Sunday, January 25, 2015

City Notes 19 | The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul By Restoring Sabbath Part 2 of 3

Emmaus City Worcester MA Rest Sabbath Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities


City Notes 19: Books in 30 minutes or less

City Notes are more than a book review. They are meant to provide you with direct quotes from some books I've read in the last year, so you can get a taste of the overall theme of the book and then begin to chew on what your life might look like if you applied what you read. 

Here are links to the previous City Notes books:



The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan Review of Quotes | City Notes 19: Part 2 of 3  

Chapter 4 Reflection | In God's Time: Stopping to See God's Bigness

"The most moving stories of the Jewish people keeping Sabbath are the ones when they kept it in the midst of crisis and terror. They kept Sabbath under siege. They kept it in famine. They kept it in drought. They kept it in Warsaw's ghettos and Hitler's death camps and Stalin's gulags. They kept Sabbath when the world was falling to pieces. Their keeping it in their days of peace and abundance and freedom prepared them for keeping it in times of war and scarcity and captivity. Their keeping it nurtured something deep and hidden in them that came to light only on the day of testing. As the rabbis are fond of saying, more than Israel ever kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath kept Israel. I would alter this slightly: to the extent that they kept Sabbath, Sabbath kept them. Sabbath living orients us toward that which, apart from rest, we will always miss. pgs. 59-60

"The root idea of Sabbath is simple as rain falling, basic as breathing. It's that all living things – and many nonliving things too – thrive only by an ample measure of stillness. ... It's easy, in other words, to spend most of your life breaking Sabbath and never figure out that this is part of the reason your work's unsatisfying, your friendships patchy, your leisure threadbare, your vacations exhausting. We simply haven't taken time. We've not been still long enough, often enough, to know ourselves, our friends, our family. Our God. Indeed, the worst hallucination busyness conjures is the conviction that I am God. All depends on me. How will the right things happen at the right time if I'm not pushing and pulling and watching and worrying?– pg. 60

"Jewish Sabbath begins in the evening. It begins, in other words with sleep. Sleep, I already said, is a necessity. But it is also a relinquishment. It is self-abandonment: of control, of power, of consciousness, of identity. ... Every time we sleep we place ourselves again in this position of vulnerability, of defenselessness, of dependency. We enter again this infantlike unguardedness. And we do this well only under one of two conditions: utter exhaustion, where we can't help ourselves, or complete confidence, where we stop trying to help ourselves. Then we sleep because we know from whence our help comes – 'I lie down and sleep; / I wake again, because the LORD sustains me / I will lie down and sleep in peace, / for you alone, O LORD, / make me dwell in safety' (Psalm 3:1, 5; 4:8). We sleep because we know in whom we have believed and are confident that he is able to keep that which we have entrusted to him. We give ourselves, regardless of our unfinished business, into God's care. We sleep simply because we believe God will look after us. ... If God works all things together for good for those who love him and are called to his purposes, you can relax. If he doesn't, start worrying. If God can take any mess, any mishap, any wastage, any wreckage, any anything, and choreograph beauty and meaning from it, then you can take a day off. If he can't, get busy. Either God's always at work, watching the city, building the house, or you need to try harder. Either God is good and in control, or it all depends on you.– pgs. 62-63

" ... notice something (in Psalm 62), because it helps us to train ourselves likewise. David starts with declaration – a confident assertion that his soul finds rest in God alone. But he shifts tone slightly yet significantly at verse 5. He virtually repeats verbatim what he says at the opening, but watch for the change" 'Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; / my hope comes from him. / He alone is my rock and my salvation; / he is my fortress, I will not be shaken' (vv. 5-6). David moves from declaration to imperative. He moves from saying how it is to saying how it ought to be, from celebration to exhortation, from a diary of experience to a manual of instruction. This even takes on a liturgical shape, where David in the middle of the psalm steps back from personal reflection and testimony and speaks to the congregation: 'Trust in him at all times, O people; / pour out your hearts to him, / for God is our refuge' (v. 8). I like the honesty and practicality of this. I waver between these two things – my experience of God's sovereignty and my need to take hold of it afresh. One minute I'm declaring that I do rest in him, the next exhorting that I can. And the exhortation moves the inside to the outside, from myself to the congregation, from testimony to liturgy trust in him at all times, O people.– pg. 66

"In Guelph, Ontario, there’s a riverside park landmarked with large and intricate sculptures: a dinosaur, a man riding a bicycle, a child and his mother. But these are no ordinary sculptures. Each is made from the debris collected from the riverbed. Every year, the city drains the river by a system of channel locks, then invites people from the community to scour the river’s muddy floor and clean up the garbage scattered along it. A welter of refuse is dredged up: shopping carts, tires and rims, car hoods, baby strollers, bikes and trikes, engine blocks, rakes and shovels, urinals, copper plumbing, wine bottles, shoes, thousands of pop cans. Mountains and mountains of rust-scabbed rubbish, slick with algae, are hauled out. Rather than truck all this garbage off to a landfill, the city calls its sculptors together (though most of the pop cans are turned in for refund and the money donated to park conservation). Each artist is given a mound of junk and commissioned to make from it beauty. The created works are then showcased along the very river from which the raw materials have come. God does that. He works all things together for good for those who love him and are called to his purposes. He takes what people throw away and sculpts art.– pg. 68
"(In Acts 16:28 when Paul and Silas are in prison), Who's we? It's the other prisoners. It's those who sat and listened to two men singing in the rain, singing in their pain, praying in their agony – two men who didn't succomb to the voice of complaint but instead raised the voice of thanksgiving. Who's we? It's all those who, before this instant, never imagined thankfulness as a possible response to life's hardships and injustices. It's all those who, until this moment, could not conceive of a God so good and so present that he is able to conjure good from evil. It's all those who are surprised to find, right here in the pit, a God sovereign enough that those who place themselves under his care consider it pure joy when they go through trials of many kinds. We are all those who discover, this very night, a God worthy to be praised in all things and for all things. We're all here." – pgs. 70-71


Chapter 4 Action | In God's Time Sabbath Liturgy: Practicing the Sovereignty of God

"Pride usurps God. Pride inverts the universe's deepest truth: that we need and serve God. Pride gets this exactly backward. Pride is the delusion that God, if he exists, is awfully lucky I've shown up and should mind his p's and q's lest I change my mind. The twin of pride is despair. It is to collapse into a sense that not even God is good enough or big enough or smart enough to sort out the mess I've made or stumbled upon. In despair, we are consumed by the lie that God, if he exists, is too inept or distracted or apathetic to even notice us, let alone come to our aid. ... the pattern itself is commonplace: one minute certain we can do things better than God, the next convinced that not even God can make things better.– pg. 72

"God sends his Spirit, but not to keep the disciples safe: to make them more dangerous. Are you in the midst of a situation where, as you pray, you find yourself putting the problem first? If so, you're starting where you should end. You're rehearsing the problem, making it seem larger than it is, when what you need to do is rehearse God's greatness and bigness. Then the problem shrinks to its right portions. Oh, by the way ... As a Sabbath Liturgy, I recommend practicing the sovereignty of God. Today when you pray, start with God. Survey what he has made. Recite what he has done. Proclaim who he is. And after you have been with Jesus long enough, and feel your courage brimming, and he looks bigger, see if there's still an Oh by the way ... " – pgs. 74-75

Chapter 5 Reflection | The Rest of Time: Stopping to Number Our Days Aright

"Sabbath-keeping is more than time management. It is a fresh orientation to time, where we think with holy imagination about how the arc of our moments and hours and days intersects with eternity. 'Teach us to number our days aright,' Moses asked God, 'that we may gain a heart of wisdom' (Psalm 90:12). Teach us that this is not just another day of the week, but the day that the Lord has made ... For only those who number their days aright gain wise hearts. Only they become God's sages: those calm, unhurried people who live in each moment fully, savoring simple things, celebrating small epiphanies, unafraid of life's inevitable surprises and reverses, adaptive to change yet not chasing after it. Able to pray with those who pray." – pgs. 76-77

" ...  the distinguishing mark of the purposeful is not time management. It's that they notice. They're fully awake. Jesus, for example. He lived life with the clearest and highest purpose. Yet he veered and strayed from one interruption to the next, with no apparent plan in hand other than his single, overarching one: get to Jerusalem and die. Otherwise, his days, as far as we can figure, were a series of zigzags and detours, apparent whims and second thoughts, interruptions and delays, off-the-cuff plans, spur-of-the-moment decisions, leisurely meals, serendipitous rounds of storytelling. Who touched me? You give them something to eat. Let's go to the other side. Jesus was available – or not – according to some oblique logic all his own. He had an inner ear for the Father's whispers, a third eye for the Spirit's motions. ... The closest we get to what dictated Jesus's schedule is his own statement in John's Gospel: 'The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit' (John 3:8). The apostle Peter, after declaring that Jesus is 'Lord of all,' describes the supreme Sovereign's modus operandi: 'God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and ... he went around doing good' (Acts 10:36, 38, emphasis mine). So that's it, the sum of Christ's earthly vocation: he wandered and he blessed. He was a physician vagabond. He was the original doctor without borders. His purpose was crystallized, but his method almost scattershot. 'My whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted,' Henri Nouwen said the near the end of his life, 'until I discovered the interruptions were my work.'" – pgs. 78-79

"Purposefulness requires paying attention, and paying attention means – almost by definition – that we make room for surprise. We become hospitable to interruption. I doubt we can notice for long without this hospitality. And to sustain it we need theological touchstones for it  a conviction in our bones that God is Lord of our days and years, and that his purposes and his presence often come disguised as detours, messes, defeats. I came to you naked, Jesus says. I came to you thirsty. 'When, Lord?' we ask, startled. When he wore the disguise of an interruption.– pg. 80 

Chapter 5 Action | The Rest of Time Sabbath Liturgy: Redeeming the Time


"'The world of the generous,' Eugene Peterson translates Proverbs 11:24, 'gets larger and larger; / the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller' (MSG). This is more than a principal of financial stewardship, it's a basic truth of life. Generous people generate things. And, consequently, their worlds are more varied, surprising, colorful, fruitful. They're richer. More abounds with them, and yet they have a greater thirst and deeper capacity to take it all in. The world delights the generous but seldom overwhelms them. ... Not so the stingy. Stinginess is parasitic, it chews life up and spits out bones. The stingy end up losing what they try so desperately to hold. As Jesus warned, those who store up treasure only on earth discover, too late, that such storage is merely composting. Or, as he warned in the parable of the talents, trying to preserve a thing intact never accomplishes even that much. Hoarding is only wasting. Keeping turns into losing. And so the world of the stingy shrinks. Skinflints, locked into a mind-set of scarcity, find that the world dwindles down to meet their withered expectations. Because they are convinced there isn't enough, there never is. This all relates to Sabbath-keeping. Generous people have more time. That's the irony: those who sanctify time and who give time away  who treat time as gift and not possession – have time in abundance.– pg. 83

"The taproot of generosity is spiritual. The apostle Paul, when he explains to the Corinthians about the astounding generosity of the Macedonians, remarks, 'They gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us' (2 Corinthians 8:5, emphasis mine). True generosity always moves in that sequence: first God, then others. First the Spirit, then the flesh. And it always starts with giving, not something, but ourselves. ... Acknowledge that every moment you receive is God's sheer gift. Resolve never to turn it into possession. What you receive as gift you must be willing to impart as gift. Invite God to direct your paths, to lead you in the way everlasting; be open to holy interruption, divine appointment, Spirit ambush (and ask God for the wisdom to know the difference). 'Many are the plans in a man's heart,' Proverbs says, 'but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails' (19:21). Surrender to his purpose with gladness. Vow not to resist or resent it. Give yourself first to God. Now the hard thing: give yourself to others. Enter this day with a deep resolve to actually spend time, even at times seemingly to squander it, for the sake of purposes beyond your own – indeed, that occasionally subvert your own (remember the good Samaritan?). That person you think is such a bore but who always wants to talk with you: Why not really listen to him? Why not give him, not just your time, but yourself – your attention, your affection, the gift of your curiosity and inquisitiveness? In God's economy, to redeem time, you might just have to waste some. Try for this week, giving the gift of yourself first to God and then to others. Be generous with time. See if your world isn't larger by this time next week.– pg. 84 

Chapter 6 Reflection | We're Not in Eqypt AnymoreStopping to Remove the Taskmasters

"Exodus grounds Sabbath in creation. Deuteronomy grounds it in liberation. Exodus remembers Eden, Deuteronomy Egypt. In Exodus, Sabbath-keeping is about imitating divine example and receiving divine blessing. In Deuteronomy, it is about taking hold of divine deliverance and observing divine command. Exodus looks up. Deuteronomy looks back. Exodus gives theological rationale for rest, and Deuteronomy historical justification for it. One evokes God's character, the other his redemption. One calls us to holy mimicry – be like God; the other to holy defiance – never be slaves again. One reminds us that we are God's children, the work of his hands, the other that we are no one's chattel, not Pharaoh's, not Nebuchadnezzar's, not Xerxes', not Beelzebub's. One is invitation. The other is warning. The Exodus command, with its call to imitation, plays on a hidden irony: we mimic God in order to remember we're not God. In fact, that is a good definition of Sabbath: imitating God so that we stop trying to be God. We mirror divine behavior only to freshly discover our human limitations. Sabbath-keeping involves a recognition of our own weakness and smallness, that we are made from dust, that we hold our treasure in clay jars, and that without proper care we break.– pg. 87

" ... that's what the refusal of rest amounts to: living as though the taskmasters still hover and glower, ever ready to thrash us for the smallest sign of slowing down. It is to strive and toil as though we have no choice, as if we'll be punished otherwise. To refuse Sabbath is in effect to spurn the gift of freedom. It is to resume willingly what we once cried out for God to deliver us from. It is choosing what once we shunned. Slaves don't rest. Slaves can't rest. Slaves, by definition, have no freedom to rest. Rest, it turns out, is a condition of liberty. God calls us to live in the freedom that he won for us with his own outstretched arm. Sabbath is a refusal to go back to Egypt. That's Deuteronomy.– pg. 90

"There is one very large, very grim obstacle to keeping Sabbath. It is the problem of taskmasters. God drowned the taskmasters, it's true – dragged the whole Egyptian army to the muddy, weedy sea bottom. Only, some survived: they clung to the flotsam of our guilt and worry and ended up marooned in our heads. It's actually worse: we helped them survive. We threw them ropes, pulled them ashore, resuscitated the unconscious ones. ... taskmasters are masters of half-truth. They couch their harangue in just enough reality that the whole thing has the ring of authenticity. It's true, in part, what they say: there is no end of things to do. I am a touch on the lazy side and disguise this with busyness. There is a crowd of people disappointed with me, who find me, by turn, indecisive, despotic, timid, rash, evasive, blunt, foolhardy, wise in my own eyes, foot-dragging, impulsive. I do procrastinate overmuch and at the same time make too many snap decisions. Most of my life is unfinished. Many of my efforts are slapdash and slipshod. It's true. So? The lie mixed in here is that, because it's true, I have no right to rest. And actually, that's true too. I have no right to a lot of things: my health, my home, my family, my salvation. May as well add rest to the list. But thank God that God could care less about our rights. What God cares about, and deeply, is our needs. And it's this simple: you and I have an inescapable need for rest.– pg. 90, 92

"Get this straight: The rest of God – the rest God gladly gives so that we might discover that part of God we're missing  is not a reward for finishing. It's not a bonus for work well done. It's sheer gift. It is a stop-work order in the midst of work that's never complete, never polished. Sabbath is not the break we're allotted at the tail end of completing all our tasks and chores, the fulfillment of all our obligations. It's the rest we take smack-dab in the middle of them, without apology, without guilt, and for no better reason than God told us we could. ... In some ways, the whole point of Exodus was Sabbath. Let my people go, became God's rallying cry, that they might worship me. At the heart of liberty – of being let go – is worship. But at the heart of worship is rest – a stopping from all work, all worry, all scheming, all fleeing – to stand amazed and thankful before God and his work. There can be no real worship without true rest.– pg. 94    

"(In John 7:21-23) Clearly Jesus's plain meaning is that just as circumcision is a sign of unique belonging to God, of covenant relation, and is therefore most fitting practiced on the Sabbath, so healing is a sign of God's intimate presence and blessing and thus is best done on the Sabbath. Healing on the Sabbath is just as desirable as circumcision on the Sabbath, since both announce that God is our God and he is for us and not against us. ... Circumcision is being scarred in a place of deep identity, where a man understands himself to be a man. It is being wounded at the only source where a man can create life. Many parts of a man's anatomy are useful: with his mind he imagines, with his hands he devises, with his feet he deploys. A man can create many things, but only in this one place can he create life. It is here the knife is applied. The scar, the wound, sets this man apart: it says that here, even here, especially here, he is a marked man. He is one who belongs to God. That is trust. To allow a hand to wield a knife in this place, to cut such a vulnerable, valuable, intimate part of the man, and for no reason other than that God has chosen this means and this place to mark him – that is supreme trust. ... Circumcision is about trust. And so is Sabbath. Sabbath is turning over to God all those things – our money, our work, our status, our reputations, our plans, our projects – that we're otherwise tempted to hold tight in our own closed fists, hold on to for dear life. It is allowing God to wound us in an intimate and vulnerable place, to scar us and mark us and make us his own. It is camping circumcised on the plains of Jericho, in striking distance of the enemy (see Joshua 5). It is letting go, for one day out of seven, all those parts of our identities and abilities in which we are constantly tempted to find our security and discovering afresh that we are his children and that he is our Father and shield and defender. 'And after the whole nation had been circumcised, they remained where they were in camp until they were healed' (Joshua 5:8). Sabbath is camping out in one place long enough for God to wound us and heal us. It is God's opportunity to demonstrate to us, at the very rim of havoc, on the very outskirts of destruction, his utter trustworthiness. He makes us lie down and prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. We learn that here, even here, especially here, his rod and staff comfort us. He watches over. You can rest." – pgs. 96-99      

Chapter 6 Action | We're Not in Egypt Anymore Sabbath Liturgy: Relinquishing

"I used to think the spiritual life was mostly about finding and using our gifts for God's glory – my utmost for his highest. More and more, I think it is not this, not first, not most. At root, the spiritual life consists in choosing the way of littleness. I become less so that Jesus might become greater. Its essence is No No to ourselves, our impulses and cravings, our acts of self-promotion and self-vindication, our use of power for its own sake. It calls us to deny ourselves possessions, rights, conquests that we're tempted to claim just because we can. It is growing, day by day, into the same attitude that Christ had, and by exactly the same means: emptying ourselves, giving ourselves. It is refusing to grasp what we think is owed us and instead embracing what we think is beneath us. Simply behold, in love and wonder, what you have strength to crush. Exercise power – power you might use otherwise – to serve, bless, protect. Learn to give and receive." – pg. 101 

Chapter 7 Reflection | Losing My ReligionStopping Legalism

"Anxiety and stress are our number one killers. I heard recently a story about Meyer Friedman, the psychologist who devised the Type A/Type B personality profiles – where Type B is placid and limber, taking life as it comes, and Type A is two-fisted and bristling, taking life by the horns. Friedman's initial insight that led to his personality theory came after a discussion with a chair upholsterer. The upholsterer said that most of his business came from replacing the upholstery on the chairs in cardiologists' offices, the chairs wore first, and quickly, on the front edge. Apparently, heart patients are so impatient that, even while listening to their doctor's life-threatening diagnosis or lifesaving prescription, they sit taut and restless, poised to flee, chafing at the delay. At the edge of their seats. The very reason their hearts are sick is written in that threadbare upholstery. It's killing us, our worry, our hurry, our need to gather one more armload of brushwood, our haste to get out of the heart doctor's office and back to the fast food and the fast lane. We take our rat poision to thin our blood clots and scurry back to the rat race to clot our blood some more. The death verdict is inscribed in this way of life.– pgs. 109-110

" ... apart from the story in Numbers 15, the Bible is silent on specific rules about Sabbath. This silence is curious. Elsewhere, in Leviticus, Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, God prescribes explicit and detailed instruction regarding sexual conduct, priestly garments, dietary concerns, the removal of mildew, the kinds of polyester forbidden. But on Sabbath, almost nothing, only repetition of general guidelines: rest, cease from work, celebrate, remember, observe, deny yourself, delight yourself. I think God must be protecting us here from our temptation to clutter simple things. Where in other matters – diet, dress, sex hygiene – God felt the need to spell things out in tedious and meddlesome detail, here he's taciturn, vague, dropping random clues, giving only broad hints. Sabbath-keeping is more art than science. ... Isaiah sets up an odd tension that reinforces that more-art-than-science nature of Sabbath-keeping: 'If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.' The mouth of the LORD has spoken (Isaiah 58:13-14). If you do not go your own way, you will find your joy. We keep Sabbath by both a refusal and a pursuit: we refuse to go our own way, and yet we pursue our own joy. Legalism wants to name, in every jot and tittle, both that refusal and that pursuit. It seeks to pinpoint the precise nature of what we're to shun and what we're to run after. But God leaves such things unspoken. Yet clearly, doing as we please, going our own way, is not the same thing as finding our joy. These, in fact, are opposites. Most of us know this already. We know that when we do as we please and go our own way, we often as not court misery. We demand our inheritance, squander it, and end up in a pigpen, hungry and spent. This is one of the largest ironies and mysteries of being human: we insist, with pride and stubbornness, on getting our own way, even when that way plunders us wholesale. Paul describes it this way: 'For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. ... For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war ... ' (Romans 7:18-19, 22-23). Sabbath rest is negotiated in that space between not getting or going our own way and finding our true joy." – pgs. 111-112

" ...  Sabbath-keeping is grounded in a stark refusal we make to ourselves ('It is a sabbath of rest,' Leviticus 16:31 says, 'and you must deny yourselves'). We stand ourselves down. We resist that which six days of coming and going, pushing and pulling, dodging and weaving, fighting and defending have bred into us. What we deny ourselves is all our well-trained impulses to get and to spend and to make and to master. This day, we go in a direction we're unaccustomed to, unfamiliar with, that the other six days have made to seem unnatural to us. We do this, this traveling in the opposite direction, maybe for no higher reason at first that that God told us to do it. ... The law of Sabbath is not legalistic. It is a command given to save us from ourselves. If anything, the Sabbath command breaks us out of the prison of our own selfishness: it undoes our legalistic bent to go our own way.– pg. 115 

Chapter 7 Action | Losing My Religion Sabbath Liturgy: Finding Your Joy

"If I live to decrepit old age, tottering in body and wandering in the head, I still think I won't have deciphered an everyday mystery: how it is we seldom choose what's best. How, given an entire orchard, we'll choose the one fruit forbidden. How, invited into intimacy, we'll settle for suspicion, and encouraged to speak truth in love, we'll instead resort to gossip. How, told not to be anxious about anything but to pray about everything, we'll be anxious anyhow, and more or less prayerless." – pg. 118

"This is about finding what is best. In Luke's story of Mary and Martha, Martha is all in a flap over what she sees as Mary's laziness. Mary sits attentive at Jesus's feet, while Martha wrestles the crockery, thickens the sauce, bastes the lamb chops, sets the table. ... the lid finally boils over. Martha vents her frustration on both Jesus and Mary: 'Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!' (Luke 10:40). Jesus gently chides Martha, gently commends Mary. But it's his praise of Mary that should give us pause: 'Mary has chosen what is better' (v. 42). Mary's choice is only better. What would be best? My guess: Martha's industry joined to Mary's attentiveness. Martha's briskness and energy and diligence stemming from Mary's quietness and restfulness and vigilance. The best is to have Martha's hands and Mary's heart. Here's today's Sabbath Liturgy: sit with Jesus until you hear from him what he would have you do – sit some more, visit the aging, teach Sunday school, or clean your desk. Or, maybe, cook the lunch. And then put your hand to the task, Martha-like, and do it with all your heart, Mary-like. That's best. In that, you'll find your joy." – pg. 119 

Chapter 8 Reflection | The Golden RuleStopping to Find a Center

"I gravitate toward minimalism when it comes to obedience. My default is, What's the least I'm required to do and the most I can get away with? Show me a command, and I'll show you wondrous interpretive tricks to sidestep its sharper edges and dance around its outer bounds. ... The problem, though, is that minimalist obedience is really no obedience at all. It is a bony, gristly thing, lacking suppleness and muscle, bereft of beauty. A patron saint of minimalism is Jonah, quarreling and sulking outside Nineveh, doing what he's told but refusing to like it. It's the older brother of the prodigal, accusing and complaining outside the father's house, never disobedient but bitter in obeying. These are people who, in a strict ledger book of obedience, have met all basic requirements. But their hearts are stones.– pgs. 121-122

" ... the Ten Commandments are synecdochic. Each command means more than itself. Each is a tiny part that stands for a vast whole. So when we are commanded, for instance, not to steal, the command stretches beyond bare-bones decree. It means more than simply to restrain your hand from brigandage or thievery. It implies a whole way of life: the practice of contentment, the disciplining of appetites, the deepening of trustworthiness, the enlargement of generosity. The refusal to steal, no more, no less, is a rickety and stingy obedience. It's hardly life to full. It's obedience to the letter of the law, but not its spirit. A mere abstainer can still be a thief at heart: hoarding, envying, coveting, a skinflint to the last breath. Scrooge-like. But hear the command synecdochically, and it becomes an invitation to bountiful living – to receive but never take, to give and expect nothing in return, to celebrate the muchness of creation and relationship. It is an invitation to be as Scrooge after his three night visits, spendthrift and giddy, aprowl for opportunities to lavish gifts on friends, strangers, paupers, passersby. It is to be as Zacchaeus after Jesus cam to his home, where an outburst of generosity instantly supplants a lifetime of greed. This is the essence, this life of abundance, of the command 'Thou shalt not steal.' The commandments call us, not to bare minimalism, not to rigid observance or to tedious ledger toting, but to an exuberant overcompensation – to Zacchaeus-like extravagance. Each command is a doorway into a vast world that is ancient and new all at once.– pgs. 123-124

"Lauren Winner, in her book Mudhouse Sabbath, remarks on the different wording that Exodus and Deuteronomy use in prescribing the fourth commandment. Exodus calls us to remember the Sabbath, Deuteronomy to observe it. Why this variation? Winner, a convert first to Judaism and then to Christianity, cites a rabbinical insight: the three days that follow Sabbath are to be spent in reflection upon remembering – that one just past, and the three days leading up to Sabbath are to be spent in preparation for observing – the one approaching. In other words, Sabbath makes claims on all the other days, they make none on it. To approach Sabbath with synecdochic imagination, and to free Sabbath-keeping from the demands of the other days of the week, one thing is indispensable: to cease from that which is necessary. This is Sabbath's golden rule, the one rule to which all other duties distill. Stop doing what you ought to do. There are six days to do what you ought. Six days to be caught in the web of economic and political and social necessity. And then one day to take wing. Sabbath is that one day. It is a reprieve from what you ought to do, even though the list of oughts is infinitely long and never done. Oughts are tyrants, noisy and surly, chronically dissatisfied. Sabbath is the one day you trade places with them: they go in the salt mine, and you go out dancing. It's the one day when the only thing you must do is to not do the things you must. You are given permission – issued a command, to be blunt – to turn your back on all those oughts.– pgs. 125-126


" ... Sabbath's second golden rule, or the other half of the first golden rule: to embrace that which gives life. The first golden rule, or the first half of it, is to cease from that which is necessary. But to be synecdochic in our approach, we need this other part. We need to know, not just what to avoid, but what to pursue. What defines the shape and nature of that pursuit? Simple: life, and life abundant. When Jesus broke man-made Sabbath regulations, he always went in this direction: he healed, he fed, he claimed the right to rescue creatures fallen into wells or to lead to wells creatures falling down with thirst. Jesus pursued those things that give life. Whatever had been stolen by sickness, by the devil, by sheer accident and mishap – these things he sought to take back and give back. He honored our created limits and restored our created greatness. He did this always and told us to do likewise, but he especially favored the Sabbath for such activity. What better day than Sabbath to trounce Beelzebub, to trump death, to reverse sickness, to repair injury, to pamper ourselves? Students of the Sabbath have long noted that the command implicitly forbids creating. God created for six days, but on the seventh he rested. So too us: we can create like mad all the other six days of the week – forge widgets, write sermons, send memos, cook muffins, groom poodles, nail house frames, mix concrete, solve riddles. But the seventh day is when we step back and simply enjoy creation. We stop trying to make anything and instead let the things we've made bless and serve us. ... What is also implicit in the Sabbath command is our need for restoration. God ceased from creating, not because he needed rest or restoration, but because we do and God wanted to set the precedent, to lead by example. We need to be re-created after all our creating. Creating taps us out. It doesn't have this effect on God, of course. But we're not God. Creating, as invigorating as it can be at times, can also be boring, blistering, depleting. Our resources are limited. Our creativity is easily spent. Creating wears us threadbare. Sabbath is not for more creating. It is for re-creating. ... Sabbath's golden rule: Cease from what is necessary. Embrace that which gives life.– pgs. 127-129 

Chapter 8 Action | The Golden Rule Sabbath Liturgy: Practicing the Presence of God

"Brother Lawrence discovered on of life's deep secrets, and he was happy to tell others about it for the asking: God is everywhere. God hovers in the air just behind you. God slips in, furtive and alert, among your comings and your goings. God listens, and watches, and – yes – speaks. Only, you need to slow down enough to notice. But so often we, like Martha, become distracted by many things and miss Jesus sitting right there in our kitchen. The devil distracts. God interrupts. And for some reason, we fall prey to the one and grow oblivious to the other. Brother Lawrence found the most simple device for reversing this. In his small, wise book, The Practice of the Presence of God, he speaks about a companionship with Jesus that is without boundary – not in time, or place, or circumstance. Anywhere, everywhere, in anything, you can be with God. God wishes it and invites it and is present and available right now for it. The only thing missing is us. The one thing lacking is attentiveness. So Brother Lawrence commends a discipline – simple as saying hello – of becoming present with God in season and out, in church and away, in crisis and routine, in ecstasy and heartache, in thrill and tedium. In all these things, as Paul says, we are more than conquerors – not because of some swaggering valor in us, but because we have a God to whom we can cry,"Abba' (see Romans 8:15). We have a God who is there. How aware have you been, right now, that Jesus is with you? Why don't you greet him, out loud or, if that's awkward for you, in your heart? Even if you are sitting somewhere public – a cafe, a subway, a city square, a quiet library, a noisy marketplace – do this. I am always amazed at the thrill of homecoming it awakens in me. It is like spotting a trusted friend among a throng of strangers. ... It is discovering that what he promised holds true: 'Never will I leave you; / never will I forsake you' (Hebrews 13:5). Brother Lawrence washed dishes in a monastery. He was a busboy. He carried out menial duties: tidying and scouring the mess of others, removing the slop and stain of their appetites. But when you sit with him awhile (for that is the effect the book creates), you sense, even amid the clank of plates, the steam of dishpan, the rinds and grease of another's devouring, that he was a king enthroned, a bridegroom on his wedding night, a father holding his newborn. He was the most joyful man in the house. All because he just kept saying hello." – pgs. 130-131

Chapter 9 Reflection | Play: Stopping Just to Waste Time

" ... do you play enough? Do you risk enough and bask in God's creation enough and do some things for no reason other than that you'll be dead soon enough anyhow, so why not live a little now? If there's one god of the age that Christians especially pay homage to, it's the god of utility. As a tribe, we're deeply, devoutly utilitarian. Everything we do we seek to justify on the grounds of its usefulness. ... Each group wants to justify their view on the grounds of its usefulness. Either watching movies made us more shrewd, or it made us less holy. It increased our effectiveness or hampered it. It enhanced our influence or diminished it. It made us more useful or less so. What's missing is a theology of play. There are many things – eating ice cream, diving off cliffs, sleeping in Saturday mornings, learning birdcalls, watching movies – that can't be shoehorned into a utilitarian scheme, try as you might. We do some things just for the simple sake of doing them. ... they just might make us feel more alive, more ourselves, and that's use enough. ... (And) I want to make something very clear: though play benefits us, the minute we do it for its benefit is the minute it ceases to be play.– pgs. 138-139

" ... play is also subversive. It hints at a world beyond us. It carries a rumor of eternity, news from a kingdom where Chronos and utility are no more welcome than death and Hades and the ancient serpent. When we play, we nudge the border of forever. And this also is what happens when we keep Sabbath. Sabbath, Abraham Joshua Heschel says, is a foretaste and a heralding of eternity. Its joy is precisely this: it rehearses heaven. ... the rest we experience in Sabbath is only preliminary. It is an anticipation, as shadow is of reality, of a rest that never ends. Play and Sabbath are joined at the hip, and sometimes we rest best when we play hardest.– pgs. 141-142

Chapter 9 Action | Play Sabbath Liturgy: Game Plan

" ... the death of play spells the conquest of Chronos. When we really believe that we have no time to waste – no time simply to enjoy without excuse or guilt, without having to show anything for it – then the cult of utility is utterly ascendent. It has vanquished all rivals. Do you want to hand the god of utility that much territory? Isn't there still, stirring somewhere inside you, a streak of defiance? Isn't there at least the faint pulse of subversion? When last did you take a day just to play? – pgs. 143-144

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