I just finished The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan and it was excellent! As I read, I saw again and again how Sabbath is essential in our callings. So many great thoughts – where do I even start?!
Sabbath rest is about remembering, reflecting, and anticipating.
Remembering: Buchanan notes that remembering is literally to “Re-member” or put back together. He writes that, “Sabbath-keeping is a form of mending. It’s mortar in the joints. Keep Sabbath, or else break too easily and oversoon” (p. 3).
I’ve written about rest quite a bit recently as we walked through some of the ideas from The Power of Full Engagement. Those authors recommended building rest and recovery rituals into our lives so that we don’t burn out. Sabbath is about rest and recovery of our energy on all planes – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. It’s a full one-day reprieve from the rest of the week and builds that healthy rhythm of working hard and then resting properly into our lives.
Reflecting: Sabbath is a time to reflect on life. It puts things back into perspective. In order to do this, in order to do Sabbath at all, we have to step outside our normal perceptions of time.
Buchanan writes that the Greeks had two words for “time” and they meant very different things. The first one, chronos is our default view of time, “Chronos was a nasty minor deity, a glutton and a cannibal who gorged himself on his own children. He was always consuming, never consummated . . . Chronos is the presiding deity of the driven.”
“The second Greek word is kairos. This is time as gift, as opportunity, as season. It is time pregnant with purpose. In kairos time you ask, not ‘What time is it?’ but ‘What is this time for?'”(p. 36).
I love that question. You could say that a mindset of calling asks the same question. Sabbath helps us reorients our view of time, to get ourselves out of the aimless busyness of Chronos time and into a reflective Kairos time. When we view our time as kairos time, when we have regular moments of reflection, we protect ourselves and our callings from falling into the trap of busyness.
Why is busyness so dangerous? Buchanan points out two things,
1. Busyness kills our joy, “The Chinese join two characters to form a single pictograph for busyness: heart and killing. This is stunningly incisive. The heart is the place the busy life exacts its steepest toll” (p. 45).
2. Busyness teaches that it’s all up to us, “Indeed, the worst hallucination busyness conjures is the conviction that I am God. All depends on me. How will the right things happen at the right time if I’m not pushing and pulling and watching and worrying” (p. 61).
Busyness is a trap that can consume our best intentions. Callings that start out with the right heart, are easily twisted as we become overwhelmed with doing and lose our focus. Instead of remembering that we’re simply participating in God’s work in this world which allows us to remain flexible, open and humble, we begin to think our methods, our ways and our ideas are the answer to the world’s problems. We put a huge burden on ourselves when we take on responsibility that doesn’t belong to us. Sabbath helps us remove that burden.
Anticipating: Sabbath as a time of anticipation was a new idea for me but it made perfect sense. Buchanan points out that, “If there’s one god of the age that Christians especially pay homage to, it’s the god of utility. As a tribe, we’re deeply, devoutly utilitarian. Everything we do we seek to justify on the grounds of its usefulness” (p. 138). Sabbath flies in the face of usefulness. It doesn’t look like usefulness – we stop, we don’t produce, we rest!
While we remember and reflect, it’s also a time for play and feasting, for enjoyment of what is good. And this enjoyment of good points us to Heaven – reminds us of what will be. In the midst of daily worries, world tragedies and uncertainties, pausing for enjoyment of the Sabbath helps us remember and anticipate God’s promises. Buchanan writes: “When we play, we nudge the border of forever. And this also is what happens when we keep Sabbath. Sabbath, Abraham Joshua Heschel says, is a foretaste and a heralding of eternity. Its joy is precisely this: it rehearses heaven” (p. 141).
Sabbath is about FREEDOM!
To some of us, the idea of practicing the Sabbath sounds like a way to make life a lot harder than it already is. “Waste a whole day?!”, we think (there’s “usefulness” coming in again), “I can barely get everything done during the week as it is.” Sabbath sounds like a luxury we can’t afford, just one more thing to add to the to-do list, one more thing to feel guilty about not doing!
But that is not the intention of Sabbath: “‘The Sabbath,’ Jesus said, ‘was made for man, not man for the Sabbath’ (Mark 2:27). And that, actually, is all we need to know to keep the Sabbath holy. This day was made for us. God gave it to you and me for our sake, for our benefit, for our strengthening and our replenishment”(p. 219).
God wants us to feel freedom on the Sabbath, not burden. He wants us to accept and embrace life in Him.
“To refuse Sabbath is in effect to spurn the gift of freedom. It is to resume willingly what we once cried out for God to deliver us from. It is choosing what once we shunned.
Slaves don’t rest. Slaves can’t rest. Slaves, by definition, have no freedom to rest.
Rest, it turns out, is a condition of liberty.
God calls us to live in the freedom that he won for us with his own outstretched arm.
Sabbath is a refusal to go back to Egypt” (p. 90).
If we can begin to adopt the practice of Sabbath in our lives, we claim this freedom, we choose to live on kairos time, we trust in God rather than ourselves. We know all the benefits rest brings us, so how do we practice the Sabbath? Buchanan offers this:
“So I submit this as Sabbath’s golden rule: Cease from what is necessary. Embrace that which gives life. And then do whatever you want” (p. 129).