Notes from The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan
Without a Sabbath, the inmost places suffer most. I was losing perspective. Fissures in my character worked themselves here and there into cracks and then into ruptures: I grew irritable, paranoid, bitter, self-righteous, gloomy, argumentative. I preferred rightness to intimacy. I avoided and withdrew.
I learned to keep the Sabbath in the crucible of breaking it.
God made us from dust. We are never too far from our origins. We are “clay pots” – dust mixed with water and passed through fire.
When we speak of Sabbath here, we mean two things:
A day – the seventh day in particular
An attitude, a perspective, an orientation – a Sabbath heart. A Sabbath heart is restful even in the midst of unrest and upheaval and it is attentive to the presence of God and others.
Buchanan suggests we develop a Sabbath liturgy – gestures by which we honor the Sabbath rest. It is not a law; it is a bridge to move us toward rest.
Chapter One: Work
Work doesn’t work. It’s broken. Work was very good when God first created it. It is a fact though, that through the fall work has become toilsome and unfulfilling. You cannot help but not like your work some days – God made it that way.
The argument of this book is that we take up the invitation to Sabbath – “Come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28). It is not about going on vacation, it is about cultivating a Sabbath lifestyle.
Jesus sanctified work when he went fishing with Peter. Whatever Jesus has called you to do (‘secular or sacred’), stop making excuses and do it with your whole heart. Most of his life, Jesus was a carpenter; Paul a tentmaker. There is sanctity in honest work. There is something in it that pleases, not just the eyes of man, but the heart of God.
No work is so menial that it cannot be rendered as worship.
Sabbath Liturgy: What is my work became worship – like lifting up, eucharist-like , the work of my hands unto God and receiving it with gladness, realizing the gift that it is from my Father’s hand and being grateful for all it has provided for me in my everyday life. What if this became a normal part of my work week, say a ritual on the first workday of the week?
Chapter Two – A Beautiful Mind: Stopping to think anew
God is more interested in changing your mind than in changing your circumstances. First we change our minds. Before we keep a Sabbath day, we cultivate a Sabbath heart.
** A Sabbath heart sanctifies time. This is not ritual; it is perspective. Your circumstances do not change, but you choose to see them through a different lens, a different mindset.
You pledge to commit yourself , all of yourself, to this time, and then you honor that commitment whether it is convenient or not.
One of the largest obstacles to true Sabbath-keeping is leisure. Leisure is what Sabbath becomes when we no longer know how to sanctify time. It is Sabbath bereft of the sacred. It is a vacation (literally vacating; dropping out) and it can be utterly unsatisfying.
The Greeks knew two words for time:
Chronos – time of the clock or calendar; time as a forced march. (The Greek God Chronos was a nasty glutton who gorged on his own children. Chronos is the presiding deity of the driven.)
Kairos – time as an opportunity, a gift, a season; time pregnant with purpose. Here you ask not “what time is it”, but, “what is this time for”. It is sanctified time – spent toward eternity.
It is a gift of God to experience the sacred amidst the commonplace – to taste heaven in our daily bread, joy in the ache of our muscles or the sweat of our brow.
Sabbath liturgy: Consider your ways (thoughts and attitudes). Nothing changes before our mid is renewed. How do I need to renew my mind regarding Sabbath? Pray David’s “Search me” prayer and take your thoughts captive. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal one habitual thought that is misleading you.
Chapter Three – The Rest of God: Stopping to find what’s missing
Sanding away my wedding band
One measure for whether or not you’re rested enough is to ask yourself this: How much do I care for the things I care about? When we lose concern for people, both the lost and found, for friendship, for truth and beauty and goodness: when we cease to laugh when our children laugh (and instead yell at them to quieten down); when we hear news of trouble among our neighbors and our first thought is that we hope is isn’t going to involve us – when we stop caring for the things we care about – that is a signal that we are too busy.
The Chinese join two characters together to form a single pictograph for busyness: heart and killing. Busyness kills the heart. It makes us stop caring for the things we care about and it robs us of knowing God the way we might.
Some facets of God we only glimpse through motion. Climbing the mountain in order to witness the transfiguration; doing good, and thereby entertaining angels unaware – or even Jesus himself. But other facets of God we discover only through stillness, as Mary sitting wide-eyed at the feet of Jesus.
The essence of Sabbath is paying attention. Perhaps we need to adjust our thinking that God wants us to pay attention in order to tell us to do something – Maybe He just wants our attention.
One renowned Harvard biologist returned to his classroom one September and declared that he had spent the summer traveling and he had managed to make it halfway across his back yard. It is a theme in the Bible that those who should know better, who should be paying attention, – priests, lawyers, teachers, apostles – typically miss it, while those “least deserving” – shepherds, children, beggars, whores – typically grasp it, and immediately. It turns out that numbskulls are numb everyday, and seekers awake nearly always.
One day is as good as another to practice this kind of attentiveness, yet of all days, Sabbath is an outstanding candidate.
Paying attention is not the same as waiting. Waiting implies the anticipation of something else: that this moment is not the moment – that the present it only preliminary to to the future. Living with our senses aware may not earn us a cent or make the world richer for our passing through it, but it makes us a far richer person for not missing it.
Sabbath Liturgy: Pay attention to what is around you and write a poem about it.
Only the sound of my firstborn and the heat pump stir the air
I thrive in this
My roots sink down deep in silent solitude
Like the air I breathe or my necessary food
I cannot exist – at least in any real existence
Without the respite of solitude
This is healing
The only pain here is that this will not last longer
Chapter Four – In God’s Time: Stopping to see God’s bigness
Sabbath is preparedness training, readying us for the times when things are shaken.
It slows us down enough to notice what really matters. The idea of Sabbath is that all living things, and some non-living things – thrive only by an ample measure of stillness.
The Rabbis are fond of saying that more than Israel ever kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath kept Israel.
Sabbath requires two orientations: One God-ward and the other time-ward. To keep Sabbath well, both the day and the attitude, we must think clearly about God and freshly about time.
The Jewish Sabbath begins in the evening. In other words, it begins with sleep. Sabbath is unlike sleep in that sleep, if avoided too long will force itself on you. Sabbath, if resisted backs off.
Sleep is a relinquishment: it is an abandonment of self-control. We direct nothing in our sleep. We master nothing. We sleep well only under one of two conditions: utter exhaustion or complete confidence, where we stop trying to help ourselves. We know in Whom we have believed and are persuaded that He can keep what we have committed to Him. We sleep simply because we know that God will look after us. There is no rest for those who do not believe that.
The best way to embody a God-ward orientation is thankfulness. It allows us to discover the rest of God. God’s world, His character, His presence are always hidden from the thankless. Ingratitude is an eye disease as much as it is a heart disease. It sees only flaws, scars and scarcity. But to give thanks in all things trains us to be aware of God’s sovereign goodness. You cannot practice thankfulness on a biblical scale without altering the way you see.
The first orientation of good Sabbath-keeping is to practice, mostly through thankfulness, the presence of God until you are utterly convinced of his goodness and sovereignty, until he is bigger, and you find rest in him alone.
Sabbath Liturgy: Practice the sovereignty of God by putting him first in prayer (as the apostles did in Acts 4:23-31). Start with God – his character and nature, survey what he has made, recite what he has done, proclaim who he is.
Make him large and you will see your problems shrink to their right proportions.
Chapter Five – The Rest of Time: Stopping to number our days aright.
Sabbath keeping is more than time management. It is a fresh orientation to time, where we think with holy imagination about how the arc of our moments and hours and days intersects with eternity.
Wisdom comes from learning to number our days aright (Psalm 90:12). Only those who learn this become God’s sages; those calm, unhurried people who live each moment fully, savoring the simple things, celebrating small epiphanies, unafraid and adaptive to change yet not chasing after it.
The truly purposeful have an ironic secret: they manage time less and pay attention more. They make room for surprise. Jesus had an inner ear for the Father’s whispers, a third eye for the Spirit’s motions.
I came to you naked, I came to you thirsty, Jesus says. “When Lord?”, we ask, startled. When He wore the disguise of an interruption. Think a moment of all the events and encounters that have shaped you most deeply and lastingly. How many did you see coming? How many did you engineer, manufacture or chase down? And how many were interruptions?
We are not short of days – we just need to learn to number them aright.
“My whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered the interruptions were my work.” Henry Nouwen
Sabbath Liturgy: Give yourself first to God and then to others (2 Cor. 5:8)
Generous people generate things, so their worlds are more varied, surprising, colorful, fruitful. Not so the stingy. They are parasitic and end up losing what they try so desperately to hold on to. Hoarding is only wasting.
In God’s economy, in order to redeem time you may just have to waste it. Become generous with your time.
The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller. Proverbs 11:24 (MSG)
Chapter Six – We’re not in Egypt Anymore: Stopping to remove the taskmasters
There are two portions of scripture where we find the command for Sabbath. Exodus grounds Sabbath in creation, remembering Eden. Deuteronomy grounds it in liberty, remembering Egypt. In Exodus, Sabbath-keeping is about imitating divine example and receiving divine blessing. In Deuteronomy, it is about taking hold of divine deliverance and observing divine commandment.
A good definition of Sabbath is imitating God so that we stop trying to become God. Sabbath-keeping involves a recognition of our smallness and weakness, that we are made from dust, that we hold our treasure in clay jars, and without proper care, we break. All things not God, all things made by God, need rest. And God, knowing our folly, took the lead and set the example for us. Sabbath is a return to Eden. That’s Exodus.
Deuteronomy gives a different rationale for Sabbath-keeping. “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath.”
Here is the logic of the Sabbath command in Deuteronomy: Don’t revive what God has removed – don’t place yourself back in a yoke that God has broken off you. Because that is what the refusal to rest amounts to: living as though the taskmasters still hover, ever ready to thrash us for the smallest sign of slowing down. To refuse Sabbath is in effect to spurn the gift of freedom. Sabbath is a refusal to go back to Egypt. That’s Deuteronomy.
Lies (and taskmasters) are half-truths. The truth is that there is no end of things to do, I am a touch lazy, and there is a crowd of people disappointed in me; I do procrastinate and most of my life is unfinished. But the rest of the truth is that, even though these things are true, I still have the right and liberty to rest.
The rest of God – the rest that God gives so that we might discover the part of God we are missing – is not a reward for finishing. It is sheer gift. It is resting for no other reason than God told us we could.
In some ways the whole point of Exodus was Sabbath – let my people go that they may worship me. Liberty, worship and rest all go together.
Circumcision is about trust – and so is Sabbath. To be circumcised is to be wounded in a place of intimacy and vulnerability. The scar, the would, sets the man apart: it says that here, even here, especially here, he is a marked man. He is one who belongs to God. Circumcision makes a man childlike, defenseless. It incapacitates him, reduces him to helplessness. The whole thing is about trust, utter dependence upon God. So is Sabbath. Sabbath is turning over to God our money, our work, our status, our reputations, our plans, our projects. It is allowing God to wound us in a an intimate and vulnerable place, to scar us to make us his own. Sabbath is camping out in one place long enough for God to wound us and heal us.
Sabbath liturgy: Relinquishing
Think about becoming smaller rather than bigger. Think of a situation where you have been tempted toward the exercise of power. What would love look like in this situation? What would servanthood? Ask God to show you, and then do it.
Chapter Seven – Losing my Religion: Stopping Legalism
Sabbath is the stranger you’ve always known. It’s the place of homecoming you’ve rarely or never visited. Life is meant to be much different – fuller, richer, deeper, slower – from what it is. You know this. You’ve always known it. You’ve just been missing it your entire life.
There are two main things that make Sabbath rest a place the we read about, but never visit: busyness and legalism.
Legalism is the reduction of life to mere technicalities. It substitutes code for conscience,ritual for worship and morality for purity. the most bizarre line of reasoning appear completely natural to a legalist. You can never heal on the Sabbath day, but you can plot the murder of those who do.
Legalists: Sticklers for rules… men who study every nuance of rules and watch others for the slightest infraction. However, we can also sit in smug judgment of these legalists, being at that moment one of them.
The attraction of legalism is that, for all its complexity, it is mindless. It is sheer mechanics, simple arithmetic, no more difficult than cranking a hoist – it need draw nothing from your heart, your mind, your soul. It’s like paint-by-the-numbers: it requires no artistry, no imagination, no discipline, just dumb, methodical obedience.
Sabbath keeping is more art than science; more poetry than arithmetic (more being than doing or not doing).
But legalism feels good in a perverse sort of way (p. 108-109). It strokes our egos (appeals, if not to the lust of the flesh, to the pride of life) and allows us to glory in triumphing over others’ losses.
Jesus completely blew off all the Pharisees’ Sabbath rules. This begs the question, does God have any Sabbath rules, or did we make them all up ourselves? It turns out that God gave only broad and general prescriptions for the Sabbath – cease work, mainly (rest, celebrate, remember, observe, deny yourself, delight yourself).
In Numbers, a man gathering an armload of sticks on the Sabbath was sentenced to die – this need to gather one more armload; the death verdict is inscribed in this way of life.
Isaiah 58:13-14 – “… if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s day honorable, if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please and speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord.”
Sabbath is both a refusal and a pursuit: we refuse to go our own way and yet we pursue our own joy. We stand ourselves down; we resist that which six days of coming and going, pushing and pulling, dodging and weaving, fighting and defending have bred into us. On this day, we go the opposite direction, if only for the reason that God told us to do it.
The law of Sabbath is not legalistic. It is a command to save us from ourselves. It undoes our legalistic bent to go our own way.
Sabbath Liturgy: Finding your joy
How is it that we seldom choose what is best? In quietness and rest is your salvation, God says. But we tend to the opposite.
Martha: good — Mary: better — Both: best — put your hand to the task, Martha-like; and then do it with all your heart, Mary-like.
Chapter Eight – The Golden Rule: Stopping to Find a Center
Other days have no claim or power over the Sabbath. As Tolkien said of Rivendell, “The future, good or ill, was not forgotten, but ceased to have power over the present.” That is Sabbath.
All of Sabbath’s rules distill to this one: Cease from what is necessary and embrace that which gives life.
There are six days to do what you ought and then one day to take wing. Doing things that give life includes (according to Jesus) healing people, feeding people, rescuing creatures, etc.
It is the one day when the only thing you must do is not do the things you must. You are commanded to turn your back on all these oughts.
Six days we create, the seventh we step back and enjoy creation (let created things bless and serve us). We need to be re-created after all our creation. If wood chopping, grass cutting, cookie baking gives you rest and recreation, it is an allowable Sabbath activity.
Sabbath Liturgy: Practicing the presence of God.
Wherever we are, we have a God who is there. Notice him, in order to be with him.
Be aware of the presence of God everywhere, anytime, hovering, interrupting.
The devil distracts, God interrupts. Pray for discernment to know the difference.
Chapter Nine – Play: Stopping to Just Waste Time
Do you play enough? Do you risk enough and bask in God’s creation enough and do some things for no other reason than that you will be dead soon enough anyhow, so why not live a little now?
If there is one God of the age that Christians especially pay homage to, it’s the god of utility. Everything we do we seek to justify on the grounds of its usefulness.
Two groups were debating whether or not Christians should watch movies: one group said they are the medium of our culture and not watching them is akin to a missionary not learning the language, customs or culture of those he is trying to reach; the other group said that movies are the culture’s primary embodiments and carriers of it’s godlessness and that watching them is akin to participating in local voodoo rituals. Both groups were arguing opposite views around utilitarianism. Watching movies enhanced or diminished our influence (made us more useful or less so).
What is missing is a theology of play – we do some things just for the simple sake of doing them. They don’t need to be done; they don’t necessarily add to our usefulness. They are, in fact, done for its sheer uselessness. But they make us more alive and more ourselves.
Both play and Sabbath participate in something outside the bounds of strict utility and chronology. They dance in a woods unwatched by Chronos, outside his repressive rule. Play and Sabbath hint at t world beyond us, carrying rumors of eternity… they rehearse heaven. When we play, we nudge the border of forever.
Play, the minute we do it for it’s benefit, ceases to be play.
Sabbath Liturgy: Game Plan
Adulthood is mostly about getting things done: chores, responsibilities, oblogations. The first thing to die is playfulness. But could it be that one of the things Jesus meant when he told his disciples to be childlike was that they should play more>.
One thing is certain; the death of play spells the conquest of Chronos. Do I want to hand the god of utility that much territory?
hen did you last take an entire day just to play? Or even an hour? Play a card game. Take a ride in a park swing and see how high you can go. Read a book you normally wouldn’t. Dance. Play music.
Chapter Ten – Restore: Stopping to become whole
A curious thing about restoration is that it doesn’t need doing. Strictly speaking, life carries on without it. Sometimes we are doing fine just as we are, coping with our unwholeness. We almost accept it. We teach ourselves tricks to bypass it, contain it – even utilize it. It becomes the touchstone by which the sick person defines himself. It is the most natural thing to befriend your sickness, even, after long association, to depend upon it.
When Jesus asked the man who was sick for 38 years, “Do you want to be made whole?”, he realized that restoration rocks one’s world. We may not want the change that wholeness brings. Maybe my sickness, as a pastor, is unhealthy control – or maybe the opposite – dangerous passivity. Do I want to get well?
When we are wounded, God is relentless to press the wound and do what is necessary to heal it. We do not need sabbatical for God to restore us. Sabbath will do. Jesus’ favorite day to heal and restore was the Sabbath.
Sabbath Liturgy: Wanting to get well.
Physical sickness we usually defy. Soul sickness we often resign ourselves to. Do I want to get well? A good Sabbath liturgy is to take stock. To sit and reckon where we are spiritually and calculate the gap between where we are and where we want to be. Do I want more grace, peace, relational reconciliation?
We have not found a cure for cancer or Crohn’s disease or the common cold. But we do have a cure for our souls. It may not come easy, but it is free for the asking and available everywhere. It begins with an honest answer to the question. Do I want to get well?
Chapter Eleven – Feast: Stop to taste the kingdom
Sabbath is for feasting. Trouble is, we feast all the time, which is ironic. We feast like Sabbath-keepers most days, indiscriminately, and so feasting on the Sabbath has lost much of its richness. Without a fast, it is hard to recognize a feast. I don’t know how else the memory of hunger can be kept alive except by sometimes being hungry. Fasting is good for this, but restraint in our eating – the practice of frugality – is good as well. Then, when we interrupt our frugality with feasting, on Sabbath days, wedding days, holidays, etc., we are like workers in from the harvest or soldiers from war.
One of the disciplines of Sabbath-keeping for our age is to practice a deeper frugality the other six days. When we start to enjoy being hungry, we appreciate more deeply our feasting. Some quality of life should mark the difference from our days of rest and celebration and our days of toil and production.
Normally, our work provides our food and uses it up. Our food empowers our work and requires it. But Jesus speaks of a food that moves in the opposite direction. This work is food, a thing that nourishes, satisfies strengthens. In Samaria Jesus was tired and hungry, but he found sustenance, not in physical food, but in doing the work that God had for him to do. Doing the work God has for me to do fills my inmost places and replenishes me.
Sabbath helps to reorient us to our work. It is an opportunity to step back far enough from what we do to look at it objectively and ask, Is this what I was sent to do? Am I on course? Is this my food?
Sometimes we are tired in our work. In those times our weariness is still satisfying and filling. Sometimes we are tired of our work. In those times we need to reassess, reorient if necessary, refresh and get hungry again.
Sabbath Liturgy: Staying Hungry
In the Bible, food is physical food, but it is also a picture of something else: the way God fills us and nourishes us. My meat is to do the will of the one who sent me.
Try this: Throughout the week, receive your meals with gladness and eat just enough to fill you. Then on Sabbath, have a feast. Overdo it a bit. Delight in the sheer extravagance of God.
Chapter Twelve – Listen: Stopping to Hear God
All of our authority is derived. Either God gives us words, or we are only giving opinions. Our speaking only comes from listening. We have to be people who listen, day and night, to God. Our words ought to be holy ventriloquism.
Carl Sandburg, in his biography of Abraham Lincoln said, “In the making of him, the element of silence was immense.”
The root word for absurd is the Latin word for deaf (surdus). Absurdness is deafness, where the voice that speaks truth in love, that wounds to heal, that gives clear guidance amidst many false enticements – that voice is lost in the cacophony.
The prophet Samuel had to learn to listen before his words carried weight. He had been taught all the ritual of the Lord’s house, but the truth is that we can be very busy for God and still not know Him or listen to Him… (absurd!). After Samuel learned to listen to God, receive His word and obey His word, God protected, preserved and empowers Samuel’s words.
This applies to Sabbath because we best cultivate the capacity to hear in times of stillness and quietness. Sabbath is the ideal time for that to happen. John received the Revelation: 1) while in exile (forced into silence and aloneness), and 2) on the Lord’s Day (the Christian Sabbath).
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel claims that Sabbath is a token of eternity, an outpost of heaven. It is a time uniquely poised for God’s presence. That doesn’t mean that the Lord is more likely to speak on the Sabbath (today if you will hear His voice). We’re called to take time each week – whether on Sunday or on another day – and treat it with an extra measure of reverence, to live in it with a higher degree of attentiveness.
It is no coincidence that the promised rest in Hebrews 4 is in the context of listening and of the efficacy of the Word of God. The rest of God is inexorably tied to Hearing the Word/voice of God.
Sabbath Liturgy: Listening
Prayer, before it is talking ought to be listening. It it attention before petition. And in what way does God speak? More often than not, in questions. Strictly speaking, God has nothing to ask, but he still asks. He asks because nothing hooks us and pries us open like a question. God’s inquisitiveness, His seeming curiosity, is a measure of his intimate nature. He desires relationship. He wants to talk with us, not just at us or we at him.
For this Sabbath liturgy, find any one of the questions God or Jesus asks – choose any one (Where is your brother? Where are you? Why do you call me good? Who do you say I am?) – and ponder it until you hear God asking you the question personally. Then ponder it until you can give an answer.
Chapter Thirteen – Remember: Stopping to Pick Up the Pieces
Memory is identity. It grounds us in who we are, where we’ve come from. It shapes and guides us. God often told his people to remember – even enacting ritual/tradition to aid memory. Future identity and destiny flower from a remembrance of things past.
The terrible cost of our busyness is that it erodes our memory. In a negative sense, good memory can be turned into mere nostalgia and bad memory can be turned into bloodhounds that chase us to rend us and keep us ever running.
Sabbath invites us to remember. And remembering well is the groundwork for reflecting and anticipating.
Three things that are essential: remembering, reflecting and anticipating. This is perfectly manifest in the Lord’s Supper. We remember what Jesus has done for us. We reflect by examining ourselves and we anticipate by looking forward to the day we will eat and drink with Him in heaven. Both Sabbath and the Lord’s Supper allow us the time to remember, reflect and anticipate.
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great test in the face of suffering… Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere. (Hebrews 10:32, 35-36)
Hold those memories until they remind you who you really are.
Sabbath Liturgy: Remembering
Most of us are poor stewards of our memories. Memory has such power to make us or ruin us – why do we practice it so seldom? Here is a liturgy borrowed from an ancient Christian practice. It is called the prayer of examen.
Take some time and the day’s end or the week’s end to ask two simple questions:
Where did I feel most alive, most hopeful, most alive in the presence of God?
Where did I feel most dead, most despairing, farthest from God?
This trains us in the quirks and rhythms of our own heart and teaches us to track the wind of the Spirit. It also makes us better stewards of memory.
Chapter Fourteen – Reflect and Anticipate: Stopping to Glimpse Forever
Who are you? We ask that of God, of others, of ourselves. It is the question that stands at the heart of the reflective life. But reflection only flourishes in rest; stopping long enough to face inward, even avoided things.
When are you left alone? When do you step back far enough from all your pressures and possessions, your titles and demands to truly, deeply reflect? To meet the man, as Jacob in the Bible. In these times, God reveals things abut himself that pierce us. He reveals things about me that I must know in order to be whole. He can’t bless me unless he wounds me; he can’t rename me unless I tell him my real name first, speak it like a confession.
Oftentimes, we are so immersed in what we do that we know ourselves only in relation to it (I am pastor to these people, entrusted to lead and serve them). And what is all that is taken away from me – how will that effect me?
Both remembering and reflecting bear a certain fruit: anticipating. Anticipation completes the journey that begins in memory and sojourns in reflection. Who God really is and who I really am: these are only understood, not just in the light of the past and present, but in the light of the future too. Who will I be? The future shapes me as much as the past or present – maybe more. Destiny, every bit as much as history, determines identity.
Helping people anticipate their future is a wonderful and effective pastoral counseling technique. Perhaps our past is beyond repair, we still have a future – a vast, unbroken radiant promise: a glory to be revealed in us that far outweighs these “light, momentary troubles.” Our citizenship is in heaven – we eagerly await the Savior from there.” (Phil. 3:20-21) What will happen matters more than what has happened. God has power to take us at our lowest and change us into people who resemble him. What you see is not what you get. What you see will vanish, never to reappear. What is coming is permanent, never to diminish. It endures forever.
The writer of Hebrews joins the past, present and future in the context of Sabbath. The rest of God is a rest both present and future. We taste it not, receive it now, enjoy it now, but it is only a shadow of another Sabbath beyond this world. By faith w make every effort to enter this rest, not by striving, but by trusting. A well-kept Sabbath is a dress rehearsal for things above. In finding the rest of God now, we prepare for the fullness of God one day.
Sabbath Liturgy: Practicing Heaven
We are always a bit restless and unsettles and unsatisfied – we are supposed to be. That is not a flaw i our faith, it is faith’s substance. It is a divine ruse to keep us from making permanent settlement this side of eternity. God lets us groan now to woo us heavenward. He gives us rest her, but not enough to fully satisfy, just enough to keep us in the race. With rest he mixes restlessness. Sabbath is for rest, but it is also a good opportunity to point our restlessness heavenward.
The Bible often uses the “how much more” euphemism/principle. We should do this in comparing our earthly delights with what is to come in God’s kingdom. Take anything you delight in here on earth – your children, your craftwork, your hot tub, this meal with friends, this patch of sunlight, lovemaking, etc. and enjoy them all. Find rest in them all. But imagine how much more awaits you.
“Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27). Actually, that is all we need to know to keep the Sabbath holy. This day was made for us. God gave is to you and me for our sake, for our benefit, for our strengthening and replenishment. That is the point that religion always forgets, not just about the Sabbath, but about virtually everything.