Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Salvation of Sabbath @booksneeze

Back in my first year of undergrad, I spent a couple of weeks intently trying to keep a traditional Sabbath: I would do no homework or studying on a Sunday and spend time in prayer, in nature, and reading non-school-related books (I can't say non-academic--I read those for fun :) ). That didn't last long. I have a lot of trouble not being busy. It's very hard for me to take a break and just have fun (you should see how much paid leave I have accrued at my job).

Now I work for a Seventh Day Adventist institution, and the SDA tradition heavily emphasizes the Sabbath (from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown). Yet the particular sub-organization within which I work minimizes that. I've seen a lot of people talk about Sabbath and live it legalistically, but I do not really see people who live it well in a way that truly benefits their lives and relationship with God.

Over the last few months, I've been slowly going through Dan Allender's Sabbath, part of Phyllis Tickle's The Ancient Practices series. Those who read my blog know I'm not a legalist when it comes to spiritual disciplines or anything spiritual, yet I do love topics of spiritual formation. I tend to engage in ones that are more active. Yet something drew me to this book. I think I knew I needed a Sabbath.

Allender's book starts off in some ways like a traditional book on Sabbath, reminding readers of the biblical mandate to take a Sabbath. However, he continues to explore the richness of Sabbath as something for our joy, pleasure, and fun. He emphasizes that Sabbath "is not merely the cessation of work; it is turning from work to something utterly different from what we normally call rest" (p. 26). In the ensuing chapters, Allender beautifully explores what this means, from explaining "Sabbath as a structure that mediates grace throughout creation" (p. 30) to it being "the most sensual day of the week" (p. 72).

This reframing of Sabbath from the absence of something to the fullness of God is absolutely vital and makes Sabbath not only more desirable, but reasonable. It makes sense why God wants us to engage in a Sabbath.

Yet I have a feeling I had trouble reading this book because this is something that is so hard for me to do. I have spent some moments in the last week engaging in more of Allender's sense of Sabbath. And it has been rewarding. Having a goal of something to work toward, meaning joining with Christ, makes Sabbath so much easier and realistic than just stopping all work.

Allender's quote of Eccelsiastes 4:6, "Better to have one handful with quietness than two handfuls with hard work and chasing the wind," particularly hit me as meaningful and poignant. I think that may be my new motto verse as a reminder and a lesson. But that doesn't mean Sabbath is not useful and productive. It's just productive in an eternal sense. As Allender states:
The Sabbath is our play day--not as a break from the routine of work, but as a feast that celebrates the superabundance of God's creative love to give glory for no other reason other than Love himself loves to create and give away glory. (p. 82)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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