Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Book Review: Living the Sabbath

-
Photobucket

Continuing with our new Wednesday Book Discussions . . .
-
I picked up Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight by Norman Wirzba a few months ago anticipating the book would discuss the need for setting aside Sunday for complete rest. But instead I found the book's thesis focused on not just abstaining from work on Sunday, but rather what it looks like to live out the principle of sabbath rest throughout the entire week. Wirzba transforms the Old Testament law of setting aside a single day into a New Testament principle that should characterize our entire lives--one that often goes unnoticed in our modern church, it seems.
-
The main theme that runs throughout the book is the need to slow down--to worship in the ordinary moments, to realize our dependency on God, to see our work as worship, to take delight and pleasure in the gifts of God. As Wirzba writes, "The Sabbath asks us to notice. It compels us to reconsider and question with depth and seriousness what all our striving is ultimately for" (38). Our lives are so often characterized by this endless pursuit for more--more money, more pleasure, more knowledge, more popularity. Wirzba carefully and thoughtfully reminds us that there is another way, that this striving for earthly pleasure is not what God intended for us, as indicated by God's inclusion of Sabbath rest in the Old Testament law.
-
In part one, Wirzba discusses the need for Sabbath living and then in part two discusses the practical manifestations of living out the principle of the Sabbath. There is much to mull over throughout the book, but the one chapter that struck me more than all the rest was the one on Sabbath worship. One passage in particular from this chapter stood out to me and perhaps will give you a good example of Wirzba's ideas:
-
"We have divorced worship too much from our everyday lives and placed it in a purely spiritual realm, not realizing that in doing so we have rendered it abstract and anemic, cut off from the flows and patterns of daily life. Rather than having our worship grow seamlessly and spontaneously (more honestly?) from the activities we perform daily, we have confined it to special buildings and times that are susceptible to the fabrication and hype--the deceit of vainglorious and "empty words" (Eph. 5:6)--of the moment" (159).*
There are so many other treasures of thought-provoking wisdom in this book; I literally have several pages covered with asterisks and quite a few passages underlined. So if you're interested in learning more about how Christians should live the Sabbath in the post-Old Testament world, I encourage you to find a copy yourself. This book was not at all what I had expected it to be, but, as so often happens, I found that it what exactly what I needed to hear.
-
*Please note here that Wirzba is not advocating we all leave our churches and only worship when we feel like it; in context, he is saying that we often think worship can only happen in sanctuaries and church buildings, whereas scripture indicates that worship should be apart of our daily life.
-

3 comments:

  1. wow, that sounds like a great book!

    ReplyDelete
  2. So true! I love the quote about worship confined to a specific place and time being anemic. Almost a year ago I had to stop attending church because of a chronic illness I suffer from that made sitting through a service very painful. While I don't recommend that anyone stop attending church unless that absolutely have to, I discovered through that experience that worship is meant to be organic, spontaneous, and joyful and can take many forms... It doesn't just consist of singing a bunch of songs in church.
    Thanks for sharing this book review! Blessings,
    Kate

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very true! The books sounds very good. I will have to try it out!

    ReplyDelete