“Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8, NRSV).
Keeping Sabbath has become an important part of my own life’s rhythm and one that truly sustains me for the journey… of being a pastor, of facing challenges with grace, and of life in general. There is a reason God rested after six days of creating. When Jesus went off by himself to pray, I believe it was so that he could rest in God’s presence, center himself on the Father, and be nourished spiritually so that he was ready to teach, heal, and give peace. We all need sustenance for the journey, and God will provide… if we will only receive.
In recent years, a lot has been written on Sabbath-keeping and reclaiming this particular commandment in our 21st century lives. I’ve attended workshops and read books about what it means to remember the Sabbath… and it can take on different forms. Setting aside one day a week is part of it, but many talk about making “Sabbath time” every day, mini-Sabbaths throughout the week. How are we spending time with God and resting in God’s presence each day?
There are times that I get really excited over Presbyterian theology and language.
Please don’t stop reading now.
Our Directory for Worship (in our Book of Order) says, “Daily personal worship is a discipline for attending to God and accepting God’s grace. The daily challenge of discipleship requires the daily nurture of worship” (W-5.2001). I really resonate with these words. Being a leader in the church, choosing to follow the way of Christ—these are challenging tasks that require daily nourishment. Think about your own life: what are the daily challenges of discipleship? And how has worship, or time with God, nourished you? The Directory for Worship goes on in chapter 5 to give concrete ideas for personal worship through prayer, scripture, and other forms. It’s good stuff.
I truly believe it’s part of our call to set aside time each day to be with God: “attending to God and accepting God’s grace.” And I hear more and more lately how busy everyone is. I see it, I feel it, I know it. So it’s more critical that we are intentional about spending time with God in prayer, in the scriptures, in nature, and in other ways. In his post last week, Robert wrote about spending time in our relationships and asked the question, “When are you taking time to be still with God?”
Today, my answer to that question is: “When I spend time, most days, in my Sabbath Center.” It occurred to me a couple of months ago that I have spent a fair amount of time and energy creating worship and prayer opportunities for congregations I have served. But when have I put some of that energy toward my own prayer life, my own relationship with God? It takes time and intention. I felt moved (by the Spirit, I am sure) to create a Sabbath Center in my own home: my own prayer station, so to speak, where I have materials and supplies to spark creativity and engage in life-giving prayer.
And it has been life-giving. I had a giant desk—the put-it-together-yourself kind—that was made to hold a giant desktop computer, which I no longer own. So I decided to repurpose the desk and create a Sabbath Center. I collected materials I already owned: a table runner, my grandfather’s Bible, a cross, markers, pens, paper, scissors, books, a small CD player, a stack of CDs, some candles, a small lamp, watercolor paints and brushes, a journal, poetry. And I set up a sacred space where I can daily “retreat” to attend to God and accept God’s grace.
For my Sabbath Center, I made a covenant agreement with myself and God for the time I spend in that space:
- This is not a place for tasks. There is nothing to finish or complete here.
- Whatever happens in this space is exactly what is meant to happen here.
- No phone, computer, tablet, etc.
- Let God be God.
- There are no rules.
I expect my time with God at the Sabbath Center will grow and change. Right now, it looks different every day, but I love playing music and “praying in color” with my giant art book and markers. I recite scripture from my daily readings and repeat simple centering prayers over and over and over. I might also go on a walk or run after spending some time at the center and continue my Sabbath time in motion. Sometimes I do have to set a timer for 10 minutes and then get on with my day, but sometimes I can linger there and let more time pass. It’s a gift to spend time with God, and it centers me for whatever the day might bring.
For me, Sabbath-keeping is an important rhythm to my week, a contrast to the work that so often surrounds us. There is a life-giving rhythm to work and rest, if we will allow ourselves to settle into such a rhythm. And, of course, the work to which we are called means that we can never stay alone with God in our safe, sacred space too long. We are called to serve in the world and to go back to the people.
Again, from the Directory for Worship, “Through worship people attend to the presence of God in their life. From a Christian’s life in the world comes the need for worship; in worship one sees the world in light of God’s grace; from worship come vision and power for living in the world” (5-1002). It’s a cycle, a continuation, a rhythm. After attending to God and accepting God’s grace, we are sent into the world with vision and power to serve as Christ did and to love our neighbors.
Will you invest time and energy into your own spiritual life and time with God?