Jesus’ Sabbath Keeping: the No and the Yes – Br. Curtis Almquist
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Jesus would have known and practiced this prophecy of Isaiah – perhaps known it by heart – as Isaiah speaks about the sabbath day. “Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.”
One way to “remember the holiness of the sabbath” is by what you don’t do: not working with your hands; not traveling about. As Isaiah says, “refraining from trampling the sabbath… not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs.” However sabbath-keeping is also about what you do practice: to abide, to pray, and to share meals with your family and community. But there’s more. Isaiah says, to actually do some very specific kind of work on the sabbath: “to offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted.”
Jesus heard the prophet Isaiah in both of these ways: the holy sabbath being both about restoration of one’s own personal life, and a call to action on behalf of others in need so that they, too, can have a life. This active service in sabbath-keeping is something Jesus practiced on behalf of the poor, the sick, the oppressed, the outcast. And, as we know, it got him into a great deal of trouble because it appeared he was working on the sabbath. He was. He was working, in a principled way, so that others would have enough of a life to be able to practice the sabbath. Jesus could say, “blessed are the poor”… and “blessed are the hungry” because of the responsiveness of God’s people to the poor and suffering in need.[i] Jesus did not say, “cursed are the poor” and… “cursed are the hungry,” but rather, “blessed are the poor”… and “blessed are the hungry” because their needs were being addressed, and work was being done by the faithful… sometimes even on the sabbath.
[i] Jesus’ Beatitudes in Matthew 5:2-12 and Luke 6:20-26.
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I’d like to comment on the new Cowley Magazine about the Lord’s Prayer, and don’t know how else to do it, so forgive me my trespass of this forum. It is a wonderful spiritual road map to a prayer I’ve long loved and deepens my appreciation of it. However for me there is a comma missing in the “handwritten” prayer on the inside cover. I’ve always thought of a comma after “this day,” at which I pause to marvel of being given another day, and THEN on to the gift of our daily bread. Also, for all the times I have said it, it was only a couple Sundays ago at King’s Chapel that Joy Fallon made me see the importance of “daily”–just enough bread for today, not refrigerated rooms full of it.
The other thing I would note is that I much prefer the language “lead us not into temptation” over “save us from the time of trial” for a couple reasons. One is that no one who seeks to follow the way of God should expected to be spared trial. But more importantly, this is my favorite line or hope in the whole prayer–as humans we are constantly tempted to violate every clause of this prayer, and as someone prone to distraction, I have come to realize distraction is sin. Distraction is a temptation in our world. I pray to be strong enough to resist the temptation of distraction and pay attention to God and the joy of living in full awareness of God. So I personally would keep the old discredited word “temptation” and add the comma–and pray very very hard that I do not think I am good enough to edit the Lord’s Prayer.
Oh Fellow brother Richard – thank yo for highlighting both the comma and the need to be
delivered from distraction. I can be carried away simply by the gift of beauty, a bird on
the wing or feeding outside the window as I write, or any distraction which might claim
my attention i order to keep me from tending that which is more critically necessary
in the moment. You have helped me to pay closer attention to my distractions as
temptation and more truly sin when they take me away from the given moment’s
serving, however costly that may be. I need to attend to the costliness of true Life
in Christ and give myself more devotedly to it.
Thank you for the gift of your reflection, gratefully – suzanne robinson
This is a wonderful truthfilled reflection on keeping the Sabbath. It articulates for me what I’ve sensed and practiced for a long time.
I am grateful for your saying this, Br Curtiss.
Thank you Br. Curtis, for this insight and your words to ponder; it comes at a time when I’m struggling a lot with what it means and how to keep Sabbath in a way that is pleasing to God.
Good Works on the Sabbath
“Let us go forth into the world, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit.” BCP page 366. So the Deacon may charge the people at the end of Holy Eucharist ll. It has been said that at the end of the service, “you are entering the mission field.” But I tend to think, “Now that I feel good spiritually, I’m free to spend the rest of the day as I please, reading the Sunday paper, shopping, or attending a sports event. I had a pastor once who called on his parishioners on Sunday afternoons and confronted them with uncomfortable questions. He surely “afflicted the comfortable,” and I did not enjoy it. Today, I am apt to think that he was trying to save my soul. I want things to be easy, but usually, they are not. I expect that I’m not alone in this attitude. A 12 step manual states, “We looked for a softer, easier way, but the results were nil until we committed ourselves to this simple program.” However stated, surrender to God’s will is what’s required. That’s hard.