Here and Now: Sabbath

Sabbath-keeping is a sign we are living a here-and-now life.  But to see this, we must not view the Sabbath as one day in seven separated and isolated from the other six.

Jesus pointed to the right view of sabbath when he said, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27).  He was talking about the flow–the sabbath into us, not us into a particular day.  Sabbath is a rhythm, not a day–a pattern, not a 24-hour period. So, how does sabbath influence living in the present moment?

More than anything else, it is a reminder that every moment is a gift, and it is lived by grace. Kimberly Richter notes that when we lose the sabbath, “we become enslaved to our economy and efforts. We come to believe everything depends on what we can provide for ourselves. To keep a rhythm of Sabbath rest is to remember that God is the maker and giver of all good things.” [1]

Out of this realization we live humbly in every moment, giving thanks to God who is the Source of the here-and-now, and offering ourselves in each moment as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) to be instruments of God’s peace.  We take on the disposition of Paul, realizing we are the servants of others for Christ’s sake (2 Corinthians 4:5).

This is precisely why the idea of rest is associated with sabbath.  In a literal sense, it is the renewal which occurs as we adopt the work/rest pattern in each day.  And in the figurative sense, it is the relaxation which comes (as Richter noted above) as we realize we are not the creators of moments, but only the beneficiaries of and servants within them. To be fully present in a moment is to live the sabbath, receiving from and giving to what that moment is.

[1] ‘The Life With God Bible’ (HarperOne, 2005), 69 nt.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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