By Tim Dearborn, Dean of the Chapel

"By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done." Genesis 2:2-3

Click Here: Sabbath Retreat

Click Here: Reading the Sabbath

Dean of the Chapel Tim Dearborn had a national reputation as a scholar, pastor and author when he came to Seattle Pacific University in 1999. He had served as pastor of missions at Seattle's University Presbyterian Church, and was the founding director of the Seattle

Association for Theological Education and director of the Institute for Global Engagement at World Vision.

At SPU, Dearborn helps to shape the ways in which the University knits together academics and Christian faith. Among other things, he leads the Christian Faith Exploration (CFE) program, providing students with a wide variety of opportunities for worship, study of Scripture, and service to Seattle and the world.

Dearborn and his wife, SPU Assistant Professor of Theology Kerry Dearborn, have three daughters and live in Shoreline.

Tim and Kerry Dearborn join their dog, Sequoia, for a stroll in Shoreview Park.

Recovering an Ancient Approach to Time Management in Our High-Tech Era

In 21st Century America, time is our great foe. The cries, "I'm stressed out, burned out, overscheduled and overcommitted," resound around us.

We have the most sophisticated technologies in history to help us save time, manage time, make time, keep time, and avoid losing or wasting time. Yet in spite of being surrounded by labor-saving devices, we're working harder and longer than ever. We have more toys to enrich our leisure but no time to enjoy them. We have the most elaborate kitchens in the world, but use only the refrigerator and microwave, preferring to graze like animals rather than dine like families. In the Third World, our fast food restaurants -- called "American kitchens" -- are the art nouveau decorating urban landscapes.

Into this frenzied modern madness, an ancient approach to time stands out as an urgently needed, utterly refreshing alternative. For the past year at Seattle Pacific University, we've explored what it means to "keep the Sabbath," and to cultivate a "Sabbath culture" on campus.

The Sabbath is God's gift to God's people to protect us against trusting our own effort as the key to present survival and future provision. For one day out of every seven days, and one year out of every seven years, all of creation was to enjoy a sabbatical. Sabbaticals were not only for professors, but for all people, including rich and poor, slaves and free; and for all of creation, including animals and fields.

Repeatedly throughout the Scripture God commanded Israel to keep the Sabbath. Each time it was linked to a warning against idolatry, for at the heart of the Sabbath is not merely managing time, but guarding our heart and soul. God responds to the failure to keep the Sabbath with a vehemence appropriate for idolatry. Leviticus 26:34-35 warned that

Israel will experience a year in exile for every year it failed to give the land its Sabbath rest. If Israel didn't obey, God would force the sabbatical by sending Israel into captivity!

There's obviously something serious here. We are created in the image of the God who rested on the seventh day. Woven into our humanity, and into our stewardship of the earth, is the need to rest. Encouraged by President Eaton, SPU students, faculty, deans and administrators have explored many dimensions of the Sabbath that are pertinent for us today. Here are just a few:

Exposing the Illusion of Time Management

Scripture presents us with a unique theology of time. Time is like manna. God will give us enough for today, but only one day at a time.

One reason why our efforts at time management are so chronically frustrating is because time is fundamentally outside our control. We don't know the length of our life, let alone the events of the next moment. The Sabbath builds a weekly rhythm of reminder into our lives, reminding us that God is the Lord of time and we're not.

Keeping the Sabbath is similar to tithing. We give away more time than we can afford to, but in so doing, all of our time is consecrated to God's service. The Sabbath centers our trust in God, rather than in our inevitably insufficient efforts to manage time.

It is a day devoted to the worship and enjoyment of the Creator and God's Creation, rather than our struggles with our own creations.

Therefore, the Sabbath is a day to cease from work for worship and celebration.

Enjoying the Productivity of Rest

Jewish theologians believe that the creation of rest was God's last act of creativity. For, in Jewish thought, rest is not merely the absence of work -- it is the fullness of "shalom." Rest is peace, intimacy and well-being. When God "made rest," he gave Creation an immensely good gift.

Rest, menuha, is the refreshing presence of joy, harmony and contentment. Our willingness to rest reminds us who we really are. It restores our identity and worth. We are not merely laborers. We are creatures in God's image, loved and redeemed in Christ.

It's for this reason, C.S. Lewis muses, that our play is more like heaven than our work. The Sabbath rhythm confronts our idolatrous trust in our own work, just as tithing checks our idolatry of money. Both free us to be openhanded, generous and more playful. For at least one day a week we are released to delight in the goodness and wholeness of God and God's creation, rather than struggle to hold our lives together by our own effort.

Therefore, the Sabbath is a day for restoration.

Entering into Relational Rather Than Chronological Time

We are all too familiar with chronology (chronos), the time we can measure and monitor. We note the passing of time in moments and events, hastening or lamenting time's movement.

There is another kind of time talked about in the Bible, however: kairos. This is time experienced relationally, rather than sequentially. Kairos is time as an eternal moment, a divine appointment, a dynamic encounter.

It recognizes that the fruitfulness of our life is more appropriately measured by the quality of our relationships than by the amount of activities we can cram into our moments.

For six days we are often seduced into defining our worth by our works. The Sabbath reminds us that our worth is given to us by God. We belong to God, and by the Spirit of Christ we belong to one another. For Jewish families, the Sabbath is a day of feasting on good food and delighting in good relationships. Even the poorest family will scrimp and save so that the Sabbath meal will be the best of the week. Seated as guests at every Sabbath table will be strangers, aliens and those with no place to go.

Therefore, the Sabbath is a day to enjoy intimate relationships.

Leading a Rhythmic Rather Than a Balanced Life

Time management is frustrating because we try to balance what cannot be balanced. We seek simultaneously to squeeze in time to excel in our professions, our family, our church, our home décor, our recreation and our spiritual growth. Some things are inevitably dropped in this juggling frenzy, and often it's our children, our marriage, our health, our delight in prayer -- dimensions of life too dear to drop.

The Sabbath centers life. It's the emotional midpoint, rather than the beginning or end of the week. For three days we live in anticipation of the next Sabbath, and for three days we bask in delightful memories.

The secret of Sabbath time is to build into every seven days a rhythm that nourishes wholeness. We are invited to live life for one week, rather than by days or epochs. Rather than forestalling to the future this week's acts of love, prayer, play, exercise, intimacy, rest or obedience, we ensure by Sabbath time that all we need for wholeness occurs during these seven days.

Therefore, the Sabbath is a day to center our entire week.

The poet E.E. Cummings once observed, "Pity this busy monster manunkind." The Sabbath is God's gift to us, restoring our dignity and our kindness as people in whom God delights and who delight in God. By ceasing to strive, we are reminded that God can be trusted to care for us. By giving all of creation a day off, we allow the Spirit of God to restore wholeness to our hearts, our homes and our world.

The Sabbath is indeed God's gift to us, for as Jesus observed, "We were not made for the Sabbath. The Sabbath was made for us."

Please read our disclaimer. Send any questions, comments or correspondence about Response to
or call 206-281-2051.
Copyright © 2001 University Communications, Seattle Pacific University.

Seattle Pacific University
Office of University Communications
3307 Third Avenue West
Seattle, Washington 98119-1997
United States of America