A couple of months ago I came across this quote from Thomas Merton’s Seasons of Celebration. Please forgive me for using it again.
God’s People first came into existence when the children of Israel were delivered from slavery in Egypt and called out into the desert to be educated in freedom, to learn how to live with no other master but God himself.”
I could not help but think of it as I was rereading Dorothy Bass’s chapter on Sabbath in Practicing Our Faith She talks about the fact that Sabbath had two meanings for the Hebrews. The Exodus commandment to remember the Sabbath is grounded in the creation story when God rested in appreciated and satisfaction of all he had created. In the Deuteronomy account Sabbath observance is tied to the experience of a people newly released from bondage.
Slaves cannot take a day off; free people can…. Sabbath rest is a recurring testimony against the drudgery of slavery.
Together, these two renderings of the Sabbath commandment summarize the most fundamental stories and beliefs of the Hebrew Scriptures: creation and exodus, humanity in God’s image and a people liberated from captivity. one emphasizes holiness, the other social justice. Sabbath crystallizes the Torah’s portrait of who God is and what human beings are most fully meant to be.
The journey through Lent is a journey into the freedoms of Sabbath not just for ourselves but for all humankind. First we must learn to rest in the freedom of gratitude and appreciation.
So much of our efforts throughout the week and the year are focused on striving for more – more money, more success, more stuff and few of us ever take the time to be grateful. We are caught so easily caught up in the same forces that motivate people who are not followers of Jesus. Moving into this freedom requires inward reflection and examination of our motives and the forces that drive us.
The second freedom we should work towards during Lent is the freedom of liberation from slavery – not just for ourselves but for all humankind.
For millions of workers, long Sunday hours for rest and worship may be impossible within the current system. People who know the Sabbath pattern of creation, liberation and resurrection nurture a dissatisfaction with this system and work for change.
Part of the purpose of Lent is to become dissatisfied with our own bondage and the bondage of others. It is about looking for ways to bring freedom and liberation not just for ourselves but for all who live in the bondage of poverty, imprisonment, servitude or injustice.
Easter Sunday was the fulfillment of the Old Testament Sabbath principle. Christians started to celebrate Sunday (the eighth day) rather than Saturday as the Sabbath day because they believed that with the resurrection of Christ the future of God had burst into the present world.
So how do we follow Jesus toward the Cross and ensure that this Easter something of God’s Sabbath rest comes not just into our own lives but into the lives of all who are in pain or suffering in our world?