Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Quietness of heart #1

In response to a recent conversation, here is the first installment of some thoughts on how not to go crazy in our modern world of frenzied madness:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. This is ancient wisdom. I know that some of us consider the Sabbath no longer valid in any sense, and I can see why. It is legislated old covenant culture (Exodus 20:8). But more deeply, it is embedded in the very creation (Genesis 2:2-3). And in the creation account the seventh day is the only one that doesn’t close out with “And there was evening and there was morning, the nth day.” The Sabbath remains open. It’s not written on our calendars as much as we are built into its calendar. It’s part of the God-created rhythm for weekly human life.

If we did set apart as holy one day each week, we would add to every year, for the rest of our lives, over seven weeks of vacation. And not for goofing off, but for worship, for fellowship, for mercy, for an afternoon nap, for reading a theological book, for thinking about God and taking stock of our lives, for lingering around the dinner table and sharing good jokes and tender words and personal prayers.

I know the objections to the Sabbath. But I am answering this question: How can I live with quietness of heart in the madness of this world? If anyone has a more biblical (and more immediately usable and beneficial) place to begin answering that question, I’m open. But raising hermeneutical objections to the Sabbath principle doesn’t give me quietness of heart.

I’ll push it further. The very concept of “the weekend” is unbiblical. It turns Sunday into a second Saturday. Home Depot may gain, but we lose. It turns Sunday into the day we catch up on the stuff we were too lazy or disorganized to do on Saturday. It also turns Sunday into a day to ramp up for work or school on Monday. It hollows out not only Sunday but our whole week, because it marginalizes God and church and sermons and all the other vital things that happen in our lives only when we make the vital things also the central things. If we accept the world’s concept of “the weekend,” we inevitably end up “fitting God in” rather than centering the practical reality of our every week around him. We trivialize him, even as we allow secondary things to hijack the sacred place of centrality, we live soul-exhausted lives, and then we wonder why God isn’t more real to us, why church isn’t “working” for us, why we're grumpy, and so forth.

If we want to find our way back into quietness of heart, the first step might be simple. Bold, but simple.