Sabbath Keeping 5

Abide in me as I abide in you (John 15:4a)

We are now getting to the crux of the situation. Sabbath is about learning to abide with God and the first part of the verse from John enjoins us to ‘abide in Christ’. But the good news for us is spelled out in the second part of the sentence – ‘as I abide in you’. What a wonderful reminder for us. You see God is ever present abiding in us, even when we are unaware of it!

Marcus Borg expresses it this way: “God is in relationship with us:

spirituality is about becoming aware of a relationship that already exists.”

And Carl Jung: “Bidden or not God is present.”

So if God is ever present, how do we often times end up feeling disconnected and far removed from the Divine presence?

Let’s think about Jacob. He has just conspired with his mother to trick his father Isaac into bestowing the blessing that rightly should be given to the first born son, Esau, to him instead. The ruse is discovered in short order creating quite a bit of family turmoil – to say the least! It is quickly decided that this would be a good time to ship Jacob off to his uncle’s place in Haran for a while – until things settle down a bit on the home front. Jacob sets off on his journey and stops to rest for the night at a certain place.

In the midst of all of this self-created turmoil necessitating his quick trip out of town, how aware do you think Jacob is of God’s presence? In fact, consciously or unconsciously Jacob may even be hoping that God isn’t present and aware of the goings on?

Well, a funny thing happens when Jacob stops and rests for the night, he has a wonderful dream of angels ascending and descending a ladder to heaven. He awakes from his dream and exclaims, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it!”

Well, duh! As revealing as Jacob’s epiphany is, God has been abiding with Jacob all along. It was Jacob’s awareness of this abiding presence that was blunted. I think it would be fair to say that Jacob was operating from a distracted state of being. It is easy to see how all of the family turmoil could blunt Jacob’s awareness of God’s presence. God hadn’t moved, but Jacob certainly had!

You see God abides every where, every when – the problem is that our awareness of God’s presence in the wheres and the whens of our lives, becomes blunted by the stuff of life itself. We face family concerns and issues. We face other multifaceted demands on our time and attention. We find our lives out of sync with the rhythms of the natural world. We are judged by what we do or who we know rather than by the simple fact that ‘we are’.

And somehow, unsurprisingly, in the midst of all of this, like Jacob, our awareness of God’s abiding presence and abiding love for us becomes blunted. We lose our connection to the source of our being, and no longer abide in the Divine presence. We begin to float along on the surface of our lives. We shift fully into our autopilot doing mode, even in our faith journey.

The Sabbath is a slice of time set aside for abiding in God’s presence. Through this practice of abiding we find that our awareness of God abiding presence and abiding love in our lives is heightened. Those obstacles that stand in the way of our experience of the Divine presence slowly fall away and the Divine order and rhythm of our lives is re-established.

And like Jacob we suddenly realize, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it!

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