Pastoral Reflection: More on Keeping a Sabbath Rest
Greetings family of God!
I believe that the sermon of January 7 on Sabbath Rest hit home to many people because I have been asked for more specific guidance regarding how someone in Shanghai might actually observe a Sabbath day – it is such a foreign idea in today’s non-stop pace of life!
How does one take one day in six (Exodus 20:8-11) to totally disengage and enter tranquillity? Here are some practical suggestions for you.
Stop working and start watching. Let things happen rather than making them happen. Stop talking and start listening to your own inner voice and to God. Set all techno-media aside. Be still and know there is a God!
I recommend blocking out space on your Sabbath day for uninterrupted silence and solitude at which time you leisurely meditate on a section of the Bible. You must have peace and quiet to ‘get into it.’ The Bible is a living book and when you deeply contemplate it, you can ‘feel it pulsate mysteriously with the very heartbeat of God’ (Balthasar). God speaks directly to us through the Bible! I like what Marilyn McIntyre says: ‘If you’re reading slowly, listening to be addressed, one word or another will summon you. Those are the places where instead of going on, you go in. You pause. You do that countercultural thing you can’t do at the movies; you stop. You go into a zone. You let associations come up. This supernatural encounter happens in a Sabbath-like setting.
Listen to yourself! That’s right! When do you ever do this? We are often strangers to ourselves! According to George Eliot, ‘There is a great deal of unmapped country within us.’ The Bible tells us: ‘When you are in your beds, search your hearts and be silent’ (Psalm 4:4). ‘Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life’ (Proverbs 4:23). And as Socrates said ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ Ask yourselves some hard questions and honestly answer them in the presence of God. Questions like this: Am I happy? Am I afraid? Worried? Angry? Content or covetous? Lustful? What kind of person am I becoming? And once you take this ruthless internal inventory, you are ready to bring the real you before God for his remaking.
Take a stroll outdoors and observe the wonders of God’s creation all around. ‘Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them’ (Psalm 111:2). If our eyes are opened to the glory and splendor of God displayed in nature we would walk about in a perpetual state of wonderment. Strive to become childlike again like G. K. Chesterton who said: ‘I do not think there is anyone who takes quite such a fierce pleasure in things being themselves as I do. The startling wetness of water excites and intoxicates me; the fieriness of fire, the steeliness of steel, the unutterable muddiness of mud.’ This reminds me of my little granddaughter squealing in laughter over a squirrel dashing across the road in front of us. For her, it was the equivalent of a lightning bolt! Oh to regain the simple childlike joys of life. And we can! If we make time to observe God’s Sabbath Day.
My dear friends, I will stop for now and maybe write more later with further ideas for keeping the Sabbath. I sincerely hope you will experiment with Sabbath keeping and discover how sweet it is, how it will refresh and renew your soul at the deepest level.
With love in Jesus,