Everyone is still asleep. Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto is spinning slow and soft on the turntable. My stomach is wishing it was later in the morning so I could begin fixing breakfast. Only coffee for now. Anxiety for tomorrow’s fantasy baseball draft with friends is in the forefront of my thoughts (Trout? Altuve? Goldschmidt?). Wendell Berry’s Sabbath Poem, “The Objective” has swirled in my head since I woke up.
Chapter One of Subversive Sabbath is titled “Sabbath and Time.” Each chapter is broken into parts a few pages long. I will list those sections and provide some quotes from each – I did more underlining in this book than I can ever remembering doing before – and then give some reflections on what I have read in this chapter.
“We have come to know Jesus only as the Lord of the harvest, forgetting he is Lord of the Sabbath as well. Sabbath forgetfulness is driven, so often, in the name of doing stuff for God rather than being with God.”
“Sabbath is assumed to be the sign of a shrinking church. So time poverty and burnout have become the signs that the minority church remains serious about God in a world that has rejected him.”
“The result of our Sabbath amnesia is that we have become perhaps the most emotionally exhausted, psychologically overworked, spiritually malnourished people in history.”
Made to Rest
“Adam and Eve’s first full day of existence was a day of rest, not work.”
“Their (Adam and Eve) first knowledge of God and the world God had made was that rest was not an afterthought – rest was of first importance.”
“Sabbath reminds us that our time was never our time in the first place.”
“Sabbath is that kind of complete reorientation of our lives towards the hope and redemption of Christ’s work.”
The First “Holy”
“Sabbath is a moment of eternal glory momentarily breaking into our finite, present world.”
“Interestingly, the only thing God deems as qadosh, or ‘holy,’ in the creation story is the Sabbath day.”
The First “Not Good”
“The Sabbath is a celebration, a day of rejoicing over the goodness of what has been made and who made it.”
“Relational needs are not a by-product of the fall. Likewise the need for rest, or Sabbath, is not an aftertaste of human sinfulness, unlike our chronic inability to receive rest.”
The First “Rest”
“What is the culmination of creation? In Genesis 2:2-3, there are three sentences of seven Hebrew words each, and the middle word of each sentence is the word for the seventh day. this textual feature is used to state that the seventh day is the goal of creation. The climax of creation is not humanity, as we have so arrogantly assumed. Rather, the day of rest is the climax, when creation all comes together and lives at peace and harmony with one another.”
“Sabbath is a weekly reminder that we are not what we do…”
“A Sabbath day is not merely stopping our work; it is also stopping our thinking and scheming about work.”
The Taste of Sabbath
“Sabbath does not always pay off the way we wish it would. Resting is costly.”
“Years ago, Harvard theologian Harvey Cox argued that the death of God in our culture was related in some way to the fact that we no longer celebrate, or integrate festivity, in our culture. That is, our celebration deficit is part of our loss of God in culture. And when festivity and play ended, argued Cox, culture and community begin to erode at their very core.”
“What was intended by God to be a celebration reflecting on his goodness and the goodness of his creation has been, once again, replaced by the devil’s false forms of celebration: drunkenness, loss of self-control, and debauchery.”
“Sabbath is about delighting in God for his sake and the sake of the world.”
I finished this first chapter about a week ago and have not really been able to move on in my thoughts. There are two reasons. The first is so much of the teaching was familiar like a song you have never heard before but has been around forever. You know it regardless. Maybe that is because my soul was hearing what it has been needing to hear for forty some odd years.
But also, there are a lot of new ideas. New to me, at least. The idea that the Sabbath was the culmination of creation was an entirely new thought to me. Also, I had never noticed that it was the only part of creation called “holy.” I don’t care who you are and what you believe about all this, that is worth thinking long and hard about.
My wife and I had a discussion the other day about the religiosity of sports in the lives of people all around us. We love sports. Especially baseball. But we feel like sports has become the de facto religion in our community. It is seen as the thing you do not say “no” to, whereas corporate worship and community are optional. Sports is Lord. There is no use really denying this.
As we were talking about it, Bethany asked me “Why, though?” and I could not answer her. It offers community for those who may not have it? Significance, too? Also, just like church it keeps the kids out trouble and busy? But I could not find an answer, so that question hung like a mist in my mind for a few days. But then I read on in this chapter and when I got to the section on celebration, it dawned on me. This may be part of it, that need to celebrate we were created for, may be part of the answer as to why sports has become so religious in our culture.
The one quote I cannot get over though is that, “Sabbath is a weekly reminder that we are not what we do.” This week I got to talk about Justification with my ninth graders. And one of the things I wanted to make sure they knew was that one day they will be tempted to value themselves based on their vocation and what they do and how much money they make. The gospel changes that. And Sabbath is a weekly reminder of this reality.
Bethany is now stirring in the kitchen as a foretaste of the meal we will enjoy with friends tonight in our home. The Clarinet Concerto has ended, the record flipped over to the one for the Bassoon. My kids are watching cartoons. And the last lines of that poem by Berry cannot be gotten rid of –
having never know where they were going/having never known where they came from
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