Sabbath Rest

Mon, 18/02/2019 - 10:30 -- James Oakley
Image Credit: milinkapoor

I'm taking a 3 month sabbatical starting in May. This is something many Christian ministers find helpful. The Diocese of Rochester, within which I serve, used to recommend this every 7 years (although I see that their guidance now says 10 years).

As I prepare for this, I'm inevitably thinking about the themes of rest, of Sabbath, of what it means to be a worshipping human being made in the image of God. Most of us pick up, without realising it, the idea that our work somehow defines us, as if we were made for our work. Part of being in the image of God is to work, but it was not the purpose for which we were made. An accountant friend of mine always used to be very careful to introduce herself as someone who works as an accountant, not as someone who is an accountant.

I came across these three wonderful paragraphs from the BST Commentary on Genesis 1-11 by David Atkinson:

"In one sense, the whole of Genesis 1 is about the sabbath. The rhythm of six days plus one is the way things are in the world. Our lives are built to reflect that reality. A human being's alternation of work and rest is meant to echo the alternation between work and rest in the creative activity of God. And what is God's rest? Is it not delight in his creation? Is it not looking with joy on his world and saying, 'This is good!'

"Our sabbath rest is the opportunity God gives us to share his delight. Human life is meant to include more than labour, more than the struggle for the appropriate stewardship of the world, more than the reforming of society. The six plus one alternation of work and rest is not the rhythm of work plus recovery so as to be able to go back to work. It is a rhythm of engagement with the world in work, and then thankful enjoyment of the world in worship. By 'worship' we do not mean simply - or even primarily - 'church activity'. 'Worship' is our offering back to God, for him to enjoy, our enjoyment of his world. The climax of the creation is Man the Worshipper: Homo Adorans. Here is the one who in fellowship with the Creator enjoys the Creator's work.

"What is our creation for? That we may be creatures of the seventh day. That we may share God's work of bringing order in his creation; that we may grow in personal communion with him and so reflect his image; and that we may share the delight of his rest. That we may have fellowship with the Creator. That we may be caught up in praise wiht the sun and moon and stars, the trees and flowers and birds; with all creatures great and small, of fish and of beasts. All these look to God for their life and sustenance; all these in their silent ways sing the song of their Creator." (Page 49)

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