Posts Tagged ‘Keeping the Sabbath’

For those who are most familiar with the Christian path, receiving and keeping the Sabbath is one of our primary spiritual practices. It is rooted in the rest of God at the end of creation and paralleled in the people of God setting aside the seventh day. This day is a day of rest, yes, the way we suspend commerce, buying and selling, and focus on the provision of God. The Sabbath is a gift to be received, personified as the feminine Shekinah – active presence of God – in Judaism. On Sabbath eve the observant Jewish family lights the seven candles and sings her into the home.

As Christians designated the seventh day to be Sunday – the day Jesus rose – it became the day set apart for Sabbath rest and worship. Beginning at sunset on Saturday it continues to sunset on Sunday.

We gather to worship God and establish our ultimate priorities by setting aside time for God, for one another, for the soul’s rest. But this week I remembered another reason we gather together to keep Sabbath – for the other.

Since Kathy has been diagnosed with cancer our congregation has enfolded us. Indeed, friends, acquaintances and former church friends from across the country have sent greetings of love. One thing stands out more than any other: When our church family stands beside us in times of joy or sorrow, it makes a spiritual, a qualitative difference. It’s not just that practical help is offered and appreciated though it is that. What matters is the sense of community before God. When we gather in worship at such times, confessing our ultimate dependence on God, the whole community is present in solidarity.

Perhaps that is why people seem surprised at my response when they ask what they can do to help: Please join me in worship. Gather around the Lord’s Table with us. Be in prayer with the whole community. That is how you can support me best and most deeply.

So often, when we decide whether we are going to be present in worship it is for selfish reasons: What can I get out of it? Am I being fed? Do I feel like it right now? Is there something I’d rather do?Am I “too busy?” (For God? Really?)

These are all questions from a highly individualistic culture.

These questions are radically oriented to the self, about me. These are not questions about, say, the will of God for me or whether I am assuming Christian practices that transform souls.

What I have remembered through this time is how our presence in worship, our observance of the Sabbath, is for God and for the brothers and sisters in the Christian assembly. I’m showing up for the other and until I’m there we’re not all there.

If I have experienced this blessing by loving souls, I know how important the impact must be for others.

Why keep the Sabbath? For God, of course, to put God first. For the progress of our souls, yes, to inspire, teach, and reorient to the Gospel.

But who needs me in worship? What soul needs the whole community present so they may borrow, for a time, the faith they struggle to hold?