wonderful law that protects our free time, our peace and tranquility! We are invited to join God in saying, ?I?m finished. My work doesn?t rule me. I rule my work.? An invitation to peace in the middle of feverish activity. Like those few tranquil moments in my back yard. Or one day a week to refocus our lives on what?s important.

The Sabbath command is not so much an obligation as a gift. Jesus, as Lord of the Sabbath, said, ?The Sabbath was made to serve us? (Mark 2:27, The Message), created for us to enjoy our release from the bondage of production and achievement (Deuteronomy 5:15). Our society often puts the primary emphasis on activity, production, work and then complains about burnout. Sabbath offers a radical alternative; radical but necessary if we are to live authentic, God-conscious, God-focused lives. What if a Sabbath attitude of rest, refreshment and enjoying the presence of God was the larger context of life? So instead of stopping work for Sabbath, we would reluctantly stop Sabbath times for work? Would Sabbath freedom define our week and our lives, like Adam?s?

There is a wonderful freedom in the traditional Jewish Sabbath. It begins precisely at sundown no matter what you?re doing. No matter how many projects we still have to finish, or emails to answer, or phone calls to return; or whether we have to mow the lawn or shop or ?. Sabbath simply frees us from what is urgent to imitate God in saying, ?I?m done?It?s enough!? And it?s an opportunity to realize that we live first of all by grace not by our work(s).

Christians celebrate Sabbath on the first day of the week to commemorate the Resurrection of their Life-giver. We refocus on grace at the beginning of the week and as the very basis of our lives. Sabbath is a day of release on which we can regain our dignity as friends of God (John 12:15). We can catch our breath and in the process breathe the Breath of God. On the first Easter evening Jesus breathed on his disciples and said ?Receive the Holy Spirit? (John 20:22). Each Sabbath time gives us that Easter/Pentecost opportunity to breathe that Holy Breath and be refreshed.

I invite you to sneak Sabbath times to refocus your life on what?s central to your faith and to receive the life-giving Breath of God with gratitude. Take a two-minute mini-Sabbath to simply breathe before you turn on your computer in the morning, while you?re driving to work, when you?re waiting in line at the store, or before you begin making a meal. Or 10 minutes for meditation concentrating on your breathing?realizing you are a God-animated person.

Perhaps you can think of other Sabbath practices you can cultivate that will help you develop a Sabbath Mind and live a Sabbath-influenced life. What if you really did that—lived as though your identity did not depend on grades, grants, trophies or good looks; on big salaries, titles, or publications. What if you exhibited a confidence in the unmerited grace that frees you for holy rest, relaxation, refreshment, and release from pressures to achieve?
You can be a Sabbath Presence on the job, with your family and friends, in your neighborhood. An island of peace and tranquility. You can develop a Sabbath Evangelism: modeling Sabbath attitudes and practices. Inviting your friends to hang out and do nothing, walk in the woods, play games, have dinner, talk, enjoy your friendship, witnessing with a kind of intentional, fruitful uselessness of rest, play and delight. Carving out time for relaxing in the presence of God and breathing the Holy Breath of God. And when people wonder how you do it, you introduce them to the ancient yet ever contemporary concept and experience of Sabbath. You can be Sabbath for people: a quiet, empty place of leisure and refuge where your harried, lonely, suffering family, friends and neighbors can find the rest and refreshment they sorely need. A garden for their souls. You can encourage people to cultivate a Sabbath Mind: a God-conscious life as they respond to God?s invitation to Sabbath rest. You will be giving them a precious, divine gift.

Give yourself a gift right now. Take a mini-Sabbath of 10 minutes to refocus your mind and heart on God as your always present Divine Friend.

Rev. Don Postema is a Christian Reformed pastor who was a campus minister at University of Michigan for 34 years. He is now retired and carries on a ministry of spiritual formation through leading retreats, teaching, writing and spiritual direction. He is author of Space for God: Study and Practice of Spirituality and Prayer and of Catch Your Breath: God’s Invitation to Sabbath Rest.

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