Sunday is a day of rest for me – not in the usual way that we in Western society imagine rest – I don’t sleep in or sit around twiddling my thumbs all day because I don’t want to work – I don’t think that is what God’s rest is all about. God’s rest on the seventh day was a rest of satisfaction, when he looked around at all that had been accomplished in the previous six days and said “It is good.” That is the kind of Sabbath rest that we are meant to live into. What I try to do on Sundays (and some Sundays are more successful than others) is relax and rest in the presence of God and God’s shalom world.
I was really inspired some years ago by the Jewish philosopher Abraham Heschel who said that the Jews regarded Sabbath as a glimpse into the eternal world. I realized that my Sunday practices looked nothing like what I hope God’s eternal world will look like. So I started to try and realign my Sunday activities to reflect more of what my vision of God’s future eternal,a shalom world will look like.
Yesterday was one of my more successful attempts to do that. I started with some reflection on my image of God’s eternal world – a world where there will be no more crying or oppression or pain, a place where justice will come for the poor and the sick will be healed, a place where God’s creation is restored and there is abundance and prosperity for all. Then I thought about where I have caught glimpses of God’s shalom world in this past week. I got quite excited as I thought about the people I have connected to this week and some of the friendships I am developing. I was encouraged as I thought about my friends in Word Made Flesh, Mission Moving Mountains and World Concern and the wonderful work they do in reaching out to the poor and I experienced a deep sense of satisfaction as I thought about the day we spent in the garden on Saturday getting ready for planting the spring garden.
I went to church very much aware of God’s presence with me which of course made it much easier to enter into a sense of God’s presence in the liturgy and particularly in communion. In the afternoon I spent time in our prayer room reading Eugene Peterson’s book Resurrection Life. It seemed to speak right into my little attempts to live into God’s shalom world which he calls a resurrection created life. I love that phrase. Because of Christ’s resurrection we can live in a way that is very different from the culture around us. But in order to do that we need to remember that at the centre of this life and of Christ’s shalom kingdom is a cross and not a throne.
In a couple of weeks we will start the season of the church calendar known as Lent – a season when we are meant to reflect on and repent of all those things that keep us from a whole hearted commitment to God and God’s ways. But we only celebrate Lent 6 days of the week. Sunday we get a day off from our introspection and self examination because Sunday was always regarded as a day to celebrate God’s eternal world. Not a bad idea – it helps us to keep focused on why we are doing the self examination in the first place.
Sunday is always a day to realign our lives and all our activities not just to the celebration of God’s shalom future but to how God can use our lives to bring glimpses of that future into our world. It is a day for celebrating our restored relationship to God, our reconciliation to our neighbours, our renewed responsibility to steward God’s creation. So why not get a jump start on Lent this year by spending some time reflecting on God’s eternal shalom world, this resurrection created life that God expects us to live into? Get a vision for how your life and your activities could make a difference in the lives of others and in God’s world. We cannot bring God’s eternal world into being by our own efforts but we are meant to live as citizens of that new world and live with the values and customs of that new world at the centre of our lives.