Sabbath Rest – Guest Blog by Mary Matestic
I was convicted!
It’s a strong word, applied to criminals deemed guilty by a jury. My crime? I am a workaholic and lost sight of how to slow down the machine I call the self to take time to rest. Notice I said “take” and not “find” the time for rest. Frankly, I don’t know anyone in our culture today who willfindthe time for rest. Time must be stolen, intentionally set aside, deliberately marked off…like a date. So, when a good friend recommended that I read Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s seminal work called “The Sabbath,” I was on it! Our Jewish friends know how to do Sabbath well. We in the Christian tradition, sad to say, have forgotten. I had forgotten.
What has crept into the culture of the 21stCentury is a soul-sickness that has stolen from every individual any concept of the sacredness of time as it is framed in our understanding of Sabbath. Sabbath rest comes right out of the Creation stories from Genesis wherein God created the universe, the cosmos, the earth, animals, and humans in six days, but on the seventh day God rested. Genesis puts it like this: “And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy.” He created for all of humanity a royal precipice of rest which Abraham Joshua Heschel calls “The Sanctuary of Time.” Sadly, we have left the calm of this sanctuary and cast it into the abyss giving way to a frantic busyness which has robbed humanity of its very soul. And to lose our soul is to lose creativity and more importantly our memory.
Heschel makes it clear that the first thing that God hallowed was time! When he stepped back to see what he had created on those six days, God saw it was good. But it was timethat he designated as holy. There are no two hours alike. Each one is unique and potent and endlessly precious. Heschel calls our Sabbaths our great Cathedrals, our Holy of Holies, which no Roman nor German can destroy.
One would think that God would have deemed some space holy: some mountain, or a holy spring, but rather God established time as holy…Sabbath time, which precedes the holiness of man and the holiness of space. It was only after the Covenant was formed with God’s people that God declared his people as holy.
How do we make the sacredness of time, the sacredness of the Sabbath come alive again?
Integral to the sacredness of time, is the blessedness of worship. It is critical that our Sabbaths take us to the throne of God where we worship him, where we remember all that God has done for us and for all of creation. That is why our churches function at their highest levels on the Sabbath, on the Lord’s Day. Secondly, it is a time for us to play with our friends and family: to relish the treasure of our relationships setting aside the beast of technology for just one day.
“Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath, we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to run from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.” (The Sabbath, p. 10).
My friends, let us meet in the quiet of rest. Let us meet in the space of worship realizing that the time we give away to Sabbath rest is the time we will recover one hundred-fold. Our eyes opened wider to see the wild geranium and the child pretending in the meadow. It is a time to hear the owl at night and the frogs on the waters, and to smell the sweet fragrances of the honeysuckle. Our senses come alive with the God who deemed it all good. The goal of the spiritual life is not to amass a wealth of information, but to embrace sacred moments. Let holy time become the training ground for the day we embrace the magnificence of eternity.