An invitation to practice Sabbath together: Week 1

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that God had done in creation.” –Genesis 2:2-3

On the seventh day of creation, God rested. The story is so familiar; we may skip over that part-“God rested”. But this Lent, let’s take a closer look. Here at Epiphany, we just launched the weekly schedule which frames all the work, worship, and service we do here as a community. As Amy reflected in the Epiphany Blog last week,

“This Lent, the Epiphany community will offer at least one opportunity for prayer and reflection in community each day of the week in keeping with our Anglican tradition.”

Part of that tradition involves the keeping of Sabbath and so as a part of our schedule, we’re inviting Sabbath; as a community, as individuals, as families- from Friday at about 6 pm until Saturday at about 6 pm. So for the next 6 weeks, every Friday, we’ll explore a different aspect of what Sabbath might mean. Use these reflections as part of your individual Lenten prayer practice or incorporate them into your family’s time together. Maybe set up an accountability group with friends, or fellow Epiphany community members. No matter how you choose to engage, take time this season to wonder what it means to people who worship a God who modeled rest. How can and must we do the same? And if reflections come up that you’d like to share, reach out to us here at Epiphany in the comment section. We’d love to hear how your Sabbath practice is going- the good, the hard, and the confusing!

 

Week 1: Back to the Beginning-Genesis

Walter Breuggemann, Christian scholar and theologian, writes,

“God rested on the seventh day of creation. That makes clear that YHWH* is not a workaholic, that YHWH is not anxious about the full-functioning of creation, and that the well-being of creation does not depend on work. This performance and exhibit of divine rest thus characterizes the God of creation, creation itself, and the creatures made in the image of the resting God. Creation is to be enacted and embraced without defining anxiety. (p. 6)…YHWH is a Sabbath-giving God, which fact ensures that restfulness and not restlessness is at the center of life. YHWH is a Sabbath-giving God and a Sabbath-commanding God. (p. 10)[i]

*YHWH is the Hebrew letters for God, often pronounced as Yahweh in English.

What Brueggemann here suggests, is that creation, that we, don’t need to engage in constant work or a constant anxiety about work (and that’s the challenging one for me). If God could take rest in the act of creation- in the act of bringing to be everything that is, then certainly, we can take that same rest. After all, what work could be more important, more demanding, than the work of creation?

Reflection:
-Can you relate to having anxiety about the work you need to do, or perhaps, that you haven’t yet done? How does that impact your ability to take a time of rest?

-Does that anxiety impact your relationships? In your family? Friendships? What might it mean to take rest from those anxieties? What supports would you need to begin that process?

-Are there concrete things, or perhaps representations of things that get in the way of rest-taking? (i.e. recently, I’ve realized that I am way too attached to my cell phone. I’m checking e-mails, Facebook notifications and news stories in a way that makes it hard for me to be fully present in other spaces- like to my friends or to my family when we’re together, or even to myself, when trying to take some time away.)

Activity:
Create a space in your house/ room/apartment, or, if you have children or prefer hands-on and creative prayer practices, decorate a box (you can pick up wooden or cardboard boxes or crated from the craft store, or use one you have already lying around the house), where you and your family can place those physical representations of distractions from rest. For me, it might mean that on Friday evening, I put my cell phone in the box or away on the shelf, and just leave it there, off, or on silent.

Keep this space set aside for the next 6 weeks and note the different things you feel called to place in it throughout that time.

De-brief:
What does it feel like to physically put aside the thing that gets in the way of rest-taking? Is there anxiety even in that action? Note how that feeling might change over the coming weeks.

-Are there things that could go into the box that would help the whole family take time to be together without distraction?

-What is one way that you/your family would like to be more present with one another or to yourself this Lent? Might that be a way for you to enter Sabbath?
Prayer for Friday night:

Lord, it is night.

The night is for stillness.
Let us be still in the presence of God.

It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done;
what has not been done has not been done;
let it be.

The night is dark.
Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives rest in you.

The night is quiet.
Let the quietness of your peace enfold us,
all dear to us, and all who have no peace.

The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day,
new joys, new possibilities.

In your name we pray

Amen.

-New Zealand Prayer Book, p. 184

 

[i] Walter Brueggemann, Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014).