Preliminary Thoughts on the Sabbath
Earlier this afternoon, I began working on this week’s sermon from Exodus 20:8—“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”—by rereading a small part of Eugene Peterson’s wonderful book Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. There’s too much here to quote in a single sermon (although I’m sure some of it will show up on Sunday); but it’s also too good to just leave it on the shelf. I hope you enjoy:
The most striking thing about keeping the Sabbath is that it begins by not doing anything (109). [We’re so used to “religion” being a matter of action that to have God command inaction, to have him say, “Stop! Quit! Silence!” is arresting to say the least.]
Sabbath is a deliberate act of interference, an interruption of our work each week, a decree of no-works so that we are able to notice, to attend, to listen, to assimilate this comprehensive and majestic work of God, to orient our work in the work of God (110).
Sabbath and work are not in opposition; Sabbath and work are integrated parts of an organic whole. Either apart from the other is crippled (115).
[W]ithout Sabbath . . . the workplace is soon emptied of any sense of the presence of God and the work becomes an end in itself. It is this “end in itself” that makes an un-sabbathed workplace a breeding ground for idols. We make idols of our workplaces when we reduce all relationships to functions that we can manage. We make idols in our workplaces when we reduce work to the dimensions of our egos and control (116).
If there is no Sabbath—no regular and commanded not-working, not-talking—we soon become totally absorbed in what we are doing and saying, and God’s work is either forgotten or marginalized. When we work we are most god-like, which means that it is in our work that it is easiest to develop god-pretensions. Un-sabbathed, our work becomes the entire context in which we define our lives. We lose God-consciousness, God-awareness, sightings of resurrection. We lose the capacity to sing “This is my Father’s world” and end up chirping little self-centered ditties about what we are doing and feeling (117).