Archives for September 2008

These Three Remain

A set of Sabbath prayers frame my observance. Other things come and go – these three remain. I may ebb and flow in every other Sabbath observance, save these three prayers. They also follow the ancient practice of praying at evening, at morning, and at noon.

Sabbath evening – Book of Common Prayer, “In the evening,” p. 833 (1979)

“O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in thy mercy, grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last. Amen.”


Sabbath morning – from Into a Larger World by Howard Hovde, p. 68

“O God of all Joy, Thank you for the gift of rest and of time to play. You are kind to remind us, weekly in the Sabbath and yearly in the holidays, who we are. Give us faith that brightens life and lasts right into the Great Rest that is ever more life with You. Through Jesus Christ the Lord of all True Resting, Amen.”


Sabbath noon – from “Remember the Sabbath” by Eugene H. Peterson,, adapted from Praying with the Early Christians: A Year of Daily Prayers and Reflections on the Words of the Early Christians

“Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.”  Exodus 20:8

“Sabbath” means quit, stop, take a break. Spend the day not doing so that you become aware of God, his will, and his glory. Our work is not the most important thing. Sabbath interrupts us in the midst of unfinished work and insists that we attend for a while to God’s finished work.

How do you observe the Sabbath?”

PRAYER: Merciful, gracious, and holy God, help me to keep a good Sabbath this week: getting out of the way so that I can realize your way, stopping the frenzy of my activity so that I can see and appreciate your great work, being quiet long enough to hear your still, small voice. Amen.”

Can I Garden, Mr. Peterson?

In Steven Purcell’s 09/07/08 High Calling interview with Eugene Peterson, creator of The Message, Peterson said of Sabbath, “It isn’t just a day off. Think of practices like photography, painting, watercolor, bird watching, all these activities slow you down and make you pay attention.”

Peterson is absolutely right. But I have a question. Can I garden? I’ve been doing it anyway, well, at least weeding.

Each Sabbath I find myself weeding, probably because the Sabbath is the only day I sit on the front porch overlooking my one and only flower bed. It’s the day I stop and smell the weeds.

I think weeding is a wonderful metaphor for one of the purposes of Sabbath. I take a day to weed out the distractions that crowd my life — housework, real work, news, noise — and make space for Who matters.

Now that the weeds are no longer stealing the good soil, my flowers can breathe. I prune a bit, too, removing the dead buds that will not bloom again.  Sabbath prunes me as well, from the good intentions that didn’t last. Flower petals lay on the ground. I am old enough to have lost a few rosebuds along life’s way. Sabbath says, It’s okay. Let them be compost!

The clock strikes 5:00 p.m., and my Sabbath ends. I look at the dirt between my flowers, grateful they now have space. As do I. Just enough until next week, when I get weeded again.

God Made It Up

 “The God of Genesis not only sorted out night and day. He invented the week, a seven-day cycle without any astronomical significance, our only temporal unit that bears no relationship to the arrangement or operation of the sun, the earth, our moon, or any other heavenly sphere. God made it up.”

Michael Downing, Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Savings Time

     If God made up the week, then in my never-to-be-humble opinion, I think we can choose what day to call Sabbath. I have tried Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. I even flirted with a Tuesday, but it never took. I’ve never managed a Thursday.

     Romans 14:4 says, “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.”

     I’ve been fully convinced many times, in many ways. The important thing is that the week, this thing God made up, ends every seven days. As Veggie Tales says in Moe and the Big Exit, “Lay off the trail one day a week.”

     Amen, partner.