Trying to find Sabbath rest as a clergy person is always a bit of a challenge. I usually took Monday as a day of no appointments – of course, for me there was always laundry, cleaning, and grocery shopping. Yet, if I didn’t have to go to work and I could spend extra devotional time, I counted it as Sabbath. The most precious Sabbath rest for me was time spent at Mount Saviour Monastery. It is a beautiful place and retreat time there was sacred.
So, the reason I am talking about Sabbath is because of a new study I am doing in my churches [OK really just Garfield people showed up, but I have people and that is the important thing.] The study uses a DVD from the Great Lecture series. The presenter is Amy Jill Levine from Vanderbilt University; she is incredible. The study is the entire Old Testament, but we are just studying Genesis for now.
As you might guess, the first lesson was on the first creation story. I have been around a long time, so I have heard a lot on commentary on this study, but this time I really had an “ahha’ moment. The first creation story was most likely written during the Babylonian exile. The first line of the Babylonian creation story, The Enuma Elish, is, “When on high the heavens had not been named.” The first line of the Genesis creation story in Hebrew sentence structure is, “When God began to created the heavens and the earth,”
Dr. Levine posits that the Babylonian story is about place and the Hebrew story is essentially about time. Think about it, if you are in exile is a place that will not let you worship your God, and they say their gods are “bigger” than yours, then you take their creation story and turn it to your advantage. Your God created out of nothing and your God made time sacred so that your God can be worshiped anywhere. So, even in exile, you rest on the Sabbath day and proclaim the power of your God.
Genesis 2:1-4 says:
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
So, let us say that the great thing about our God is that the Divine make time sacred. We can worship our universal God anywhere because God created all that is, but it is the Sabbath that is redeemed and made sacred.
So, how do we spend our Sabbath. Do, we have one anymore? The rest of primitive people was imperative because of the physical nature of their work. Yet, according to the morning show, we still need rest. We need rest to restore our health, to manage our stress, to be fully human. I wonder what the world would look like if we all took a day of rest? Would we be kinder to one another, would we be more patient, would we find creative alternatives that we didn’t see before??? I know that all of these things have happened to be after I have spent time at Mount Saviour.
So, think about Sabbath rest today. Think about the idea that our fore-bearers in the faith, as they lived in exile in a foreign land, claimed God’s power to transform time. Can God transform the time in your day?
Just wondering, always thinking. Peace, Mary