Tuesday, February 4, 2014

IN THE BEGINNING. Genesis 2/1-3

"Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation." -Genesis 2:1-3

Even if the six days of creation in the comparatively very recent past are literal, I doubt God ever needs time off. Colossians 1:17 says Christ, who is the image of the otherwise invisible, holds all things together. Perhaps holding things together is different than creating things, but it seems like everything would come flying apart each Saturday if the Binding of the universe clocked out for some R&R. 
There’s been an astronomical basis for measuring time presented thus far in Genesis, either directly stated or implied. Earth’s rotation creates the measurements we call nights and days. Then there are months, which are fairly accurately measured by moon phases. Then there are seasons, the experience of them varying by our geography and each corresponding to earth’s tilt toward or away from the sun. This phenomenon gives us equinoxes and solstices. Then of course there’s the year; one full trip around the sun. 
But the seven-day week isn’t directly tied to anything astronomical. There's a few ways of cutting up lunation (an average lunar cycle) to get to something close to a week, but it breaks down. Yet, despite numerous attempts to change it (a ten day system France tried that failed, a five-then-six day system the Soviets tried after that which failed, to name just a couple from modernity), the seven day week is and has long been, nearly ubiquitous.. No one is sure why. Frankly, it may have been God’s idea. And for ancient Israel, it also seemed to be God’s idea that this week ended in rest.
The Fourth Command states that Israel was to remember the sabbath and keep it set apart. Reference is made within that command to this very passage in Genesis two. When you think of it, not working one day a week as a top ten rule was probably a decent recruitment tool for Jewish proselytizers. “Sign up now and get a holiday every week for the rest of your life.” This perhaps served as a counterbalance to circumcision, an issue that made male conversion a bit tricky I’m sure. 
Breaking the Sabbath by the way was a capital crime. That is to say, “Rest, or you will be made to do so permanently!” Strange, I admit. However, I’m drawn to the mystery of such a strange, weighty command, to Sabbath and keep that day holy, being couched between commands 1-3 and 5. The first three outline properly honoring God. The fifth details properly honoring parents. What we have then, Kosher-sandwiched between rules about your relationship with your Creator and your creators, is the command to, fifty two times a year, stop creating. 
You aren’t what you make.
You are simply made.
Respect these facts every week, for one day.
The thing about astronomical events is that we do not control them. They simply are, and will affect what they will. But the seven-day week, and our resting at the end of it, are more a matter of the mind. We control it. And the template we are given in a Universe in which most everything happens with or without our consent allows us to thumb our noses a productivity, at anxiety and the impulse for constant motion, and to blow things off in the Name of the Lord.
I’ve been told a few times the reason a person doesn’t take time off is that they love their job. This misunderstands rest. We are not told to rest if we hate our jobs. We are told to rest because we are not our jobs. Even great-paying ones. Sabbath isn’t just for slaves. It’s so that none of us get tricked into ever becoming slaves again.
I've been told numerous times that a person cannot takes days off, or have rests throughout their job, because their schedule and responsibilities are just too demanding. Tough, I get it. But perhaps this helps us understand what it had to be commanded. Perhaps this helps us see why it was a capital offense. because, as has been pointed out by better thinkers than I; when our existence is inextricably ties to the production of our careers, are we really alive anyway?
I am often told a person can't take time off because they can't sit still, that they love moving and that being still and quiet make them crazy. To them, I would like to commiserate. I am frenetic. My mind never wants to stop. But motion is all too often a way of never facing concrete reality. Our constant doing is often a sure sign that we fear facing the idea that we may be disappointments, that we're actually quite screed of our thoughts and true desires. And so we run not to doing, but away from being. These people are prime candidates for rest. I pray they don't have to run themselves empty or dead to realize it.
It all began with tohu wa bohu. Wild, waste and chaos. The very picture of “unmade”. And then God created all things, humanity toward the very end. The seventh day, the last of the week, God rests from making. But that last day was really the first day for humanity. We’d just shown up and we’re already supposed to kick our feet up. We begin not with productivity, but with sharing in God’s rest. Why? Because all our making is derivative anyway. All our imagination is merely the reorganization of what the True Creator came up with. So relax. Stop thinking the clock needs your winding. The Universe works without us. Work hard, and then stop. Work hard, and then stop. Everything else keeps going. God and people know when to stop.

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