Thursday, April 24, 2008

Mike: Suggestions for Sabbath Keeping

Sabbath keeping, like everything else theological, becomes real to us only when we start to try and do it. It's a little like higher mathematics.

I remember how well I understood the teacher's explanation in class, only to find I understood nothing when alone in my dorm room with a particular problem. Comprehension and appreciation came slowly as I gradually solved the equation. I changed while engaged in the task, becoming less an observer of mathematicians at work and more nearly a mathematician. In the interest of truth, I must confess I never became much of a mathematician!

We become mathematicians by doing math. We become Sabbath keepers by keeping Sabbath.

How might we get started?

For many of us, setting aside the time needed to participate in community worship might be the best way to start. Rami's earlier point is well taken. Community worship is too noisy, filled with words and actions. It usually is short on silence. Still, it breaks the typical rhythm of life. Its odd vocabulary, readings from ancient texts, hymns of varied quality, prayers and the like at least cut us loose from what we do most of the time. Perhaps the only way to begin to break our addiction to "the noise of life" is to substitute a different kind of "noise."

Beyond community worship, being still and silent before God helps. Some of us may be able to do this for an entire day. I suspect most of us need to start with something less ambitious. I find it useful to carve our some Sabbath day each day. If possible, I find a place where I can be alone. I sit with my eyes closed and my hands resting comfortably on my legs. If someone were to see me, he or she might think I was napping. I slow my breathing and wait quietly before God. This daily (well, almost daily)mini-Sabbath helps ground me in God.

Rami probably has additional suggestions. Certainly, numerous books and articles have been published in recent years on the subject. My fear is that many of us are daunted, afraid to try because we know we do not know how to do Sabbath. Getting started is the main thing.


LCR said...

Your post reminds me of something that I have not thought about for awhile. For a number of years I went with a mission group to Pine Ridge SD. At the time there was a home missionary on assignment there. He insisted that one night while we were there we must go and watch the sun set over the badlands. It sounded like a fun thing to do. Little did we realize that it would become a much anticipated event that we looked forward to each year.

The group of 40 - 50 would travel by van about an hour out to the badlands. We would stop at the same place each year on the side of the road and each of us would spread out and find a comfortable place alone to sit. We would sit in total silence for about an hour and a half as we watched the sun set over the barren landscape. The only sound was the audible sobs of the many who were moved by the experience. I was certanily one of them. There is definitely something to be said for silence.


Mike Smith and Rami Shapiro said...

This is Mike. Your experience in the badlands certainly connects to what we're driving at. Thanks for sharing. Almost nothing takes the place of silence.