In the faith community where I serve as pastor, the forty-day period called Lent is a very important time. Lent, as a season, precedes the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection at Easter. It begins with Ash Wednesday, a day on which we consider our sin and our mortality. The remainder of the forty days has been observed in a variety of ways. You may know people who observe Lent by experiencing sacrifice – giving up something that is enjoyable or important to them. Others mark the days of Lent by taking on a commitment to serving others. These are both spiritual practices, that can deepen a person’s awareness of their need for God and their God-ordained purpose.
Our congregation often shares a focus during the Lenten season. This year, we are exploring God’s gift of the Sabbath. Sabbath is God’s gift of repetitive and regular rest. It is given for our delight and communion with God. Time for being in the midst of a life of doing particularly characterizes the Sabbath. This definition is found in Adele Ahlberg Calhoun’s book, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook – Practices That Transform Us (InterVarsity Press, 2005).
Because so many of us live fast-paced lives and feel the pressure of many demands, a step away from all of these things for this regular and repetitive rest can feel like an impossible task or a burden. But as those who are created in the image of God, we were created for a rhythm of work and rest. Or perhaps I should say, a rhythm of rest and work. God created humans on the sixth day. And then God rested on the seventh day. That means that humanity’s first full day of life was the seventh day, the Sabbath day.
We are using the following scripture to explore God’s gift of Sabbath:
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work. Exodus 20:8-10
If you refrain from trampling the Sabbath, from pursuing your own interests on my holy day;
If you call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable;
If you honor it, not going your own ways, serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs;
Then you shall delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights. Isaiah 58:13-14
When Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. Luke 4:16
The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Mark 2:27
Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it…There remain, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest. Hebrews 4:1, 9-11
We are also pursuing practical ways to claim God’s gift of the Sabbath in our lives during the season of Lent. Some of us will dip a toe in the water of observing a day of rest – stepping away from our work for a few hours. Others of us may dare to try a Sabbath plunge – putting away our “smartphones” for a 24-hour period. Some may not even try it at all. But together we will explore one more spiritual practice – one specifically intended to help us SLOW DOWN the busy, blurred pace of our lives, so that we can SEE GOD.
Do you observe Lent?
What spiritual practices shape your observation of the season?
Can you share any Sabbath stories?
May you live in God’s amazing grace+
Cross-posted at http://www.churchdoctor.org/blog