Those weeks when I find myself absent from Sunday worship, as earlier this month, I seem to lose track of time. There is a disjunction between the days and my sense of where I am. There is something missing, something intangible but non-negotiable for life. Perhaps it is simply that I am so used to attending worship services on a Sunday. The patterns of a lifetime, however long or short, are difficult to pass by. I think, though, that this feeling comes from something deeper than missing mere routine. It is intimately connected to the need to stop, breathe, and give thanks to God.
As we gather together on Sundays to worship God with the community, we are shaped by the story of God’s life in the world. As we take this time together to praise, sing, read Scripture, reflect, pray we allow these practices to shape the rest of our week. How will we praise God, bring our prayer to God, hear and live the words of Scripture in the whole of our time? Rather than allowing ourselves to be captured by ‘busyness’, how will we find ways to be still even in the midst of sometimes chaotic lives? There are so very many things that seek to draw us in! Living as disciples of Jesus Christ requires attention, intentionality and sheer hard work. Our time is part of this. Philip Kenneson writes about the need for training, discipline and time as we follow after Jesus: “A person does not simply wake up one day and find she is a disciple of Jesus Christ any more than a person wakes up one day and finds she is a Marine.”
Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote a beautiful book of reflections on the Jewish Sabbath. He sees the Sabbath as marking relationship with God in time. He writes, “The seventh day is a palace in time which we build. It is made of soul, of joy, of reticence…a reminder of adjacency to eternity.” The way a person responds to the Sabbath shows their relationship to the other days. As Christians we don’t pause for a day on Saturdays to remember God’s rest in creation, but we do celebrate the first day, the day of re-creation when God raised Jesus from the dead. For us, too, the time we take to stop, breath, give thanks to God for this gracious entry into time and history makes a palace in time filled with joy.