Friday, June 27, 2014

"Who is the Sabbath for?"

"Who is the Sabbath for? by Amy Julia Becker introduces a series of essays at Christianity Today. Yesterday's post, "A Day Meant for Our Great Good, excerpted portions from one of them. From Becker's "Who is the Sabbath for?":
...[I]n seminary, I had to write a paper comparing the two different places in Scripture where Moses receives the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5), and I was struck by the differences between the reasoning for observing the Sabbath. In both lists, keeping the Sabbath shows up as the fourth commandment, and scholars usually include the Sabbath as the last of the four commandments about our relationship with God: Don't worship other gods, Don't have idols, Don't misuse God's name and keep the Sabbath day holy. The next six commandments have to do with our relationships with other people and our community: Honor your parents, don't steal, don't commit adultery, don't lie, don't covet.

What struck me though, was how the lists were more or less identical in Exodus and Deuteronomy except when it came to the Sabbath. In Exodus, the Israelites are commanded to rest on the seventh day as an act of adoration, as a way to remember God as their creator. The Sabbath is linked to the other three commands about God. In Deuteronomy, the Israelites are commanded to rest on the seventh day as an act of both rememberance and of service to others. Here, the emphasis lies not upon God as creator but God as redeemer, as the one who brought the Israelites out of slavery. The Israelites must rest in order to allow their laborers to rest, in order to recognize the humanity—the God-given creatureliness—of their fellow human beings, whether or not those people share their faith.

So I began to wonder if this fourth commandment was a hinge command, a command that both linked to the first three commandments in our relationship to God and a command that linked to the following six commandments in our relationship with others. It made me wonder whether the Sabbath was somehow integral to loving God and loving neighbor, somehow integral to my life as a Christian. ....

In the midst of my own reflections, our pastor preached about the discipline of rest. She had recently been diagnosed with a serious concussion that left her in bed in a dark room for weeks on end. She talked about a whole new understanding of rest. And she made the point that on the Sabbath we aren't simply invited to rest from all our labor. We are invited to rest with Jesus. "Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.," Jesus said (Matthew 11:28). The Sabbath is an invitation, yes, but an invitation not to solitude or self-indulgence. It's an invitation to rest with God. .... [more]