Herald Journal Columns
Aug. 22, 2005, Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

Sabbath rest nourishes, renews, heals

By Rev. Allan L. Bjorklund, Evangelical Lutheran Church,

Sabbath is a rich word in many religions of our world. It is a word that we automatically associate with Sundays in our culture. But, each day should have some Sabbath time in it.

In the book of Exodus, we read, “In six days God made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day, God rested, and was refreshed.”  Here, the word “refreshed” literally means “and God exhaled.”  

The creation of the world was like the life-quickening inhale; the Sabbath is the exhale. Thus, in a beginning, all creation moves with the rhythm of the inhale and the exhale. Without the Sabbath exhale, the life-giving inhale is impossible.

Most spiritual traditions celebrate some form of Sabbath practice. Before the Hebrews, the Babylonians celebrated a lunar Sabbath, also a day of rest.

Buddhists use a lunar Sabbath, on the new, full, and quarter moons, as a day for monks and lay people to feast together, meditate, reflect on the dharma, and recite the fundamental precepts of their spiritual practice.

Muslims celebrate their Sabbath day on Friday, using sacred time to regularly focus their heart’s attention on spiritual matters, and to gather together, celebrate their love for one another, and take delight in beginning together anew.

There is yet one more aspect of the Sabbath that is wonderful. God creates the world in six days, and on the seventh day, God rests. But a closer reading of Genesis reveals that the Sabbath was not simply a day off.  

It says, “On the seventh day God finished God’s work.” How can this be? Wasn’t the seventh day when God, exhausted, took time off and rested, satisfied with the laborious work of creation?

The ancient rabbis teach that on the seventh day, God created menuah – tranquility, serenity, peace, and repose – rest, in the deepest possible sense of fertile, healing stillness.

Until Sabbath, creation was unfinished. Only after the birth of menuah, only with tranquility and rest, was the circle of creation made full and complete.  

Most Christians celebrate Sabbath at the beginning of the week, to commemorate Jesus’ resurrection. We remember the tender gratefulness of Mary, who went out in the early morning to weep for a beloved friend who had died – only to hear his loving voice comfort her.  

Sabbath implies a willingness to be surprised by unexpected grace, to partake of those potent moments when creation renews itself, when what is finished inevitably recedes, and the sacred forces of healing astonish us with the unending promise of love and life. When we gather together to worship and pray in this Sabbath time, we prepare our hearts and souls to be nourished and surprised by fruitful beginnings.

And so, only in the soil of Sabbath quiet can we seed the possibility of beginning a new day, a new week – even a new life – again and again, each time with fresh eyes, rested and refreshed.

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