I understand these sayings (or at least i think I do) better than the last set. They present an ascetic Jesus — whereas the Jesus of the gospels complains about being labeled a drunker and a consorter with prostitutes. Thomas’ Jesus — in these sayings — almost sounds more like John the Baptist.
27 Jesus said: If you fast not from the world, you will not find the kingdom; if you keep not the Sabbath as Sabbath, you will not see the Father.
This one seems to me an interesting saying in a couple of ways. First it seems to be promoting a fairly mainstream sort of spirituality. Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy (Exodus 20:8). Keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world (James 1:27).
George Fox in one of his tracts encouraged what he called the “true fast”. Fasting from wickedness and doing the right thing. He followed Isaiah in this:
Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
But the metaphor of fasting leads us to look at this as a living spiritual practice and not just a ritual done in response to authority. Fasting from the world becomes fasting from television or buying stuff or internet use or gossipy small talk at the office. It encourages us to see the Sabbath injunction in a similarly metaphorical and expansive way.
Sabbath keeping is to declare to the world there is something more important than the great hampster wheel of death — working – earning – spending. Worship then, is a political act — not by preaching a particular political agenda — but by drawing a line in the sand and saying to the world and all its demands — this far and no further. There are matters that matter — with an infinite importance. And World: you ain’t it.
How well am I at living this? After church we rush home to cram a laundry and a grocery shop into our Sunday afternoon. And I haven’t been to a Quaker meeting for worship in much longer than I care to admit.