In his book Living the Sabbath, the Canadian theologian Norman Wirzba makes the case that sabbath is not simply about rest. It is also about delight. After all, he argues, it’s not like the act of Creation tired God out such that God needed to recharge the divine batteries on the seventh day. God doesn’t get tired. The reason God rested on the seventh day, Wirzba says, is that the culmination of Creation is simply being and dwelling in the splendour of this loving action. God delights in what God has created, and our sabbath practice is called to mirror this.
For Wirzba, the trouble is that our modern society creates so many pressures that we tend not to take the time to be, to dwell, and to delight in the wonder of God and what God has created. Certainly, those pressures are present in a theological college as well, where the focus—particularly at this time of year—can always be on the next class, the next exam, the next paper, and the next task. Taking a sabbath becomes a counter-cultural action in the way it makes us pause and find delight in unexpected places.
This has all been on my mind as I prepare for my own sabbatical, a word that is rooted in the word sabbath. During this time, I hope to be able to look at some teaching I regularly do and think about how it needs to be revised and updated. I hope to read a pile of books on my shelf. I hope to make progress on writing another book of my own. But I also hope I will be able to find time for both rest and delight.
But as I have thought about the sabbath in terms of delight, I have found myself thinking most often of the college community and how much delight I find here. As I think back over this semester, I can point to many moments of sheer pleasure and delight. Singing hymns together on our opening retreat. Seeing inspired worship leadership from students and other members of our community in chapel. Impromptu discussions about theology, culture, and so much else around the lunch table. Watching connections and support networks develop between students across lines of culture, language, and so much else. Each of these have been an experience of sabbath for me. Yes, the pressures of theological study are real and there have been many challenging moments in this semester as there are in every semester. But I sense here deep wellsprings of grace and mercy that undergird this delight.
Amidst the pressures of the end of the semester and the demands of this holy season, my prayer is that you too are able to find moments of delight and sabbath rest and dwell in the joy of the one Lord who unites us all.
This message was written by Jesse Zink for this week’s Wingèd Ox, a weekly news digest distributed to the college community.