Sabbath Rest? Coda!

They say God left the best till last. I’m not talking about the humans, created as our genesis narrative would have us think on the sixth day, at the 11th hour.  Better throw something into the mix to stir it up a bit.  It’s all a bit too perfect.  Closing time never offers the finest work, a last thought after a busy week, oh yes the humans.  I know it’s a caricature, and it is all a bit Eddie Izzard.  If we look at the genesis material, there is nothing to say that what came last is best or better than the rest.  That’s just our understanding of it because, strangely enough it was written down by us, or at least our early relations perhaps in Iraq somewhere between the Tigris and the Euphrates – trying to make sense of the world they saw around them. On most calendars Sunday is the first day of the week.  Or is Sunday the last day of the week on yours?  Is Sunday what you build up to, or work from.  The Jewish Sabbath was the last day of the week.  The Jewish celebrations for Sabbath centre on the Genesis narrative of creation building up to the seventh day.  As God rested from all his work, so Jewish communities  honour it.  It is a chicken and egg question.  Which came first?  Creation narrative or Sabbath rest. I’d go with sabbath rest.  Why?  Because the early tribes who followed this particular way of life were nomadic and were closely attached to the land.  They understood the natural seasons far better than we do.  Look at the jubilee regulations.  Every seventh year there should be a sabbath for the land.  This wasn’t just thought up, this was good land husbandry.  There was also an economic jubilee.  So however it came about, the Jewish tribes followed a Sabbath at the end of the week and at the seventh year and the 70th year.  In Christianity, the first Easter was the first day of the week, the day after the Sabbath.  In effect we moved sabbath to Sunday, we’ve just added the Easter celebrations to the Jewish festival, and transferred that on top of Sunday.  However, I wonder if it is possible to recapture the essence of sabbath.  Not viewed in a strictly linear way as the genesis narrative would have us think.  But what is intended by a day of rest.  Sabbath, for me, should stand outside of time.  It is not a day but a state of mind.  Do we allow ourselves to think in terms of true sabbath at all?  Sunday can become so holy and precious that we are not able to rest for all the business of services and worship preparation, planning and looking to the future.  I want to distinguish between Sabbath and The Sabbath.  What then has The Sabbath become?  A day (for some) to twiddle thumbs waiting for the shops to open once again?  Those days are long past.  The Sabbath in that sense has been forgotten save for a few faithful travellers.  A return to those days is a wistful dream.  But what is the essence of that?  Though Sunday closing for shops, business and pubs will not return, there is something to be honoured in that desire for stillness, to see seventh day restfulness for ourselves for the land and for the economic.  I’d like to suggest that sunday ought to be the ‘day of preparation.’  In the Jewish tradition this was the sixth day of the week.  All the preparations for the sabbath were done on this day.  The meal, the house everything was prepared to observe the Sabbath.  I always wonder, as indeed did Jesus, what happened to all the farmers on the sabbath, surely they could not prepare everything for the animals in advance.  Jesus asks, who would not untie his donkey on the sabbath to allow him a drink of water.  It is not about doing nothing, but about having the right state of mind.  In order that we can carry that state of mind of sabbath with us throughout the week, in order that we can have sabbath moments in all our work and in all we do, perhaps Sunday should become for us the day of preparation.  A day not necessarily to prepare food for the week, or though for some that is what it has already become – by that I mean the shopping day!  I don’t think we ought to beat ourselves up about this.  I think we can give a new significance to Sunday without diminishing the aspect of Sabbath which is most important and without making us feel guilty for doing something on one particular day of the week when days are so full for the rest of it.  Sunday is a Coda day.  A day to reflect, but also to rise up and be engaged.  A day to take notice of all that is around us and to care about it.  A day to help us prepare to take sabbath into the rest of the week where we can we be co re-creators with the divine re-imagining, regenerating the lost beauty, faith, justice and art of creation.