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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