Monday, May 14, 2012

Do You Observe the Sabbath? I Don't.

What?  You don't observe the Sabbath?  You don't go to church on Sunday?  Are you some kind of heathen?

That might be what you were thinking when you read the title of this post.  The sabbath as a day of rest is an idea known to most people, I'd imagine, and we Christians use the word easily as we talk about going to church on Sundays.  I was thinking about the sabbath this past Sunday morning as I sat in church, when the pastor used the word about 3 times to describe this Sunday that is holy to Christians.

There's one problem with that.  Sunday is not the Sabbath.  It's such a little thing, and maybe is being nit-picky, yet, it is one of those things that strikes me when I hear it as one of the ways in which we often do not understand Jesus' Jewish background.

Where does the idea of sabbath come from?  Most people are probably familiar with this, but let's take a look at Genesis 1:1-2:3, in part.
In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.  Then God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.  
And there was evening and there was morning, yom rishon. (the first day)
And there was evening and there was morning, yom sheni. (the second day)
And there was evening and there was morning, yom shlishi. (the third day)
And there was evening and there was morning, yom revi'i.  (the fourth day)
And there was evening and there was morning, yom chamishi.  (the fifth day)
And there was evening and there was morning, yom shishi.  (the sixth day)
And on yom hashvi'i, (the seventh day) God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on yom hashvi'i from all the work that he had done.  So God blessed yom hashvi'i and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
 Later, in Exodus 20:8-11, it becomes a command to the Hebrews to remember this day:
Remember the shabbat day and keep it holy.  Six days  you shall  labor and do all your work.  But yom hashvi'i is a shabbat to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work--you, your son, or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested yom hashvi'i; therefore the LORD blessed the shabbat day and consecrated it. 
On the sabbath, it is a day of rest.  It is a day that God set apart and blessed and consecrated.  It is a day to escape, in a way, of the demands of daily life.  It is a day when there is no creation; life is, in a way, at a standstill.  It is--or has the potential to be--a beautiful day.  I have experienced two Jewish shabbatot (One, before I had children, was much more restful than the other!).  It is a gift of time.

But it is a gift that we Christians have adopted only in part.  We have adopted an idea of a day of rest, but we have decided to make that day of rest Sunday, yom rishon.  Is that what the first day is--or should be--about?

We choose yom rishon because Jesus' resurrection occured on yom rishon.  So, in essence, each yom rishon should be a celebration of resurrection, of new life, of new creation.  On that yom rishon when Jesus was raised from the dead, God was at work starting His new creation.  He was not resting; he was creating!

A shabbat is a good thing, meeting together as Christians is a good thing, worship is a good thing.  But perhaps, in mixing the idea of shabbat with the idea of meeting together, we have inadvertently taken away some of what makes yom rishon special.   We rest, and wait, and our minds wander from the idea of God's new creation.  We forget about God making all things new, then, and now, and in the future.

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! --2 Corinthians 5:17

And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." --Revelation 21:5

In what ways is God making things new in your life?  How can you honor the idea of shabbat yet use yom rishon to look forward to new creation and new life?  

1 comment:

Earning a Prophet's Wage said...

I have given thought to Sabbath somewhat sporatically in my life. I have not studied it exhaustively at all. I recognize a lot of room for change in my ideas and thoughts...

With that disclaimer, let say that the thoughts I do have are born largely out of the idea of "image bearing" a complex notion I learned from N.T. Wright and see in Jesus and Genesis.

I would note these things as I began a formal study (anticipating their enhancement as I progresses):

- Gen 1, God rested. To bear his image implies my imitation.

- Rest, rather than work, implies trust and vulnerablity are embraced.

- Ps 127 "Unless the Lord builds... keeps ... they ... in vain ... rise up early, stay up late to eat the bread of toil... for so he giveth his beloved sleep." -hmm... "Sleep"??? in that "she is not dead, she is asleep" sense???

- Jesus is in the tomb on the Sabbath... sleeping(???) making creation nervous (at least some disciples), but God is in control then too. Hmm...

These are a few teasers that I have on a back burner waiting for me to chase them down.

I am enjoying your blog...

Thanks for posting...