Dan Allender’s thought-provoking book Sabbath will not:
- Give you a list of things you can and can’t do on Sundays,
- Give you a tool to pat yourself on the back because you’re such a good Christian for not shopping or eating out on Sundays,
- Give you an easy out for keeping the fourth commandment.
What it will give you is a very nuanced, deeply thoughtful invitation to really meditate on and consider what the concept of Sabbath means at its heart and what God’s vision for it is, rather than seeing it as an unpleasantly fenced restriction or something you can brush off as an Old Testament thing.
Allender avoids easy prescriptions. This deeply bothers some reviewers, I noticed. I think sometimes we want an easy answer. Just tell me that it’s OK that I go to church on Sunday and then kind of relax and get ready for my week, all right? But Allender is not interested in that sort of thing. Instead, he asks hard questions like are you being deeply refreshed and connected and invited to delight in God through the scripture and sacraments in your church attendance on Sunday? And if not, why not, and what are you doing about it? What would it mean to set aside a day each week as a dress rehearsal for the feast and celebration and perfect community we’ll experience in Heaven? What would it look like to let go of worry and despair for one day and open yourself up to the risks of joy and really soul-soaring exploration of God’s gifts and callings for us, versus our day-to-day work that pays the bills and gets the laundry done?
These are the deeper questions of Sabbath, the ones that require us to feel uncomfortable and really devote some thought. It would be much easier to read the passages of Scripture that pertain to Sabbath keeping and then construct a checklist. That way is faster, cleaner, and doesn’t require us to get too close to God. But I really appreciate that Allender took the opportunity to delve into the deeper questions. Although I disagreed with some of his applications (not that he sets them out as prescriptive for everyone, and I think Sabbath might look different for different people, although it would have the same heart and motivation), I got so much out of the opportunity to look at concepts from a different angle than I had previously.
As I read, and then again as I took notes and digested the book further, I have to say that I got uncomfortable. Allender’s descriptions of worry and despair hit a little close to home. His description of joy and Sabbath hit worrisomely far from home. I haven’t read a book this challenging in a long time and I’m still praying about and working through a lot of it.
Because it’s a thought-provoking rather than prescriptive book, what you get out of Sabbath will be linked to what you put into it. It demands that you think as you read and that you draw your own conclusions. But for that reason, I think it’s also an important and worthwhile book, and I would highly recommend it.
If you’ve read the book, or if you do in the future, please leave a comment and let me know what you think. This book BEGS for discussion and I would love to hear your thoughts!
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