Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A stern, beautiful command

Ben Dueholm is a Lutheran pastor in the Chicago area. Here, in "Treading Out the Grain," he writes about the importance of Sabbath:
.... The saddest aspect of the New Atheism is its abuse of the Pentateuch. It’s not hard to pull up the King James Version and do a word search for slavery or stoning, while missing the deep roots of everything from forgiveness of debts to animal welfare that a more patient reading turns up. This is typical of our age, in a way. The “moral” laws we inherit from the Biblical tradition are treated as self-evident while the “ceremonial” and “judicial” laws are exposed to scorn and outrage, often in ignorance of the larger social ethic they serve.

Lutherans are ancient offenders in this. We have inherited a long tradition of interpreting the stern, beautiful command to Sabbath rest as a strictly spiritual matter. Luther glosses the third commandment as an obligation to worship. “We are to fear and love God, so that we do not despise preaching or hearing God’s word, but instead keep that word holy and gladly learn and hear it,” Luther says, in his uncharacteristically obtuse explanation of the third commandment (reflective, it must be said, of his deeper hostility to that law expressed throughout his writings). What we have lost in our emphasis on Godly worship — on the work of the people — is the primal command to rest, and in so doing to enjoy the fruit of labor that is expressed in handing one-seventh of life over to this devotion. It is rest ordained not only for us who are part of the sacred community, but for those whom we employ, believer and pagan alike, and even the animals who work in our stead. .... [more]
Treading Out the Grain