Sunday, January 4, 2009
Interview with Keri Wyatt Kent on REST: Living in Sabbath Simplicity
Today I would like to welcome Keri Wyatt Kent as she stops by on her blog tour for her newest book, REST. Keri was kind enough to answer a few questions about the Sabbath that will give you a taste of the wisdom found in the book.
1. What is Sabbath, and what is its purpose? What do you mean by Sabbath Simplicity?
Sabbath, first and foremost, is a gift from our loving God. He invites us to take a day to rest from our labor, so that we might engage in relationship with Him and with others. Its purpose is to refresh us physically and spiritually, to celebrate our freedom, to draw us close to God, and yet to remind us that we are not God. God commanded us to Sabbath, to stop. But Sabbath-keeping is also a spiritual practice or discipline. All disciplines, (like prayer, solitude, etc.) create some space for God in our lives. Just as we have a lot of latitude in other practices (we can pray any number of ways, for example), we have freedom in how we practice Sabbath. My book offers a lot of ideas, and real-life examples, of how to approach this life-giving practice. Sabbath Simplicity is a sanely-paced, God-focused life. It’s a lifestyle that includes the practice of Sabbath-keeping, but goes beyond just taking a day off. In a way, it’s living out what Jesus told us to do in Matthew 6:33: Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Sabbath Simplicity seeks God first.
2. How does practicing the Sabbath in today’s busy society differ from the ancient concept of the Sabbath? Why is it so different? Why is it still important?
The ancient Jewish Sabbath had very strict boundaries, but within those boundaries, there was freedom and relationship. The Torah and traditions prohibited what was known as melachah, work that is creative or exercises dominion over your environment. There were 39 specific tasks, such as reaping, lighting a fire, etc., that correlated to the 39 tasks needed to build the temple. Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath, gave us a new way of following the ancient law. Jesus reminded us that the law was originally meant to invite us into relationship with God. While the Bible makes it clear that we are saved by grace, and not by the law, God’s law still remains a great way to live—as long as we don’t get legalistic or think keeping certain rules will save us. It’s important for many reasons, which I cover in the book. But here’s just one key reason: it allows us to experience the unconditional love of God in a physical, tangible way. It’s one thing to say he loves us even when we are not accomplishing or performing. But if we never actually stop performing, how can we experience that unconditional love? It allows us to say yes, with our bodies and our schedules, to Jesus invitation in Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Sabbath is not so much something you “do” as a gift you receive.
3. You have a chapter in the book about how Sabbath connects Christians to the Jewish roots of their faith. Why is that important?
We live in a culture that forgets history so easily. Our faith roots are in Judaism. Christianity is “a branch grafted in” to the tree of the Jewish faith. We cannot understand the New Testament fully without the context of the Old Testament—also known as the Torah. The Sabbath is a picture of God’s grace—we don’t work, yet God provides. Jesus is our peace, our Shabbat Shalom. Plus, we are followers and disciples of Jesus. As should, we should live as he lived, practice what he practiced: prayer, solitude, Sabbath. In the book, I note: “The cure for our isolation and disconnection is not simply more relationships but deeper ones, and a deeper connection to our shared past.” Also, a pivotal ritual in our faith—communion, is based on a Jewish Sabbath meal, the Passover. Sabbath meal always includes wine and bread—again, the communion elements. Even though they have different meanings, the Sabbath meal was a foreshadowing of Christ’s sacrifice for us.
4. Didn’t Jesus set us free from the law? If so, do we even have to practice Sabbath at all? What did Jesus say about the Sabbath?
By that argument, it would be okay to kill or commit adultery, because we are free from the law. What Jesus set us free from is being saved or in right relationship with God through the law. We’re saved by grace, not by law keeping. So we won’t be saved by Sabbath-keeping, but it is still how God invites us to live. Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for people. If God makes something for you, it’s a gift. He said it was not about the rules, but relationship. It’s a spiritual practice that brings us close to God. I have a whole chapter in the book that talks about what Jesus said about Sabbath. Researching that chapter was very interesting. I noticed that Jesus often taught by saying “You’ve heard it said…but I say.” For example, He’d say, “You’ve heard it said, don’t commit adultery, but I say, if you look at a woman with lust, you’ve already committed adultery.” But He didn’t use that particular style of teaching on Sabbath. But the thing he seemed to get in trouble with the Pharisees and teachers of the law for most was breaking their Sabbath rules. I think that in the breaking of the rules, He was saying to them, “You’ve heard it said…but I say” with his actions.
He healed on Sabbath, restored relationships, taught and confronted, and defended those choices vigorously. He called us to a new understanding of Sabbath—and clearly stated that legalism is not His way.
I would love to hear your thoughts on Sabbath keeping and what you've read so far on my blog of Keri's book in prior posts, A star to discover and REST. Keri is giving away a free copy of REST to one reader who comments today. Even if you don't win I highly recommend getting a copy and beginning your new year with a heart to obey God by seeking Sabbath simplicity in your own life. I am praying rest for you all in 2009.
Rest: Living in Sabbath Simplicity is available at bookstores everywhere, and on-line. Click here to purchase it from amazon.com or christianbook.com.
Posted by Monica Kaye at 9:23 PM