The dark lingers around the rim of morning now and the earth shivers at its edges. This week saw our first hard frost and the leaves of the walnut trees in the meadow fell in great clusters as the sun melted icy crystals. Prince waits expectantly for his apple each morning. We have become friends, though Bonnie will not tolerate my conversation with him. He has taken to neighing sweetly when he sees me coming. Something of the look on his innocent face as he watches for me brings my heart such simple joy. Are we not meant to care for the creatures of God’s earth?
I’m still thinking about Sabbath, puzzling over how to enter more deeply into God’s rest. Last night, I watched this panel discussion sponsored by Regent College and Christianity Today. Professor Bruce Hindmarsh, Ann Voskamp, and Mark Buchanan discussed Freedom in the Busy: Celebrating Sabbath in a World that Never Stops. I took a lot of notes as I listened, enjoying the depth of conversation. The professor was so very scholarly and I learned much from the knowledge he shared. Ann was her usual poetic self, painting the beauty of Sabbath-keeping in language so inviting that one could practically swoon. I will be turning their words over and over in my noetic heart for days to come. But this morning it was something that Mark Buchanan spoke of that lingers.
The moderator asked Mark to speak about how, as a pastor, keeping Sabbath on Sunday is impacted. Is it ok to celebrate Sabbath on another day? As ministry leaders, Jeff and I have wrestled with this one for years. Mark referenced Eugene Peterson (swoon) from his book Leap Over A Wall. He said that he and his wife struggled with Sunday as Sabbath until he came to realize that Sabbath is a heart attitude. He pointed to 1 Samuel 21 as an illustration. In this Bible story, David is on the run from Saul and he flees to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. David and his men are hungry but the priest has nothing to give him but the consecrated bread, the holy bread. So David and his men broke the law of God by eating the bread intended only for the priest. In addition to the shew-bread, Ahimelech gave David the sword of Goliath, which was being kept there, wrapped in cloth behind the ephod.
I spent some time with this story this morning, reading into chapter 22, weeping afresh for Ahimelech and the eighty-five priests Saul had murdered for helping David, grieving for the innocent people of Nob who were killed for no good reason other than a king’s insanity. And I was reminded anew that there is powerful darkness in this world.
Buchanan said that until he changed the way he viewed his time in the pulpit on Sunday, it was difficult to take Sabbath rest on that day. He had to change his heart from thinking of it as a job to thinking of it as “handing out bread and sword.”
“Sabbath feeds us and gives us weapons,” he said.
Bread and sword. I’ve never quite thought of Sabbath that way. Beautiful.