“S” is for Sabbath (March 11, 2013)

…Opening To…

If we would follow Jesus we must take certain definite steps. The first step, which follows the call, cuts the disciple off from his previous existence. The call to follow produces a new situation. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship)

…Listening In…

As a result, the Jews were harassing Jesus, since he had done these things on the Sabbath. Jesus replied, “My Father is still working and I am working too.” (John 5:16-17; context)

…Filling Up…

This Lent, we are exploring our faith by running through the alphabet. Today, “S” is for Sabbath.

Ever since the seventh day of creation, the Sabbath has been a day set apart. God rested on that day from the labor of creation. The Fourth Commandment that Moses brought down the mountain from God directed the people of Israel to “Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” Just as God rested on the seventh day, so was the Sabbath a day to rest from the labor of the week. Over time, a set of rules was established for what constituted “work” on the Sabbath. The number one criticism from Jesus’ opponents in the Gospel is that Jesus healed people on the Sabbath. Jesus “worked,” which is a no-no. Such is the case in John 5, from which the verse above is quoted after Jesus heals the man who had been sitting by the pool of Beth-zatha for 38 years.

True, by healing the man at the pool, Jesus did do work on the Sabbath. And true, he commanded the man to pick up his mat, which is also considered work. These are not mere technicalities. Jesus’ opponents are not mere tattletales. The Sabbath was and is sacred, and violating it was and is an offense. But while Jesus violates the letter of the existing Sabbath laws, he also deepens the spiritual meaning of Sabbath. When his opponents confront Jesus with his Sabbath infraction, Jesus says to them, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” In effect, he is saying: my Father and I are still creating. The Sabbath is a time to pause and rediscover what it means to be created. Sabbath rest brings rest, reflection, and recreation.


Taking time every week (it doesn’t necessarily have to be Saturday) for observing the Sabbath reconnects me to the God who is creating me. When I pause to reflect, I notice more readily God’s movement in my life. When I pause to rest, I realize that I am capable of taking much deeper breaths of the Spirit than my normal level of distraction permits. And when I pause to engage in re-creation, I find myself connecting with creation in such a way that the glory of the Creator can’t help but shine through. By taking time for Sabbath, I relocate myself within this constant creation and rejoice in knowing that God is far from through creating me.

…Praying For…

Dear God, without your constant creation, this universe would cease to be. Help me to participate in your creation by making time to take in all the ways you are moving in my life. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, trusting that you never leave me, trusting that you are above, below, behind, before, beside, and within me.

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