By Zoe Matties – Manitoba Program Manager
I once looked a humpback whale in the eye. As I sat in the small inflatable dinghy in the Southern Antarctic Ocean, I watched as she gracefully swam towards the boat, her fins flashing white beneath the surface. I held my breath as she swam beneath the zodiac. With one flip of her tail she could overturn us, but as she came up nose first on the other side of the boat, I caught her eye. I began to wonder who was watching whom. She stayed with us for over 20 minutes, dancing and spinning in the water, spraying us with her breath. It was a holy moment.
I have had many of these “holy moments” in my life. Moments where, as the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins writes, “the world is charged with the grandeur of God.” These moments of delight and awe draw me into contemplation of the One who created it all. When we interact and connect with creation, we can experience one of the ways God calls out to us and invites us into relationship.
What does this have to do with Sabbath?
In Genesis 2 we read that on the seventh day God finished creation by resting. The hebrew word for rest is menuha, but it is better translated as joyous repose, tranquility or delight. On the seventh day God didn’t simply cease activity, but God celebrated and delighted in all that had been created. Sabbath, then, is an invitation for all creation into this celebration and delight.
The practice of Sabbath teaches us that wonder and delight can be a spiritual practice. The ability to delight helps us to connect to God and the natural world, and to be open to the stories of other people. In the Old Testament Sabbath was meant primarily as a practice that gave shape to a community — the people of God. It was meant as a day to be intentional about being present to God, to others, and to creation. The world is full of beauty and opportunities for delight, but we have to slow down long enough to pay attention.
Here are some Sabbath practices that help us pay attention to delight:
When we pull out invasive plants, when we clean up litter on the path, when we ride our bike to work, we practice Sabbath.
In our daily lives, when we bring each other meals, when we make space in our lives for co-workers, fellow students, and our spouses, roommates or other neighbours, we practise Sabbath.
When we grow a vegetable garden or a good crop in the field, when we feed the birds in winter, we practice Sabbath.
When we look in awe at the starry night sky, and when we take a walk in the woods and celebrate what we have not made, we practise Sabbath.