The thread of Sabbath is woven throughout the Gospel...

The more I pause to ponder the meaning and practice of Sabbath, the deeper the discoveries I discern within the Christian scriptures. Last night, while reading the opening chapter of Slow Church (C. Christopher Smith and John Pattison, IVP Books 2014) I came across this insight at the close of a sweet Sabbath day. "In the midst of the frantic, churning, disturbed and roiling shallow waters of postmodernity, Slow Church seeks to anchor itself in the deep, still waters of a remarkably patient yet radically immanent God." 

What follows is a reminder of a long forgotten truth: ours is a God who not only rests (Brueggemann) but who is also patient. A Slow Church discernment of the character of the Creator, you see, recognizes the way Sabbath is woven throughout the fabric of Gospel.

+  Take two of the parables of Jesus that will be read this Sunday from Matthew 13 - the leavened dough and the mustard seed "both remind us that God's transformation (in our lives and world) comes slowly, working outward from the place where the change begins. In an age when instant gratification reigns supreme, the lesson of these parables is provocative and surprisingly insistent, but this seems to be the way God works in the world." 

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

While there are additional layers to the wisdom of these two parables, it is clear that they clearly speak to the slow, inner transformation of grace for those with eyes to see.

+ The same holds true for St. Paul's hymn to Christian love in I Corinthians 13 as the opening virtue is patience.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part;  but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
The authors write: "Since the earliest years of the church, many important theologians - including Tertullian and Origen - have re-framed the biblical story through the lens of the patience of God... When church fathers like Tertullian spoke of God's patience using the Latin word patientia, they had in mind something for than just waiting, the way we typically understand patience today. Their use of this word is more akin to the term "long-suffering" used by translators of the King James Version." Think of the unity of mercy/compassion and an eternal commitment to sharing grace for a way into such sacred patience. Clearly, the God who rests and abides in compassion, shares some of the divine nature with us through the Holy Spirit:
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.
The authors conclude: "The character of God thus stands in sharp contrast to the modern era's idolatrous affair with efficiency, which is driven by the conviction that the end justifies the means."
All too often Christians make false and uncritical distinctions between the God of grace and the God of judgement: the Old Testament God, they say in error, is harsh and cruel, while the New Testament God brings only forgiveness and joy. I am glad that the authors of Slow Church challenge the heresy of supercessionism and help contemporary Christians see that God's nature is the same today, tomorrow and always. Ours is a God of steadfast love, long-suffering compassion and radical grace. Reclaiming the thread of Sabbath woven through the tapestry of Christian scriptures has been a true blessing. I can't wait to read more!
credit: Viktor Vasnetsov- in Cathedral in Kiev 1885-1896]


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