Sabbath as Spiritual Formation
July 25, 2019 | Lyn Baker
The Sabbath is as old as creation itself. There was always a Sabbath; before Abraham, before Israel, God created the Sabbath. From the beginning, there was a pause, a time for reflection, a time for worship.
On the seventh day God rested from his monumental labor of love. He blessed the seventh day. He gave it as a gift to his people, a reminder of the covenant between them. It was a way to restructure and sanctify time and a reminder to organize life around the Holy One in their midst.
When we pause intentionally in the use of our days, we recognize time as God’s gift to us rather than time as something we own and can use as we please. Purposeful practice of Sabbath requires that we shift our focus from our eternal tendency to “do” and learn to “be.”
When we practice Sabbath-keeping, we are allowing God to shape us by paying more attention to him. He expands our capacity to love as we become more aware of his affection for us. In our paying attention, he often brings things to mind that we might otherwise overlook, like our tendency to judge others for the very things we do ourselves, or attitudes of spite and envy we would rather pretend we don’t have. With Sabbath-keeping, the voices of the world that distract us day and night are muffled. We can tune in to the voice of our Creator.
Some elements of Sabbath-keeping include prayer and worship, both as a community and privately. Practicing silence is the royal road into the mind of Christ. It is amazing how much we can hear from God when we simply stop talking. You can keep Sabbath every day with 15 minutes of centering prayer or fasting one meal a week or deciding to invite that person who irritates you out to lunch.
Practicing Sabbath through worship, silence, meditation, Lectio Divina or any other method is a risk. These actions signal that we are willing to trust that God will replace whatever we fear we are losing with his own presence. Will that be enough? Our fears vary; for some it is hard to be silent, for others there is anxiety about not accomplishing anything tangible; for still others a Sabbath moment feels like wasting time.
The command to keep the Sabbath in the Old Testament becomes an invitation to enter into God’s rest in the New Testament. Worship and the Eucharist strengthen us to go out from our Sabbath-keeping to tend and care for the personal dominion God gives each of us.
If Sabbath creates a space for worship, then spiritual formation means simply creating an interior space for worship. God wants to build his temple in you … and you will find rest for your souls.
“Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27
Drawing from a varied and far-ranging life that includes 25 years as a private school administrator working with parents and children in the U.S. and Africa, Lyn’s vocation is to help adults and children come to know God in a deeper way. Her certificate in spiritual direction, from Perkins School of Theology, caps a Master of Arts from the State University of New York and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Wisconsin. Lyn is an ordained deacon in the Anglican Mission in America and former Director of Family Ministries at All Saints Dallas. You can reach Lyn at LynBakerAuthor.com.