Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What Do Jewish Cops Yell?

Don't worry.  I'm not a racist and this is not a joke.

Do you know what the word "sabbath" actually means?  "To cease and desist."  I'm not sure Jewish cops actually yell "SHABBAT" (that is how it is pronounced in Hebrew), but when I first learned the meaning of the word, outside the connotations of the holy day, that was what I pictured - a cop yelling at a criminal to cease and desist his illegal actions.

Last Sunday the Northlake church began an 8-week series on this ancient practice of Ceasing and Desisting.  And I am currently trying to write a sermon on the topic.

It feels like preparing to teach someone how to play the guitar.  I am extremely interested in playing the guitar.  I really, really, really wish I could play the guitar.  I so thoroughly enjoy being led in worship by a talented guitar player.  However, outside a semester of lessons in college, I know nothing of guitar playing.  In fact, the guitar I owned broke last year and I no longer even own on.

I know about as much about Sabbath keeping as I do guitar playing.

Guitar playing, though, is not the fourth commandment.  As much as God delights in the sounds of strings playing tunes to His glory, His top ten list of commands does not require that I know how to do this.

Sabbath keeping, however, is on that list - right at the heart of it dividing the commands that deal with our relationship to God and our relationship to others.  By dividing  I mean that it is the line drawn between the two yet completely belongs in both sets.  Sabbath keeping belongs just as much with the commands about God being our one and only God as it does with the ones about right relationship to our family and neighbors.

For most of my life I have seen it more as a command to take a break and focus on God.  This superficial investigation I have made into Sabbath, though, has revealed to me that Sabbath is just as much about God as it is about neighbor.

The Exodus giving of the Sabbath command (ch 20) is rooted into the rhythm of creation.  It invites us into the same kind of delight and rest that God lives.  It asks us to repent of our distraction, anxiety, control, and busyness so that we can enter into God rhythm of holy delight.

The Deuteronomy giving of the Sabbath command (ch 5), however, is rooted in the redemptive action of the exodus.  It invited the Jews to remember that they were once slaves that their society must be structured differently than oppressive Egypt.  It asks us to repent of our identity as consumers, of our 24/7 buying and selling, of our lack of concern for the cost of our cheap goods.  It asks us to enter into God's compassion and justice.

Sabbath is about worship and about justice.

Isaiah 58 is a poetic and prophetic way of taking these understandings, which we have divided into two different things, and making them the unified whole God intended.

If you get rid of unfair practices, 
   quit blaming victims, 
   quit gossiping about other people's sins,
If you are generous with the hungry 
   and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, 
   your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go. 
   I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places— 
   firm muscles, strong bones.
You'll be like a well-watered garden, 
   a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, 
   rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You'll be known as those who can fix anything, 
   restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, 
   make the community livable again.
"If you watch your step on the Sabbath
   and don't use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
   God's holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing 'business as usual,'
   making money, running here and there—
Then you'll be free to enjoy God!
   Oh, I'll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I'll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob."
   Yes! God says so!

Is Sabbath about our neighbor? Yes.

Is it about our God? Yes.

Is Sabbath primarily about God and secondarily about neighbor? No, nor is it first about neighbor and then about God.

Sabbath keeping is only faithful when both are in harmony with one another.  I want to learn how to observe and keep Sabbath in such a way that God and neighbor are no longer two concerns in my heart but one unified whole.

And I don't think I can learn this way of life unless I keep Sabbath.  This fourth command makes 1-3 possible in my life, as it makes 5-10 possible, and as it makes all of them one, natural, unified beat of my heart.

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