Sunday, June 04, 2017

An Unexpected Discipline - Rest

One of the missing ingredients of work's purpose is in the understanding of its relationship with Sabbath-keeping, not in the formal sense of a church day, but in its nature as rest. Work frames Sabbath.  In fact, rest cannot occur without work; rest grows meaningless without work.  In the Old Testament, people worked six days and were directed to honor the Sabbath.  Today, because of the American spirit of "working hard," we need to remember that work is to give a place for Sabbath and not take the place of Sabbath.

Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.  You have six days for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God.  Exodus 20:8-10.

This set of verses also gives us guidance for the true nature of rest:  it is to be about God and not ourselves.  Our striving is to cease.  Our expenditure of energy is to not be directed outward, but inward, able to take in the nature of God and his ways in rest.  Sabbath's purpose is to give us a chance to portray the set-apartness of our lives, that we are dedicated to more than just our impact on the world.  It is the chance to let God impact us. 

It is interesting to note that pursuing rest and resting properly is a spiritual discipline.  The Israelites were commanded to rest as a sign of the commitment between them and God.  Like going home after a day of work, Sabbath was to be a going home ("set apart") space which would be the chance to move towards God, give the human spirit and body pause in a dedicated space.  Its spiritual discipline arises when we use this dedicated space correctly.

How to use it well?  That hint is given in the first word of Exodus 20:8 - "Remember" or "Recall."  This hints at recalling the Sabbath's purposes throughout the coming week, not just capturing its moment for a day.  If it is used well, its calm can shine on subsequent days; its rejuvenation will carry us through the coming week.  It can be a beacon whose practices are more likely to enter daily efforts at work (and home).  For the Jews, Sabbath is the beginning of the week.  It launches them.

How do your Sabbath practices enter your work week?

Workers who engage in spiritual practices and God-attention at church will be able to transfer them into the daily spaces of a work day.  Worship, prayer, peace and rest transfer forward.  Ultimately, faith development that has happened on a day of rest can then happen at work, too.  Work becomes a spiritual activity not only because it was instituted by God, but because it can be part of the outpouring of Sabbath when it is rightfully observed.

Part of our problem comes when work fills the space of Sabbath-keeping.  We all need rest and a chance to honor God and his influences in our lives, which includes the community practices of the faith. (Hebrews 10:25).  Hard work is part of life maintenance and the use of our gifts and it is easy to let the demands of work enter non-work spaces, especially given technology.  Sometimes people don't get the luxury of a Sunday off or even a consistent day off.  

Paul warns us about the world's message.  He (Jesus) has disarmed spiritual powers and authorities.  He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.  So, don't let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, of for not celebrating certain holy days or the Sabbath.  For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. Christ being that realty. Colossians 2:13-23

So, find your day of rest according to the path God has you on.  Get creative in seeking fellowship with God and people. Find Sabbath-keeping another way and gain the benefits of joining in God's rest and reverence.  Do it for God's sake.  Do it for yours.  

Let all that I am wait quietly before God
for my hope is in him.
Psalm 62:5

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