“Busyness, of course, is not peculiar to the pastoral life; it is endemic to our culture.. We need a strategy that takes into account [the] two sets of demands that seem to cancel each other out.. The first set of demands is that we respond with compassionate attentiveness to the demands of the people around us.. demands that refuse to stay within the confines of regular hours and always exceed our capacity to meet them..

“The second set of demands is that we respond with reverent prayer to the demand of God for our attention, to listen to him, to take him seriously in the actual circumstances of this calendar day, at this street address, and not bluff our way through by adopting a professionalized role. This is a kind of attentiveness that we know from instruction and experience can be entered into only slowly and deliberately. There is a large, leisurely center to existence where God must be deeply pondered, lovingly believed… It means entering realms of spirit where wonder and adoration have space to develop, where play and delight have time to flourish. Is this possible for pastors who have this other set before them daily?

“It is possible for pastors. Because there is a biblical provision for it.. The name for it is sabbath.

“An accurate understanding of sabbath is prerequisite to its practice: it must be understood biblically, not culturally… Sabbath is not “a day off.”

“The biblical context is the Genesis week. Sabbath is the seventh and final day in which “God rested from all his work which he had done” (Gen 2:3). We reenter that sequence of days in which God spoke energy and matter into existence, and repeatedly come upon the refrain, ” And there was evening and morning, one day.. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.. ” — on and on, six times.

“Because our definition of day is so different, we have to make an imaginative effort to understand the Hebrew phrase evening and morning, one day.  More than idiomatic speech is involved here: there is a sense of rhythm.

“The Hebrew evening/morning sequence conditions us to the rhythms of grace. We go to sleep, and God begins his work. As we sleep he develops his covenant. We wake and are called out to participate in God’s creative action. We respond in faith, in work. But always grace is previous. Grace is primary. We wake into a world we didn’t make, into a salvation we didn’t earn. Evening: God begins, without our help, his creative day. Morning: God calls us to enjoy and share and develop the work he initiated. Creation and covenant are sheer grace and there to greet us evening morning…”

“As this biblical genesis rhythm works in me, I discover something else: when I quite my day’s work, nothing essential stops.. I go to sleep to get out of the way for a while. I get into the rhythm of salvation. While we sleep, great and marvelous things, far beyond our capacities to invent or engineer, are in process — the moon marking the seasons, the lion roaring for its prey .. the proteins repairing our muscles.. Our work settles into the context of God’s work. Human effort is honored and respected not as a thing in itself but by its integration into the rhythms of grace and blessing.

“We experience this grace with our bodies before we appreciate it with our minds..

“Sabbath-keeping often feels like an interruption, an interference with our routines. It challenges assumptions we gradually build up that our daily work is indispensable in making the world go. And then we find that it is not an interruption but a more spacious rhythmic measure that confirms and extends the basic beat. Every seventh day a deeper note is struck —

“Every profession has sins to which it is especially liable. I haven’t looked closely into the sins that endanger physicians and lawyers, woodworkers and potters, but I have had my eye out for the snare of the fowler from which pastors need daily deliverance: it is the sin of reversing the rhythms. Instead of grace/work we make it work/grace. Instead of working in a world in which God calls everything into being with his word and redeems his people with an outstretched arm, we rearrange it as a world in which we preach the mighty word of God and in an afterthought ask him to bless our speaking; a world in which we stretch out our might arms to help the oppressed and open our hands to assist the needy and desperately petition God to take care of those we miss.

“And that, of course, is why so few pastors keep a sabbath: we have reversed the rhythms.

“it is diagnostically significant that of all the commandments not one is treated with such contemptuous disregard by pastors as this one. We are capable of preaching good sermons on it to our parishioners, and take great care to provide them a sabbath of good worship and holy leisure. But we exept ourselves. Curious. Not many of us preach vigorously on the seventh commandment and then pursue lives of active adultery.. But we conscientiously catechize our people on the fifth commandment and witout a blush flaunt our workaholic sabbath-breaking as evidence of an extraordinary piety.
Peterson, Working the Angles, 66-72

3 Comments on sabbath and essential rhythms..

  1. Ryan says:

    Fantastic reminder. Thank you Len.

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