"Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity" Discussion: Intro/Chapter 1

Posted by tom | Jun 5, 2011

“Like study or solitude or prayer, Sabbath-keeping is a spiritual practice.  Some weeks are better than others, but we continue to practice it because in it, we encounter God in life-changing ways.” (Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity. Keri Wyatt Kent. Zondervan. 2009, p.11)

Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity (Keri Wyatt Kent. Zondervan. 2009) explores what it means to live in “Sabbath simplicity” by focusing on 6 aspects of Sabbath as spiritual practice: resting, reconnecting, revising, pausing, playing, & praying. Readers learn to slow down and find joy and meaning in the midst of their hectic lives. ...

Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity. Keri Wyatt Kent. Zondervan. 2009. Cover.Last Sunday the Disciples Fellowship Group at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ began a discussion of Rest.*  Any interest in an on-line book discussion?  Maybe a Facebook group?  Let us know.  Below's the material which Theresa prepared, but first I wanted to thank Kevin for his FB Wall reminder.

By far, the best book on the Sabbath is THE SABBATH by Rabbi Heschel. Too many Christian books on the topic are formulaic "how to" guides, and the better ones I've read are derivative from Heschel. Heschel grapples with the issue of holiness and time. At times it is almost Rudolf Otto-esque in its treatment of the theological, spiritual and mystical dimensions of the Sabbath.

As I shared on my FB Wall:

The Sabbath: It's Meaning for Modern Man. Rabbi Abraham Heschel. Farrar, Straus. 1951. Cover.I likewise have found Rabbi Abraham Heschel's The Sabbath: It's Meaning for Modern Man (1951) a great encouragement. Do not fear, I have referenced Heschel's work on campus & will do such in 'the church.' In addition, in her chapter on "Playing: An Escape from Workaholism," Keri Wyatt Kent explores Rabbi Heschel's thoughts on the joy of becoming 'attuned to holiness in time' through the practice of the Sabbath. Today I introduced our Fellowship's Group's discussion by highlighting "Living in Sabbath Simplicity,' i.e., the freedom of rest and rhythm in life. Theresa & I have very much appreciated Kent's conversational writing style. Furthermore, we've witnessed a number of mothers/families (including our own) blessed by what we took away from discussing her earlier publication God's Whisper in a Mother's Chaos: Bringing Peace Home (InterVarsity Press, 2000).

An inspiration for a follow-up series? Click more for the notes on Intro/Chapter 1. If you desire the notes in PDF click here.


By Keri Wyatt Kent

Disciples Fellowship Group   Summer 2011

Introduction: Living in Sabbath Simplicity

“Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.”  --Jesus (Matt. 11:28 MSG)

[For purposes of simplicity and communication we will define Sabbath as an approximately 24 hour period during which you refrain from certain behaviors and ideally replace those behaviors with others that provide you with refreshment.]

Describe a typical Sabbath for you/your family.

What are your initial thoughts about Sabbath?  Is it something you practiced when you were younger, perhaps while living at home?  Is there a time in your life when you did practice Sabbath?  What do your Sabbaths look like now?  How would you like them to look?

“A day of peace; marked more by what we leave undone than what we do.” (p. 10)  What do you think of this description?

“Like study or solitude or prayer, Sabbath-keeping is a spiritual practice.  Some weeks are better than others, but we continue to practice it because in it, we encounter God in life-changing ways.” (p.11)  Do you place Sabbath-keeping in the same category as Bible study and prayer?

“Sabbath-keeping is more than just a practice to draw us closer to God.  It is also a command…(part) of the Ten Commandments.” (p. 11)

“My goal in Sabbath-keeping is not legalism or empty ritual or even making Sabbath a perfect day.  In it I see an opportunity to focus my energy on what Jesus says are the two most important commandments: to love god and to love others.  Although our culture often advises us to take time for ourselves, that’s not the heart of Sabbath.  While time for yourself is nice, the most meaningful Sabbath practices are focused on God and others.”  (p. 12)  What are your thoughts on this statement?  Do you agree or disagree?  Why?

6 Aspects of Sabbath that will be explored in this study:

  1. Resting
  2. Reconnecting
  3. Revising
  4. Pausing
  5. Playing
  6. Praying

Sabbath Simplicity: moving toward a sanely paced, God-focused life. 

Chapter 1:  Shaking things up: What Jesus said about Sabbath 

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”  -- Jesus (Matt. 5:17)

Each rabbi had a set of rules of what was permitted or not permitted, based on that rabbi’s interpretation of the Torah.  When you followed that rabbi, you were taking up that rabbi’s yoke.  Every once in a while a rabbi would come along who taught a new yoke, a new way of interpreting the Torah.  This was rare.  This rabbi would say things like, “You have heard it said…, but I tell you…”  Jesus offered this new yoke, which he claimed is easy.  Jesus was saying what God really means by the verses in the Torah.  His teaching encouraged people to hold to a higher standard than mere legalism but also helped them to realize that keeping the law perfectly is an impossible proposition. (pp. 16-17)

Jesus didn’t use the “you’ve heard it said, but I say” formula to teach about Sabbath, but he did find teachable moments to instruct his followers and critics about Sabbath.  He focused on aligning our hearts with our actions. (p. 18)

Jesus modeled Sabbath-keeping for us, but in a new way that shook things up.

Read Mark 1:21-34.  What two things did Jesus do on the Sabbath?  What were the people most amazed by?  (p. 20)  What did Jesus do after he left the synagogue?  

Jesus modeled Sabbath rest.  He taught us how to spend time with friends, to enjoy gifts like a good meal and friendship.  (p. 21)

In Mark 2:23-28 Jesus and his disciples walked through the fields, picking grain and eating it.   And in Mark 3:1-6 Jesus is in the synagogue again and heals a man’s withered hand.  The teachers of the law watched him closely, with disapproval.  Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”

Jesus pointed people back beyond the traditions and rules to the heart of God. (p. 23)  Jesus in essence is saying, “You’ve heard it said to keep the Sabbath holy, which you’ve done by avoiding certain tasks.  But I say to you, ‘Keep the Sabbath by engaging in relationship, by restoring people to community, to wholeness, by setting people free.’” (p. 24)

“Jesus changed the outward expression of Sabbath but did not change its inner spirit, its purpose, which is to point us toward God.” (p. 25)

Restoring people to community:  those who were unclean were excluded from the community and communal worship.  “For Jesus, Sabbath provided an opportunity to heal, to restore, to renew, to invite those who’d been left out back into the kingdom.” (p. 25)  In doing so he set them free.  Sabbath is a gift for all people, if only we would choose to receive it. (p. 26)

*Desire more? Below are the links to the whole series . . .

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