From a summer of studying the concept of Sabbath, excerpts from a sermon preached July 29th, 2012.
How often do you describe your day as "a joy?" Do you consider your life to be full of delight? These aren't words we typically use to describe our hectic lives. The biblical concept of Sabbath inherently carries with it a sense of deep joy and delight. On the seventh day, God doesn't simply take a nap. In Proverbs 8, Wisdom is personified and recounts the creation days: "I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man" (Prov. 8:30-31).
Norman Wirzba, in his book Living the Sabbath, notes that God did not fully complete his creation in six days. The seventh day, the Sabbath day, his time of rest, was actually the crowning completion of creation. He refers to a medieval rabbi named Rashi who suggested that on the seventh day, God created the capacity for joy and delight. He called it menuha – which is the rest, tranquility, serenity, and peace of God. Menuha is closely related to shalom, genuine peace, or the sense that things are as they ought to be. Just as we take joy and delight in a mountain top view, a child’s play, or a lover’s beauty, God takes joy and delight in all that he has made. And the great thing about being human, being made in his image, is that we also get to see the world in this way. We are given the same capacity for joy and delight, awe, wonder, and celebration.
In a world scrambled by sin, we often – maybe even mostly – miss out on joy and delight. What we have is never good enough. Want we want never comes soon enough. Two components of Sabbath that can orient us to God’s joy and delight:
Attentiveness: To take joy in the world that God created, you have to first pay attention to it. Attentiveness has it’s eyes wide open. It wants to see everything that’s around. The spider web’s intricate design. The veins on a leaf. Wispy clouds forming a hazy ring around the moon.
Often, we are rushing through life way too quickly. We are not genuinely present. Our eyes are looking at screens. Our minds are possessed by" to-do" lists. Our hearts are worried about things out of our control. With such distractions, the Sabbath calls us to STOP . . . and be attentive. What’s around me? What has God been doing? Who is around me? How has God blessed me through them? Sabbath calls us to be attentive, so that we can take joy in what God has done.
Recognizing the Gift: Joy sees life as a gift. All the things that God has made good, joy receives them as gift. Such blessings are a gift and NOT a wage or a result of my deserving work. Yesterday we took our youngest to the zoo and rode the carousel. My wife accompanied her as I watched. Right behind them was a boy with special needs. He was about 10 years old. He was holding tight to the zebra. A smile took residence on his face and didn’t leave. You could hear his giddy laugh. And at every rotation, he saw me waving to my daughter and waved back to me. Such simple ride, such wonder and awe.
Life can be seen as burden or as gift. With the handicapped, life is often seen as burden. The cost of raising a handicapped child is great. There are medical bills. There is the disruption and hardship on family life. The divorce rate is high among parents with disabled children. There’s the reality that they will be caregivers for a lifetime.
In contrast to burden, joy sees life as a gift. The same child who’s seen as a burden could be seen as a gift from God. "This child is a gift from God, precious and loved." Those with special needs have a way of teaching us joy and delight, faith and love. Joy takes circumstances and situations, and it sees them as gift when they could be seen as burden. Is there something that you’ve been seeing only as a burden, that might really be a gift? Your job. Your parents. Your spouse. Your home. It’s gift. This is what God has given to you.
In Genesis 6:6, it says, “The LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” The God who took such joy and delight in the beauty of his creation was now sick in his heart. The creation has now become a burden. It is tainted, deranged, rebellious, ungrateful, egotistical and yet God still takes delight in its redemption.
Jesus told a story about a herd of 100 sheep. One stupid animal wandered from the rest and got tangled in the wilderness. So the shepherd abandoned the 99 to track down the one. And after bringing home the wanderer, covered with dirt, burrs, and thistles, the shepherd throws a party with his friends and neighbors. All because he got the one back. Jesus said, “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous who need no repentance.”
In God’s inexpressible love, he takes joy and delight in you. You are precious and prized. You are valuable and delightful. He made you. In Jesus, he redeemed you. We delight in his restoration of all creation, joyfully anticipating the fullness of Sabbath on a great and .