We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sabbath Rest

The decline of the church in the U.S., has any number of ramifications, some obvious and others less so.  One of the "less so" ramifications is the continuing loss of the biblical understanding of the Sabbath as time off from the cares of daily life, time for refocusing on the deeper things underlying the grind.  In times gone by in our nation, the rhythm of life was six days of labor and a seventh day for putting aside that labor, dressing up, going to worship (which was a source of entertainment and intellectual stimulation), and slowing down.  Today, committed church folks don't slow down on the weekend; they cram in, rather, an alternative set of hectic activities.  On retirement, they get busier with as much or more busy-ness as beforehand.  It is not just that there is less space for church even among the committed.  There is less time for rest.  And more than that, our modern, multitasking society is losing its capacity for rest, esp. for Sabbath rest.

Sabbath rest is partly time for prayer, reading "spiritual literature" unhurriedly, and reflection.  It is time for meditation.  It is partly time for sitting quietly, taking a walk, sharing an unhurried meal with a friend, and smelling the roses.  It is a time for not doing, not accomplishing.  It is not goal oriented time but rather time for being lazy.  It is, as one happy example, time spent sitting around a fire in the evening with the forest gone quiet, watching the dancing flames, seeing the shadows they cast on the surrounding trees, hearing the long trilling call of a loon, and simply being at rest.  A cup of hot chocolate or coffee or tea—or not. Sabbath rest is the stillness of the night forest discovered in other places in our lives where for a moment we hear the echoes of peace quieting for that moment the busyness of our busyness.

The decline of the church and the decline of Sabbath rest are not unrelated.  Renewal of the latter is not unrelated to the renewal of the former, if by the church we mean the community of faith rather than the religious institution.  Amen.