Worship Teaching, August 22, 2009

Risking Sabbath: The Dangerous Experiment in Play, Passion and Peace

God’s story is one of his unending passion for his creation.  The Bible is the story of a God head-over-heels in love with his people.  And it is a story of how he foolishly continues to woo them when they reject his advances, shamelessly welcomes them back into relationship after they’ve mocked, ridiculed and cheated on him, and ridiculously sacrifices himself to pay for the mess that his people have made of their lives and of this world.
Sabbath is a day that God sets aside for us to reconnect with him and his passion.  This day is like a rose that God gives us to drink in the fragrance of his love, to be smitten with his grace and to be enticed by his presence.  So when we see the Sabbath commandment in Exodus 20, he calls us to remember his creativity.  In the Deuteronomic restatement of the commandment, he calls us to remember his deliverance and liberation.  And poetically in the Passover weekend of Jesus’ death, Sabbath is the pause that looks back towards God giving his all to save us through his son’s death and looks forward to a new life of eternal time and quality that he gives us through his son’s resurrection.  The Sabbath is God’s passionate expression of his creative and recreative activity for the ones he loves.
But Sabbath is also God’s invitation for us to express our passion.  As we have with play, adults have, over time, limited our indulgence in expressing our passion for spouses, children, friends, important causes and God.  We have learned that baring our souls to others or on behalf of others is incredibly risky.  There is the chance that the passion might be reciprocated and a moment of pure delight will follow.  But there is also a chance that the passion will be rejected, or even worse, mocked.  To expose our souls and then have them stomped upon is more than we think we can handle.  This wasn’t how we behaved when we were teens and young adults.  Passion was necessary to experience the joy and pleasure we so desperately craved.  But as we grew, we began to value things like stability, maintaining a moderate range of emotions and avoiding pain and embarassment at all costs.
God saw this happening to his people in how they approached him in their worship and their religious rituals.  In Isaiah 58, he says that people were going through the motions of expressing devotion to God, but their hearts were far from their actions.  They were only doing the acts to get God to do what they wanted. They did not care about him or his passions.  And so he told them to not expect him to shower them with all the gifts they wanted when they showed no genuine interest towards him.   Then he calls them to reacquaint themselves with his heart.  To hear it beat with a passion for the poor, the sick, the mistreated, the captive and the outsider.  He says that to express genuine love to him, his people need to carry his same passion in their hearts.  So he concludes the chapter by saying that if his people would embrace the Sabbath day as an opportunity to stop pursuing their self-centered interests and start pursuing his that they would find true joy and experience the best of God in everything.
When you think of the man or woman you truly want to be, what do you see?  My guess would be that you would see yourself as a passionate mate to your spouse, a fully-engaged parent to your children, a generous friend in time and deed, a person who relentlessly pursued a more intimate relationship with God and one who was helping to change the world.  This is who you want to be–I guarantee it.  But there are a couple obstacles to this.  One problem is that we have a week of work issues, financial issues, health issues, family issues, and traffic issues that take us off course from being a passionate person engaged in the most important things of life.  And another problem is that we have been hurt in each of these relationships when our passions haven’t been reciprocated.  So we lessen our expectations of what our relationships with our spouse, children, friends, and God can be.  And we lose hope that we can do anything to make this world better.  These two problems stifle our desire to risk passion to others and live out God’s heart passions in our lives. 
But Sabbath is an opportunity to put those issues aside for 24 hours and focus back on our passions.  It’s an opportunity to risk.  A time to get romantic with your spouse.  A time to attempt deep, heartfelt connection with your kids.  A time to invest in your friendships in a meaningful way.  A time to seek God’s voice.  And a time to give some of yourself away to others who need you.  Some Sabbath’s will end without much reciprocation in passion.  But others will be gloriously erotic days–pleasure-filled Sabbaths.  And when you get that taste of pure sweetness, your passion will start spilling over into other days of the week. 
Take the dare.  Play.  Be passionate.  Keep the Sabbath holy.
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