Sabbath and Salvation

I’m currently in Cleveland, Ohio on vacation with my family. My wife grew up out here and so we periodically make the trek to spend time with her family. I’m always amazed at the extended family’s relationship and the culture it has produced. Cousins, aunts, uncles, moms, dads, and grandparents get together over food, swimming, beach trips, new babies, and more food. We shed some tears, laugh beyond control, and live without demanding schedules for a week.

It is very good for my soul.

While here, I’ve been reading Norman Wirzba’s Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight. My wife and I are taking a bit of a sabbatical this summer, as we’ve been engaged in church planting for the past 4 years or so (on our own) and have been actively planting churches for the past 11 years or so in a variety of roles. (I’ll write more on it later, I’m sure.) Anyways, this week in Ohio has been our first week of resting and delighting.

One quote from Wirzba’s book has really stuck out and challenged my imagination. In it he ties together Sabbath and salvation in a way that pushes us beyond the typical post-mortem view of salvation where an escape to a spiritual heaven is the end goal. The quote struck a chord with me due its inherent embodied, incarnational nature.

I know I have tended to work without rest – to the point of extreme weariness and exhaustion. It manifests itself as competition, irritability, angst, and a complete lack of prayer. In many ways, I have been caught up in the industrial/consumeristic rhythm of life: work, work, work and, if you can, rest here and there. The fallacy at the heart of this mentality is that more and more sweat will bring more and more productive results. It stems from a dominance over the world instead of being a creature intertwined within the ecosystem of the world.

It happens all the time, and I see it in many Christian leaders, but the tendency to run ourselves into the ground is generally a lack of understanding that we are creatures. We are embodied things, existing in time and space. As such, we get tired and worn out, yet when we begin to see the manifestations of our weariness it is often too late. Damage has already been done, not only to ourselves, but our families, co-workers, and the rest of those people learning about Jesus primarily through how we actually live our lives.

In many ways, I have allowed myself to fall prey to non-Sabbath being and doing: I have not taken into account the interdependency and interconnectivity of life. I work myself to death and wonder why my children seem to drive me up a wall. I have to mow the lawn today or else I won’t have time to prep for teaching. I have to be “on mission” at my 50 hour a week job, yet I don’t know why I don’t have time for those whom I’m in a discipling community with. Because of this holistic reality of life, I can’t expect to run myself ragged without it taking a toll on all aspects of my life, not just my “ministry” or “family”, as if they were separate realms. In short, I lose the delight of life when I don’t have the rest of life. 

And so Wirzba draws our attention back to this interconnectedness and interdepedence through an understanding that salvation isn’t an escape, but rather a “deep immersion” in our world. Salvation brings a harmony between us and creation, not an escape from it. This is what the Sabbath is about: resting in the delightful created order and its pleasurable existence. What is lost from the original Sabbath is restored in salvation.

So here is Wirzba.

Christ…does not take us out of creation to save us, but rather saves us precisely by enabling us to enter more fully and more harmoniously into it, and then to find in this deep immersion the reality of God.

In what ways have you separated Sabbath and salvation? Are you weary? Are you tired? I’d love to hear.