I agree, Mike, that the only way to really get what the Sabbath is all about is to actually keep the Sabbath.
When Moses compiled the Book of the Covenant and read it to the Jews they responded saying, “Naaseh v’nishmah, We will do and we will understand” (Exodus 24:7). The implication is that you cannot understand the deeper meaning of these teachings unless and until you put them into practice. The doing reveals the meaning.
Unfortunately, most people no longer think this way. We want to understand why we should do something before we do it. This is like someone who has never tasted chocolate saying to a person who is offering her a taste of chocolate, “I won’t taste it until you tell me what it tastes like.” No matter how detailed the description, the only way to truly understand the nuances and magic of chocolate is to taste it for oneself. Hence the saying, “Taste and see that God is good,” (Psalm 34:8).
On the other hand, practice alone may not suffice. For example, without critique and guidance from a good writer, a poor writer will not learn to become a better writer simply by writing. Contra William Blake, a poor writer who persists in writing poorly will not become a better writer, let alone a good one.
To promote the Sabbath as a time for deep rest, play, and spiritual realization will require both doing and guidance.
How do we start? I doubt your suggestion that we link the Sabbath to church attendance will get us anywhere. People who go to church probably like it just the way it is; otherwise they wouldn’t go. They won’t be open to any real alternative. And besides, church going is not the same as Sabbath Keeping. So here is my suggestion:
Let’s begin with a tagline for marketing the idea. My offering is this: 24/6: Don’t Work Harder Than God.
Then let’s make t-shirts with the tagline on them and offer them to people who agree to join us for a special Sabbath retreat three times over a twelve month period. We could lead the retreat together, and model it on the Jewish Shabbat: ritual bathing, candle lighting to open and close the Sabbath, and the creation of a real contemplative space for silence, prayer, chanting, study, and conversation. The retreat would begin Friday afternoon and run until sundown on Saturday. That way we won't run into Sunday church problems. People will be invited to “taste and see” what the Sabbath might be.
When the year is up we would invite them to assess their experience and brainstorm how the larger community might proceed with the Sabbath Keeping idea.
Anyway, just a thought. Perhaps it is time to turn to the next commandment. Just don’t forget to send me a T-shirt.