SabbathNew Every Morning | March 24, 2018
A FEW YEARS AGO, a friend introduced me to Kate Rademacher, a Christian convert (from Unitarian Universalism) who is married to a Buddhist. Kate and I bonded first over interfaith marriage, and when we had lunch, she asked a myriad of questions about Saffron Cross, a book that chronicles my marriage to a devout Hindu. The sabbath-keeping chapter particularly stood out to her.
“In the book, why did you equate sabbath-keeping with only worship?” she asked. Her question stumped me.
My Baptist roots taught me that sabbath was synonymous with church-going. Like my mother and Aunt Gail, I’d learned that Sunday church attendance was non-negotiable. Both sides of my family showed me that we kept sabbath by worshiping in community and praising God through hymns and long, Bible-based sermons. Sundays always meant church, and we began the day with alleluia … and ended it the same way. Kate’s question encouraged me to consider what other dimensions of sabbath I had missed. What was sabbath beyond the anchor of liturgy? Does the Lord’s Day require more of us than sitting in pews?
Although I had always equated sabbath with worship, Kate posed her question at a time when I had been playing church-hooky a lot. As a teen, I wouldn’t have dreamed of missing a service. But my love affair with Sunday worship had become an obligation. The shine had worn off. …
As an earnest convert, Kate was energized by the discipline of a faith and praxis with parameters, as opposed to a generalist approach that overwhelmed her. While she was filled to the brim with gratitude for her new Christian community, she still felt lonely in her quest for a Christian sabbath practice. Kate named the discrepancy. Her faith community would recite the Ten Commandments during services, but after a brief fellowship time, many would exit the church quickly. Some parishioners told her they needed to go grocery shopping or answer work emails. No matter what duty called, it was offered in a tone that made it seem like Sunday afternoon was ordinary – not sacred – time.
Kate admits she naively thought that all Christians practiced a strict sabbath wherein Sunday wasn’t anything like every other day. From her theological and scripture studies leading up to her baptism, she envisioned sabbath as an entire day of rest, devotion, worship, and community – a day both blissful and expansive. Jesus and sabbath were the very elements that drew her to the Christian faith. When she joined the church, she imagined the community would help keep her accountable to Jesus’ teachings and observing God’s gift of sabbath.
The worship hour was meaningful – but she found that her fellow Christians spent the remainder of Sunday checking off their to-do lists. Rather than leaning into the invitation to 24 hours of deepening her faith, Kate’s Christian sabbath felt compartmentalized. Though her church community offered her the discipline of a single, deep path she’d yearned for, she still felt that something was missing. Kate wondered when, how, and why Christians had stopped observing the entire day for sabbath. Why would they choose to miss out on God’s gift of rest for creation?
– For Sabbath’s Sake
From pages 64-66 of For Sabbath’s Sake: Embracing Your Need for Rest, Worship, and Community by J. Dana Trent. Copyright © 2017 by J. Dana Trent. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Upper Room Books. http://bookstore.upperroom.org/ Learn more about or purchase this book.
How do you practice sabbath? Share your thoughts.
Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them.
Mark 14:10, NRSV
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This week we remember: Joseph (March 19).
(Courtesy of Vanderbilt Divinity Library)
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I am overwhelmed by all of your comments of support and encouragement. Thank you. This is such a new, unwanted path I find myself on. I used to try to imagine what this would look like…silliness. It’s more real, more intense than the imagination permits. And rightly so.
I find myself each day seeking His daily allotment of bread. And, for the most part, I am able to trust in His Provision. His strength is sufficient in the end. When I waver in my trust, I ask Him for assistance to trust Him. I want to trust and I believe He honors that. He knows I am weak, like withering grass…but His mercies are new each morning. And part of my morning full of mercies is the blessing I get from reading your support. May He bless you all.
I’m so sorry to hear of this latest news of your mother’s diagnosis, Jill. I am lifting her up in prayer now, as well as your dad, your sister and you. It has been a difficult road for all of you as a family. May God’s strength work through the doctors and nurses, the staff at the hospital where your mom is.
I marvel at the closeness that you have as a family and know that God will support and guide you all as you make difficult decisions in the next weeks concerning treatment options. My heart aches for you and your sister as you are faced with all these choices. Know we love and support you here at your UR home.
Jill, may God surround you and your family with His love and grace. May His presence be especially close to all of you.
Thankful, Jill, that you feel, know, recognize support, comfort, compassion,
and love from the Lord. This is one of those times when faith and hope are
severely exercised. From a different, but also very tough, experience I will witness that turning to God makes all the difference. The “why” may not be answered, but healing, restoration, resolution, and peace will come. God’s peace be with you, your Mom and Dad, Becky and all your family and friends during this time. Words try but can not do what God can do for all of you.
Thank you for your revealing and inspiring thoughts on the joys available and often missed by a deeper Christian observance of the Sabbath Day. The leaders of my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka Mormon, or LDS), have seen this same need to help our worldwide members gain and grow a greater spiritual depth in their relationship with Our Savior Jesus Christ by more fully participating in sabbath worship not just during our thoughtful and prayerful weekly worship with our community of faith but also by filling the rest of the day with activities that maintain the richness of sabbath observance in our homes e.g. scripture reading, prayer alone or with loved ones, visiting the sick or the lonely, writing letters of support and love to those in need, etc. I have found that when I intentionally more fully engage in sabbath worship I am drawn closer to my family and friends and most importantly to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Jill, may you and your family feel God’s arms embracing you as He holds you within His care. You are in and on His heart and He is working out His will for you. I pray that He gives you all strength as you walk this very sad and trying path.
May you also feel all of our arms embracing you and holding you. May the Lord work through your mom’s medical team. I lift you and your family to the Lord in prayer.
Blessings and prayers for and thanks to all of my UR family
The man who moves a mountain must start by moving small stones.
Jill, your faith will see you through. Prayers encircle you and your family.
My husband and I are on our way to a gathering of family and friends. I appreciate the prayers you have offered.