Sunday, December 12, 2010


There's something about the idea of the "Sabbath" that I have never quite grasped. I know that I haven't grasped it because I've never been moved to fully observe it. Whether it be on a Saturday or a Sunday, I've resisted having a day of rest in my busy week.
Maybe this is because with the word "rest" has, for me, an immediate association with the phrase "Rest, so that you can ___." In my American consumerist mind, we rest so that we can be more productive when we're not resting. I've always felt very productive, and if I need to rest 15 minutes will do. Then I'm back on my feet. So, a whole day of this type of rest just feels unnecessary, if not gluttonous.

I recently was led in a new type of prayer called "centering prayer." When practicing centering prayer, one sits in a comfortable position (feet on ground, hands on knees, back against chair) closes their eyes and begins to focus on their breathing. After a few minutes they choose a word or phrase that they want to focus on. As they breathe in and out, they repeat this phrase in their mind. Our minds will wander, and in centering prayer you don't resist this wandering. You allow it and then patiently bring your thoughts back to your sacred phrase.

Abraham Heschel said, "The first holy thing in all creation was not a people or a place but a day. God made everything in creation and called it good, but when God rested on the seventh day, God called it holy." This time being thought of as holy makes me think that it is much more of a time of meditation than rejuvenation. Although productive energy may be created as a result of the observance of a sabbath, it is not the goal. The goal is to take that day and whenever the busy addict within us wants to wander off, to acknowledge that self and then bring it back to "rest. rest."

Perhaps this time of intentional rest is what we humans need to become centered and holy. I use the phrase "busy addict" because I think that we can be addicted to busy activity. One of my teachers, Charlie Glickman, said recently "It's hard to get enough of something that almost works." Perhaps this is where our drive for more activity stems. Maybe the Sabbath, deemed holy by God, is what would work. Without the Sabbath, our days are filled with a busy-ness that almost works, and so we pursue it incessantly, hoping for it to finally fulfill us.

Day by day we are drawn closer
to the loving heart of God.
Be in our thoughts as we pursue your שבת.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy Advent One

There is a chalk board in the Trinity House dining room with a message that changed from "Happy Birthday!" to "Happy Advent One!" yesterday. Given more board space for accuracy, it should have read something like "Happy first Sunday of Advent", but in a house full of seminary students, "advent one" is effective enough.

In a culture of instant gratification, the building anticipation of the advent season does not come naturally. With our iPhones, iPads, Kindles and iBrains, we tend to focus on what we can have now rather than on what we can eagerly expect, but must wait for. Yet, if we keep our appetite at bay and allow ourselves to feel the hunger rumblings grow, the satisfaction of the arrival of the Savior will be that much more delighted in. (This doesn't help to dispel accusations of Christian cannibalism, I know.)

In this first week, one can feel the tension of waiting begin with the singing of Advent hymns. Yesterday, in chapel, we sang "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and I was particularly struck by the words of the last verse:

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

With these words, let us be inspired with hunger and expectancy for the Peace that we long for, and that is to us promised.