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Sabbath Keeping – Br. Curtis Almquist

In our culture, the pressures to be busy all the time are intense.  Our own Rule of Life acknowledges we brothers are as vulnerable as you or anyone else to the danger of conforming or adapting to our culture of hyperactivity and stress, of being “on” all the time.i

In the Genesis creation account, after heaven and earth are created, God creates the first sanctuary.  Surprisingly, this sanctuary is not a sanctuary of place, but rather a sanctuary of time.  God hallows time.  “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.” ii This is the holiness of time.   The Sabbath imposes a cadence of rest and re-creation in the course of all the labor that fills our lives.  (I’m drawing here on the insight of the great rabbi, Abraham Joshua Heschel.)  The Sabbath, as a day of rest and a day for abstaining from toil, is not for the purpose of recovering one’s lost strength and becoming fit for more labor.  The Sabbath is a day for the sake of life.  To be human is not like being a beast of burden, and the Sabbath is not for the purpose of enhancing the efficiency of one’s work. In the Genesis account, the Sabbath is the final day of creation: “Last in creation, first in intention.”  The Sabbath is “the end of the creation of heaven and earth.” iii

Heschel writes, “we know what to do with space, but do not know what to do about time, except to make it subservient to space.  Most of us seem to labor for the sake of things of space.  As a result we suffer from a deeply rooted dread of time and stand aghast when compelled to look into its face.”  the practice of Sabbath is about being, not about doing: being really present to the real presence of God, and for the time of your life.

In the Christian tradition, with Sunday being remembered as the day of resurrection, Sunday became the most important day of the week.  For Christians, the Sabbath day, this great holy day, became conflated with and transferred to Sunday.  But has the holiness of the Sabbath also transferred?  Has it for you?  Where does sabbath-keeping figure into the vocabulary of your soul and the practice of your life?

You might find it meaningful to practice the Sabbath “sanctity of time” in two ways.  For one, pause one day each week and for some time each day.  Pause.  Do not be useful or productive or strategic but simply be in the presence of the God who is the author of life.  God is the great “I am.” iv It is very graceful and important to figure sabbath-keeping into the normal cadence of your life: this holy pausing for a day every week and for some moments every day.  Simply be.  Reverence this first-created sanctuary: the holiness of time.  Practice sabbath-keeping by pausing, and simply being.

And secondly, practice sabbath-keeping by being intentional about re-creation and enjoyment.  As we say in our own Rule of Life, “Our day of rest gives us the opportunity to refresh and deepen our friendships.  It enables us to play and exercise and enjoy the use of our senses.  It opens a space for music, art, entertainment and particular pursuits and hobbies.  The fruits of our leisure time will prove whether we have hallowed or profaned our Sabbath.  If we have kept it holy we will resume our daily life reinvigorated and restored to ourselves.  If we have wasted our leisure, we may find our day off leaving us with a sense of dullness and a residue of fatigue.”v

Jesus was formed in the practice of the Sabbath.  Bear that in mind when Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”vi Rest comes in many forms, and necessarily.  Jesus’ life and teaching presumed sabbath-keeping.  Practice the holiness of time by pausing to be, to be really present to the extraordinary gift of life. And then, enjoy life.  God’s creation presumes our re-creation.  As the psalmist says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good…”vii

i SSJE Rule of Life, Chapter 45: “Rest and Recreation.”

ii Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995; quoting Genesis 2:3.

iii Heschel, p. 14.

iv Exodus 6:2-29.

v The SSJE Rule of Life, Chapter 45: “Rest and Recreation.”

vi Matthew 11:28.

vii Psalm 34:8.

© 2009

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4 Comments

  1. jane goldring on March 22, 2012 at 13:33

    curtis thanks for your message. i feel really guilty when i don’t attend early euchrist. i enjoy the service which is from the book of common prayer. also you can have a quiet time before service for prayer and think about things in your life and were you are going. jane

  2. Margaret on March 21, 2012 at 03:34

    Dear Brother Curtis,

    Life can hold some real challenges; thank you for the reminder of the holiness of being and creation itself.

    Peace and blessings in Christ,
    Margaret

  3. Cathy Simmering on July 26, 2009 at 10:37

    Thank you Brother Curtis for your gentle but firm reminder of Sabbath as a time to be about “being” and not “doing” and by simply “being present” to the presence of God. “Being present to another” is so important. How easy it is to overlook “being present to God’s presence.” I like your choice of the word “pause”–brings a deeper and richer meaning. Also your reference to Rabbi Heschel brought a smile to my heart. On my desk I have one of his quotes: “I did not ask for success; I asked for wonder. And You gave it to me” (written in the preface of his book of Yiddish poems). Can’t help but wonder if he found this wonder by his practice of keeping Sabbath. And for all those of us who have to work on Sundays, thank you for reminding and affirming us of daily pausing and choosing another day for Sabbath keeping.
    Thank you again and again for your online ministry to so many of us who are far away

  4. Sally Stuckey on July 22, 2009 at 16:50

    Thanks so much for the gift you provide through your ministry of sermons on line.

    The message in “Sabbath Keeping” is a wonderful reminder to me that the Sabbath is not a time of preparation for the rest of my life. Ideally, it is a major part of my life, a time to just be present with God and be present to those with whom I share my life.

    Thanks so much for a sermon filed with many helpful reminders.

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