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Contemplating Sabbath … Part 11

What better way to revive my blog, than revisiting my long-running series discussing Mark Buchanan’s book The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. If you missed the previous parts, here is a link to Part 10, or you can start at the beginning with Part 1.

I now turn my attention to Chapter 8 which is titled The Golden Rule: Stopping to Find a Center. How do you look at rules/commandments? If you are like me, and like Buchanan, you tend to think about the least you can do while technically abiding by the rule. Buchanan points out that this isn’t really obedience at all. He points out that what we call the Golden Rule points out the error of this thinking:

Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. (Luke 6.31, NASB)

How would I want others to obey my rules? Do I want my kids to do the minimum that they can to technically do what I asked? Do I want my students to give minimal answers showing me little to no work? No, on both counts (even if I do whine when students show me too much work for a simple question). I would much rather that my kids and my students would see the spirit behind the rules and obey with glad hearts because they see the benefit, or at least trust me. In short, I want them to act like Zacchaeus. I don’t want a simple “I won’t do it any more” when they realize they are wrong. I want a heart that says that, but adds “and I’ll make right what I’ve done wrong.” Too often, I must admit I’m a lot more like Jonah than Zacchaeus. You know what I mean. “Okay God, I’ll go, if I have to … I guess.” Then Jonah goes and preaches for a day in a city that we are told takes three days to walk around (See Jonah 3.3-4.)

How do we reset our heart? With Sabbath. The Sabbath commandment is not a “Do Not” commandment. Only this commandment and the command to honor parents are stated in the positive. On the Sabbath we are instructed to remember the day, and keep it holy. We are to protect it. Buchanan quotes a powerful passage from the first book of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy. After the frightful journey that eventually leads them, battered and scarred, to Rivendell, Tolkien describes the time the hobbits spend there:

For awhile the hobbits continued to talk and think of the past journey and of the perils that lay ahead; but such was the virtue of the land of Rivendell that soon all fear and anxiety was lifted from their minds. The future, good or ill, was not forgotten, but ceased to have power over the present. Health and hope grew strong in them, and they were content with each day as it came, taking pleasure in every meal, and in every word and song. (emphasis added)

Doesn’t that sound wonderful?! The future, for good or ill, ceased to have power over the present. Ahhhhh. Buchanan also speculates that the difference between the admonitions about the Sabbath in Exodus (remember) and Deuteronomy (observe) are thought, in Jewish rabbinical writings, to indicate that we are to always remember the previous Sabbath and to observe the approaching Sabbath. In some ways God is telling us that we should live the days between the Sabbaths in light of what happens on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is what is really important and we should interpret the rest of the week in light of that, not the other way around! The Sabbath is really what is needed, not the seemingly endless list of things we do in between last Sabbath and the next. We need to stop each week and refocus our lives on what, or rather Who, should be in the center of our lives.

We need to practice keeping our focus centered on Christ through all of the many distractions of our lives. In the words of a song by Michael Frye: Jesus, be the center. (I know he wrote it centre, using his British spelling, but I’m not writing to a British audience.)

Dear Lord, please be my center. I know You want to be my Center even more than I want You to be my Center. I find it hard, sometimes, to remember You and Your call on my life. By Your Spirit, help me in my weakness. Draw me closer to You each day as I continue to walk with You. May my life more and more reflect Your Spirit to all of those around me. May my life draw them closer to You. Amen.

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