Sabbath rest


(Photo: Irene Bom)

 
To draw this month’s theme of “work” to a close, a post reflecting on work’s counterpoint: the Sabbath.

Built into the rhythm of the universe is “Sabbath rest”, a holy rest that we are invited to participate in on a weekly basis.

The primary source for this blog post is Barbara Brown Taylor’s chapter on Sabbath – “The Practice of Saying No” – from her book, An Altar in the World.

May these reflections awaken in us all a fresh appreciation and hunger for “Sabbath rest” as a way of life.

Two “therefores”

The invitation to “Sabbath rest” has two formulations in the Bible, one linked to creation and the other to the exodus out of Egypt.

“For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:11)

“Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” (Deuteronomy 5:15)

The two candles that observant Jews light at the start of their weekly Shabbat meal represent these two “therefores” – rest and freedom.

Lighting the two candles sets the tone for the rest of the day: “made in God’s image you too shall rest” and “made in God’s image you too are free”. (Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World, p. 131)

A Sabbath vision

After exploring the benefits and challenges of setting aside one whole day a week when “More God is the only thing on my list” (ibid, p. 126), Barbara Brown Taylor writes,

“… I think it is good to have a Sabbath vision, even if it seems impossible to you right now. Here is mine, which you are free to borrow while you are envisioning your own.

At least one day in every seven, pull off the road and park the car in the garage. Close the door to the toolshed and turn off the computer. Stay home not because you are sick but because you are well. Talk someone you love into being well with you. Take a nap, a walk, an hour for lunch. Test the promise that you are worth more than what you can produce – that even if you spent one whole day being good for nothing you would still be precious in God’s sight – and when you get anxious because you are convinced that this is not so, remember that your own conviction is not required. This is a commandment. Your worth has already been established, even when you are not working. The purpose of the commandment is to woo you to the same truth.” (ibid, p. 138-9)
 


 
To close, a prayer – quoted by Barbara Brown Taylor in her book – that captures some of the gift and the tension that is Sabbath, celebrated sunset to sunset on a weekly basis.

A prayer: Welcoming Sabbath

Our noisy day has now descended with the sun beyond our sight.

In the silence of our praying place we close the door upon the hectic joys and fears, the accomplishments and anguish of the week we left behind.

What was but moments ago the substance of our life has become memory; what we did must now be woven into what we are.

On this day we shall not do, but be.

We are to walk the path of our humanity, no longer ride unseeing through a world we do not touch and only vaguely sense.

No longer can we tear the world apart to make our fire.

On this day heat and warmth and light must come from deep within us.

 
from Gates of Prayer: The New Union Prayer Book (Weekends, Sabbaths, and Festivals), ed. Chaim Stern, p. 245
 

In the school of prayer with Brother Lawrence


Roof garden in inner city Rotterdam  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

While reflecting on the theme of work, I was reminded of Brother Lawrence – a role model for us (as for previous generations) of what it means to “make your life a prayer” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, The Passion Translation).

Brother Lawrence was a Carmelite monk working in a monastery kitchen in Paris in the seventeenth century. He wrote no book but his papers, together with accounts of conversations with him, were collected after his death and published. The English translation was given the title, The Practice of the Presence of God.

Here are two excerpts:

“The time of business does not differ with me from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clutter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquillity as if I were on my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.”
       from the Fourth Conversation

“But when we are faithful to keep ourselves in his holy presence, and set him always before us, this not only hinders our offending him, and doing anything that may displease him, at least willfully, but it also begets in us a holy freedom, and if I may so speak, a familiarity with God, wherewith we ask, and that successfully, the graces we stand in need of. In time, by often repeating these acts, they become habitual, and the presence of God is rendered as it were natural to us. Give him thanks, if you please, with me, for his great goodness towards me, which I can never sufficiently admire, for the many favours he has done to so miserable a sinner as I am. May all things praise him. Amen.”
       from the First Letter


Two simple prayers

Drawing inspiration from Brother Lawrence, Ann Lewin writes:

Brother Lawrence believed that it was important to relate all his life to God, work and prayer alike. …

We have to establish the habit of remembering that there is a connection between God and ourselves wherever we are …
now is the time we meet with God.

Two simple prayers are enough to carry around with us: ‘Thank God’, and ‘Lord have mercy’. These are the responses we can make to all the circumstances of our lives, for God is concerned with the painful experiences and the hard questions just as much as with the joys and delights.

from Seasons of Grace by Ann Lewin, p. 28-29


Digging deeper

The Practice of the Presence of God  (Audio version | PDF)
by Brother Lawrence

The devotional life of Brother Lawrence
article by Robert M. Johnston

Four Lessons about Faith & Work from Brother Lawrence
article by Dr. Andrew Spencer

A ministry of dirty dishes
article by Perry Engle


Benediction

(inspired by Exodus 3)

Go out into the world to join God
      in the work of love, of peace, of justice.
Take in the breath of life.
Take off your shoes.
Know that you are ever in the presence
of the Holy and Living God.
Go in peace. Amen.

— written by Joanna Harader, and posted on her Spacious Faith blog.


Other blog posts in the “In the school of prayer” series:

In the school of prayer with Angela Ashwin
In the school of prayer with Anselm
In the school of prayer with Ann Lewin
In the school of prayer with Eddie Askew
In the school of prayer with the Celtic Saints

Who do you work for?


Cooking/social event with my work colleagues  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 
This November I celebrate ten years as a Church of Scotland minister of word and sacrament. It’s a significant part of my life, but so is my work as a software developer.

I’m following in the footsteps of the apostle Paul who supported himself and his team by earning his keep as a tentmaker.

Not only did tentmaking provide an income, it also gave Paul a unique opportunity to interact with people at all levels of society: customers like the well-to-do and the military, his suppliers, other market stallholders as well as the general public. During his lunch break Paul would preach to whoever was willing to listen. Moving from city to city, marketplace to marketplace, the seeds of the gospel were sown and the church grew.
 


For reflection

In one of his letters Paul gives us a clue to his motivation when he writes, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Col 3:23-24)

How might God use us, with our gifts and connections, to serve him in the workplace? Or, to quote Nick Abraham, how do we “grace” our workplace and “represent the gospel well”?
 


Digging deeper: God’s perspective on work

Website: https://www.theologyofwork.org
Biblical reflections on work: Labor Day is …
Blog post by Nick Abraham: 5 Ways to Grace Your Workplace
 


23rd Psalm for the Workplace

The Lord is my boss, and I shall not want.

He gives me peace, when chaos is all around me.
He gently reminds me to pray
and do all things without murmuring and complaining.
He reminds me that he is my source and not my job.

He restores my sanity every day and guides my decisions,
that I might honour him in all that I do.

Even though I face absurd amounts of emails,
system crashes, unrealistic deadlines, budget cutbacks,
gossiping co-workers, discriminating supervisors,
and an aging body that doesn’t cooperate every morning,
I still will not stop…..for He is with me!
His presence, His peace, and His power will see me through.

He raises me up, even when they fail to promote me.
He claims me as His own,
even when the company threatens to let me go.
His faithfulness and love are better than any bonus check.
His retirement plan beats every 401K* there is!

And, when it’s all said and done,
I’ll be working for Him a whole lot longer…..
and for that, I BLESS HIS NAME!!!

from re-worship.blogspot.com

* 401K: U.S. retirement savings plan


From the blog || Psalm 23 in different guises
Theme: Spurred on by prayer (PRAYER SHEET)
Quiet near a little stream

The work of our hands


(Photo: Irene Bom)

 

Here is a prayer of blessing for workers of all kinds, written by Carol Penner, with a unifying theme of hands – strong hands, capable hands, practical hands, determined hands, artistic hands, loving hands, Christ-like hands.
 
This is the first post in our new series, “Work”.

 


A prayer

Bless the work of our hands, O God.

Bless the hands that work the land;
hands that move earth, plant seeds and harvest,
hands with callouses and dirty fingernails, strong hands.
 
Bless the hands that use machines;
hands that drive cars, trucks and forklifts,
hands on computer keyboards, capable hands.
 
Bless the hands that make things;
hands that manufacture and create,
working wood and metal and plastic, practical hands.
 
Bless the hands that clean;
hands that wash, mop and scrub,
hands that know what to do with soap, determined hands.
 
Bless the hands that make music and art;
hands that play instruments and hold paintbrushes,
hands that are creative tools, artistic hands.
 
Bless the hands that care for people;
hands that cook and feed, heal and nurture,
hands with a gentle touch, loving hands.
 
Bless the hands that are generous;
hands that give away money and food,
hands that are always trying to be empty, Christ-like hands.
 
Bless the tiny, baby hands.
Bless the strong adult hands.
Bless the hands that are folded in prayer.
Bless the hands that are lifted in praise.
Our hands do the work of your hands,
O God our Creator.  Amen.
 
by Carol Penner, from leadinginworship website


From the blog:
Theme: Sharing in Jesus’ ministry (PRAYER SHEET)
Theme: Do not lose heart (PRAYER SHEET)

See the Index for more links