Saturday, February 25, 2012


"If you call the sabbath a delight,and the LORD's holy day honorable; If you honor it by not following your ways,...then you shall delight in the LORD." Is 58:13-14

For the Jews of old Sabbath was both an obligation and a privilege. Jews were obligated to slow down, to spend time with family, to honor God by letting go of the events of the week in order to pray, listen and celebrate all that God did among them. Sabbath was also a privilege because it reminded the community that God wanted to be close to them, to dwell among them, and to animate them for the works of justice.

Many years ago, while a student at Boston University, I asked an orthodox Jewish friend why it was forbidden to play the shofar on the Sabbath. His answer has remained with me for more than forty years. Because, he said, God wants even the air itself to rest on the Sabbath. To change the natural flow of air by forcing it through a shofar with one's breath dishonors the God who wants everyone and everything to rest one day a week and turn their thoughts and prayers to God.

Lent is a good time to reexamine our own Sabbath practices. Do we take time to rest, to listen to others intentionally and completely with our hearts as well as our ears? Do we pause to think about how God was present to us each week even when we failed to listen to God? Though we know that Sunday worship is the time each week that the Church urges us to do this, we often fail to celebrate Sabbath, even when we are in church. Because the sermon is shallow, the music does not please us, or the liturgical gestures are sloppy, we allow ourselves to get distracted from our primary obligation and privilege.

The Sunday Eucharist is our Sabbath, even when it does not do what we think it ought to do. It is a time to listen to God and remember that as a community of faith, with all our faults, God has never stopped loving us even when we stopped listening to God.

Today, take some Sabbath time and thank God for life itself.

What has been your best experience of Sabbath Eucharist?

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