“Time to us is a sarcasm, a slick treacherous monster with a jaw like a furnace incinerating every moment of our lives.” Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath
When I started attending Church of the Ascension – a small, quirky, Episcopal church in Sierra Madre, CA – the rector explained the theological distinctive of Episcopal worship: “For Episcopalians, time and space matter.” I remember nodding, trying to look sage and thoughtful, but it took me at least 4 years of weekly attendance to understand his words. Space matters: the physicality of our worship – what we see, hear and smell, the position of our bodies – impacts our spiritual disposition. Time is broken into seasons – Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, ordinary time – and these seasons give a certain texture to our life, a movement that, we hope, reflects the biblical narrative. Episcopalian worship weaves the rhythms of faith into the passage of time; it uses all the senses to draw the worshiper into the liturgy, the work of the people.
Paying attention to time and space was a slow, experienced revelation for my faith and ultimately led me to consider taking the Sabbath more seriously. That and a study of the Old Testament during which I could see no definitive reason why I should dismiss the 4th of the 10 Commandments.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep 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 . . . For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20:10
If our call to “be fruitful and multiply” and “subdue the earth” is lived out in the work-week, then Sabbath is a time for rest in the fact of our existence, a moment of pause and thanks. Notably, the first use of the word holy is attributed to the Sabbath. All the goodness of creation is exactly that, good. The fact and remembrance of Sabbath, on the other hand, is holy. On Sabbath, we remember that God is revealed as creator, redeemer and sustainer. We also try really, really hard to learn (way deep down) that we are, in the end, none of those things.
Sabbath is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world. (Heschel)
How does a fidgety evangelical practice Sabbath?