Monday, March 1, 2010

Lent, Day 13: On the Sabbath.

Today's reading: Mark 2:23-3:6

I apologize for not including a link to the scripture today; our computer is acting up (again--sigh) and I'm afraid if I try to open multiple tabs to copy and paste the link, the whole thing will freeze up on me! But hey---after this past week, I'm just glad to be here! :)

I'm not sure why, but when I decided to read and write through the Gospel of Mark, I didn't really think that I would find so many of the readings so personally and theologically challenging (and we're only barely into chapter 3!). The theologically challenging ones can be fun, but the personally challenging ones... well... "fun" is hardly the word. Today's text is one I find personally challenging--though perhaps from a very different perspective as those who were being challenged in the gospel story.

Several years ago when we were stationed in Europe, I attended a women's conference at a monastery in Germany; for a little reading during the retreat I took along the book "Receiving the Day" by Dorothy C. Bass (I'll add a link to the book later on when the computer is more trustworthy!). At the time I felt very convicted about the issue of Keeping Sabbath; "Receiving the Day," as I remember it, takes our contemporary culture to task (gently) for so easily and often disregarding the holy nature of the Sabbath day. How mindlessly we participate in pursuits that are neither restful nor God-centered, pursuits that support our retail culture (thereby requiring others to work on the Sabbath), and even "worthwhile" pursuits within the church (committee meetings, anyone?) that gouge into family time on the Sabbath.

Don't get me wrong---keeping Sabbath is not something I am good at! My soapbox, such as it is, is definitely more theoretical than prideful; I believe in Sabbath-keeping, but I know that it is a huge struggle in our culture, and it is a huge struggle for me personally.

So it's hard for me to imagine the perspective of the participants in today's reading, whose Sabbath-keeping was so detailed and regulated that they were able to act as Sabbath Police. Yes, I think the Jews, too, struggled with keeping the Sabbath (and I believe the many very detailed laws about how to keep the Sabbath holy came out of a sincere desire to follow this important commandment). But in this case, apparently the Pharisees' soapbox built of pride justified their sense of duty to make sure everyone else was keeping the Sabbath as minutely as they were.

But maybe in a way they had the same trouble we do. We're distracted from the holiness of Sabbath by the bells and whistles of our busy lives, our complicated schedules, our battling priorities; the Pharisees were distracted from the holiness of Sabbath by the bells and whistles of the law itself. In both our case and theirs, the heart's gaze is drawn away from the things of God, toward self and society. They sacrificed true Sabbath for the sake of self-righteousness. Perhaps we sacrifice true Sabbath for the sake of convenience, or even for "freedom."

God, forgive me for my frequent disregard of your Holy Day. Like the Pharisees, blinded by their own agenda, I often fail to recognize where you are at work... and even more often I fail to join you there. Continue to challenge me to keep the Sabbath holy, and in it to honor the spirit of love that led you to create it.

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