Monday, April 23, 2012

"It pleased the Lord to touch a small feather..."

"Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy." In The Sabbath, Abraham Heschel writes that during our six days of labor we strive to control space--exploring, crafting, and controlling the material world.  On the Sabbath, however, we attend to time, learning to recognize time as eternity in disguise.

Perhaps that is why we commanded to remember the Sabbath, rather than to build a monument to it. After two decades of practice, I am fairly good at relinquishing work and worry on Sundays. Recently, however, I have felt convicted to learn how to remember the Sabbath in more intentional ways.  Too many Sundays I have let "rest" mean sleeping far too late, rushing to church, then coming home to glut myself on seven hours of Netflix. 

This spring has been better than those greedy Sundays, in part because my friends and I have had more conversations about Sabbath-keeping than usual, and so I have been more intentional with my days.

In future, I may articulate some of my principles for keeping the Sabbath holy, but for now, I will describe the Sabbath I kept yesterday.  It was quiet and bright and good.  As always, you are welcome to join me in this rest.

I began the day with the "Prayer to Welcome to Sabbath" from Common Prayer:

Lord of Creation,
create in us a new rhythm of life
composed of hours that sustain rather than stress,
of days that deliver rather than destroy,
of time that tickles rather than tackles.
Lord of Liberation,
by the rhythm of your truth, set us free
from the bondage and baggage that break us,
from the Pharaohs and fellows who fail us,
from the plans and pursuits that prey upon us.
Lord of Resurrection,
may we be raised into the rhythm of your new life,
dead to deceitful calendars,
dead to fleeting friend requests,
dead to the empty peace of our accomplishments.
To our packed-full planners, we bid, “Peace!”
To our over-caffeinated consciences, we say, “Cease!”
To our suffocating selves, Lord, grant release.
Drowning in a sea of deadlines and death chimes,
we rest in you, our lifeline.
By your ever-restful grace,
allow us to enter your Sabbath rest
as your Sabbath rest enters into us.
In the name of our Creator,
our Liberator,
our Resurrection and Life,
we pray.
 Then I went to church, where our youth led worship with such grace and wisdom. After church, Kt came over and we sat, talking about future lives (Virginia, Alabama, rural churches, backyard chickens).  She was knitting, I was writing an icon. After she left, I took up my own knitting project and watched the last two episodes of Doctor Who: Series 6.  
I love spending Sunday afternoons knitting and sewing with Kt and friends.

By this time the daylight was fading, and the house was still (Grant and Jenn were away).  Had there been enough daylight, I would have taken a walk, but lacking that, I decided to watch a recent German film on a woman who captured my imagination and affection when I was fifteen.  Vision is based on the life of Hildegarde of Bingen, a twelfth-century composer, abbess, naturalist, and mystic.  The film is beautiful, featuring many of Hildegarde's haunting musical compositions.

"It pleased the Lord to touch a small feather  - it flew aloft in wonder. And a strong wind did carry it, so that it did not sink." 
These were the final words of the film, and they have stayed in my mind all day today.  I hope that all my Sabbath pursuits, from the holy (church-going, praying) to the merely happy (Doctor Who), are shaping me into such a feather. The Sabbath should make my soul so light that it can fly on whatever good winds God sends. 

Do you have any Sabbath-keeping practices that help you remember the day and keep it holy?

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