Thursday, July 14, 2011

Saturday Plans

What did you do last Saturday? I got up early and spent some time reading. When they woke up, I spent some time with my family before leaving for the church. Most Saturdays, one of us (the clergy) opens up the church for the flower guild, which might sound highly inconvenient but actually serves as a good excuse to spend a few hours at the church wrapping up the previous week’s work or getting ahead for the following week. After an hour or so at the church, I went for a short-ish run (hot by then), returned to the church, wrapped up, and left for home. After a quick lunch and a shower, I went to the golf course for 18 holes (16 of agony, 2 of joy), and then I came home. Supper, baseball, and bedtime.

I don’t really think a lot about my Saturdays. They are usually fun. They usually involve a mixture of work and play—whether at the house, at the church, with family, or with friends. It’s just one of those days that happens. Some are better than others. Very few are genuinely unpleasant. Saturday is pretty much just Saturday. Why would it need to be anything more?

In today’s reading from the gospel (Mark 2:23-3:6), Jesus and his disciples take center stage on a Saturday. “One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?’” And, a little later on, “Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him.” As we all know from our childhood Sunday school classes, the sabbath was (and is) different for faithful Jews than it is for Gentile Christians. Jesus always seemed to be getting in trouble about how he observed (or didn’t observe) the sabbath. For me, Saturday is just Saturday, but, for Jesus and his contemporaries, every Saturday is a day of prescribed significance.

Usually in the bible we read about things you weren’t supposed to do on the sabbath: heal, walk, carry things, pick up your mat, pluck heads of grain, pull your donkey out of a pit, etc.. But that’s only because those are the things Jesus was doing and for which he got in trouble. Actually, sabbath observance has as much (maybe more) to do with what you are supposed to do than what you aren’t allowed to do. Honor the sabbath. Remember it. Remember that God made all of creation in six days and then rested on the seventh. Internalize through your restfulness a connection with your createdness. Reflect in your Saturday plans a little bit of what it means to be a child of God. Let your thankfulness totally consume your life for one day a week.

I think Jesus’ questions in today’s gospel lesson get to the heart of sabbath observance. “Have you never read what David did…?” And “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath…?” He’s asking not what one isn’t supposed to do but what one is supposed to do. Honestly, for me Saturday is usually just another day. It gets filled with whatever comes up. I don’t think that’s bad. I don’t think I’m supposed to restrict my movement in order to truly “rest” on the sabbath. Instead, I should be asking myself what am I really supposed to be doing in the midst of my Saturday plans? How can I honor my createdness through whatever I’m doing? How can I enjoy not just another day but enjoy the day on which God rested? The sabbath is a gift. It may not be a strict religious observance (especially if you hear the language I use on the golf course), but it is still a chance to enjoy our relationship with our heavenly father.

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