According to Peterson, the Sabbath represents an underlying rhythm that helps people internalize a reality where God’s providential/sustaining presence, God’s creating/saving words, and God’s grace are the primary pulses. We have the chance to give our incomplete routines to God when we observe the Sabbath. When we give up or cease working, God moves to establish his covenant, establish his work, and replenish our strength for the next day. The Genesis Sabbath is understood by Peterson to be a daily practice that does not stop his day’s work. He states;

As this biblical genesis rhythm works in me, I also discover something else: when I quit my day’s work, nothing essential stops. I prepare for sleep not with a feeling of exhausted frustration because there is so much yet undone and unfinished, but with expectancy. The day is about to begin! God’s genesis words are about to be spoken again. During the hours of my sleep, how will he prepare to use my obedience, service, and speech when morning breaks? I go to sleep to get out of the way for awhile. I get into the rhythm of salvation. While we sleep, great and marvelous things, far beyond our capacities to invent or engineer, are in process—the moon marking the seasons, the lion roaring for its prey, the earthworms aerating the earth, the stars turning in their courses, the proteins repairing our muscles, our dreaming brains restoring a deeper sanity beneath the gossip and scheming of our waking hours. (48)

The command to stop doing and simply be on the Sabbath is a divine precedent that we should follow to internalize the mature self that comes from doing.

We can direct our hopes and the hopes of others toward something much bigger than our work during the Sabbath rest. The recognition that God’s will governs our pursuit of work creates a space for us and others to worship him. For that reason, Sabbath practice not only benefits us as ministers but also benefits the spiritual formation of our congregation, because through observing Sabbath we are refreshed and reformed for a new day, a new perspective, and a better strength to engage in our ministerial activity.

Peterson observed the danger of over-engaging people based on what they can do, he states; “The moment we begin to see others in terms of what they can do rather than who they are, we mutilate humanity and violate community” he continues to state that “our lives are so interconnected that we inevitably involve others in our work whether we intend it or not. Sabbath-keeping is elemental kindness. Sabbath-keeping is commanded to preserve the image of God in our neighbors so that we see them as they are, not as we need them or want them.”

Brueggemann speaking on the Sabbath as resistance against Coercion observed that families, slaves, animals, and legal immigrants are included in Deuteronomy’s description of the Sabbath’s observance Deut. 5:14. He contends, “This one day breaks the pattern of coercion; all are like you—equal worth, equal value, equal access, equal rest.”[1] All neighbors are included in these commands: “Coveting is the ultimate destruction of the neighborhood, for coveting generates mistrust and sets neighbor against neighbor.”[2] Every leader, pastor, and minister should keep in mind that they previously came under the devil’s control. That enslavement has been broken, freeing us. We should thus be considerate to our members and refrain from using our position as leverage to force them into self-serving production. Ministers, pastors, and other leaders must give their people a break if they are to pursue justice, embrace compassion, and walk humbly. Working is enjoyable, but it is also exhausting. We become less driven, less under duress, less anxious to fulfill deadlines, and more free to be than to do when we remember and observe the Sabbath.[3]

I believe that the course modules at Calvin Seminary are intended to allow students to inadvertently observe the Sabbath while they are studying. I have a good amount of reading that is required of me each week, which takes up a few hours of my many hours. It is sufficient for me to read, reflect, and do other personal things once a week. Thanksgiving weeks and reading breaks add to that. Usually, I use those occasions to keep my Sabbath.

Quote:Our work settles into the context of God’s work. Human effort is honored and respected not as a thing in itself but by its integration into the rhythms of grace and blessing” (Peterson, Working the Angels: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity, p. 69)


Martin H. Kamaidan

[1] Brueggemann, Sabbath as resistances: Saying No to the Culture of Now, 41.

[2] Ibid.  69.

[3] Brueggemann, Sabbath as resistances: Saying No to the Culture of Now, 42-43.