The World

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?

Isaiah 58:3-6

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.


8 responses

  1. Thanks, David, for that very informative comment. Keeping the Sabbath is indeed a political act with manifold meanings. Down here in the Bible Belt plenty of people are still trying to enact legistlation against commerce on Sunday. The public library opens at 2; many businesses such as groceries used to open at 2. They were trying to conform to the general understanding that the Sabbath should not be violated.Of course there are much more subtle ways that it’s political, as you have pointed out in your comment.

  2. Interesting, David. I wonder how this saying about the Sabbath contrasts with some in the canonical gospels – example – “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

  3. Hiya Larry.Trouble with Sunday shopping laws is then Sabbath is no longer a declaration of independence from worldly things — but rather its using the powers of the state to legislate Chrsitian conscience (and impose it on non-Christians). Mind you — I should talk. I shop on Sundays.Crystal: I think these pasages don’t talk about the same thing. Thomas is talking about a contemplative withdrawl from wordly affairs to become more in tune with spiritual realities — and also — in my mind — declaring the worldly stuff as being of lesser worth. The Sabbath injunctions are about not taking the elgalism of Sabbath keeping to an extreme where justice and mercy are not done for fear of breaking some arcane bit of doctrine.

  4. Yeah, I think you’re right, David, about the difference.But this discussion about getting away from the mundane world to devote time to spiritual matters makes me think of Steve’s blog entry for today where he talks of Karl Rahner’s God Of My Daily Drudge. Here’s a part of it …I should like to bring my daily drudge before you, O Lord — the long hours and days crammed with everything else but you. Look at this daily drudge, my gentle God, you who are merciful to us men and women for whom daily drudge is virtually all weare. Look at my soul, which is virtually nothing but a street on which the world’s baggage-cart rolls along with its innumerable trivialities, with its gossip and fuss, with its nosiness and empty pretension. In face of you and your incorruptible truth, isn’t my soul like a market, where junk dealers from every direction come together and sell the wretched riches of this world, a market where I, and indeed the world and his wife, are spreading sheer nothings in permanent, benumbing restlessness? But how am I meant to convert this daily drudge of my neediness, how am I to convert myself to the one thing needful that you are? How am I supposed to get away from daily drudge? Isn’t it you who has pushed me into this daily drudge. When Ifirst began to realize that my true life, ordered to you, mustn’t suffocate in the daily drudge, wasn’t I already lost amid the world and within my daily drudge? Isn’t it as a human being that you have made me? And look, my God, if I did want to run away from my daily drudge, if I did want to become a Carthusian so as to have nothing else to do but remain in silent adoration before your holyface, would I then really be raised beyond the daily drudge? When I think of the hours that I spend at your altar or saying your Church’s office, then I realize that it’s not worldly business that make my days a drudge, but me — I can change even these sacred actions into hours of drudgery. It’s me who makes mydays drudgery, not the other way round. And thus I realize that if there can ever be a way for me to you, then it leads through my daily drudge. To get away to you without my daily drudge is something I could do only if, in this holy escape, I could leavemyself behind.

  5. When we learned about Rahner in school I found the dear fellow to be a big yawn. But this stuff you’ve shared has good widsom in it. Thanks.

  6. I like the way you put the “hamster cage” idea as vs. the sabbath idea. To me, it’s not whether I choose one particular day to rest from activity, but whether I have a mind-set and lifestyle that encourages mini-sabbaths and longer retreats.I guess it’s because it is so easy to get caught up in busyness and triviality that I have this need to remember God. The world shouts for my attention, Christ waits quietly. I have to turn myself from one to the other consciously.

  7. So, is the Sabbath Day one certain day that everyone observes or we pick our Sabbath? I'm lead to believe that Saturday is the truth Sabbath(7th day)and was changed sometime in history to Sunday(1st day of the week) based upon Jesus resurrection and other pagan worships.

  8. "Human beings were not made for the sake of the Sabbath; the Sabbath was made for the sake of human beings."So, so far as one day or another better serves God's purpose for you, it would follow that any day might be acceptable.There is nothing in the Bible about changing the normal day from Saturday to Sunday; you may well prefer Saturday for this or other reasons. But do you have times when God can get a word in to your busy mind?

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