It's no secret that most of us find ourselves longing for chances to vacate our normal scenery and the bustle of our everyday activities. It is, of course, a luxury and blessing of the modern world — and definitely of our country — that many of us have expendable income and time, but the ability and desire to take a break is something most of us would say that we need on occasion.
I think there is a biblical tie-in here as well. One of the spiritual revelations during my seminary years was one professor's focus on the “eighth day.” You are familiar, I am sure with Genesis' seven-day creation narrative. God created the heavens, the earth, animals, and mankind in six days. Then on the seventh day, God rested. This Divine day of rest then became the basis for God's gift of the Sabbath. It was a law (or was it Gospel?) given to God’s people in the book of Exodus, commanding that they break from work on the seventh day of the week — traditionally Saturday for the Jewish people. This day of rest was given so the people could find peace in not working, but also peace in God's presence. For the Jewish nation just released from slavery in Egypt, this day revealed a stark contrast from their lives as slaves — they now lived their lives as a chosen people of God.
This Sabbath tradition continued through the Old Testament and was even adopted by other cultures. But in spite of this gift, God's people never found true peace. Trouble continued, wars waged, life was still not perfect. Then, in the New Testament something happens. The Gospels each build up to, and point us toward, the cross. We see the seven-day passion narrative unfold beginning with the triumphal entry, climaxing in the cross, and then, following the historic tradition, Saturday becoming a day of rest as Christ is in the tomb.
But something changes. There is another day! An eighth day becomes part of the story, and it is something new. The resurrection does not follow any historic pattern or tradition. It takes place on Sunday, and Christ ushers in a new era — a more perfect glimpse into the kingdom of God. We were not created just for one day of rest, but to live within the rest and peace of forgiveness made possible by the cross.
Living in the eight day is an experience of now and not yet.
Christ has accomplished all that is needed; we are not waiting for anything more. Because of this our hope is firm and our joy is real. At the same time we know that our lives in this will be imperfect. We are forgiven and called to be forgiving, yet our relationships will take a lot of work. We live in the knowledge of God’s power and peace, but we do not always see it working out in the world as we would like.
And so we await that which is yet to come. We long for the more perfect day and say “come quickly Lord Jesus.” We want to experience the fullness of your presence and see the greatness of your power to make all things new again – that every mouth would be fed and every need be fulfilled. Even as we work to make this a reality in this world, we anticipate the joy of the next.
As I was out fishing in Florida this past weekend, taking a much-needed sabbath, I would like to say I reflected on all of these holy and precious revelations. In fact, I just enjoyed being in the moment: the simple joy of a tug on the end of the line. But I know looking back that hours like those are a gift from a God who is responsible for something far better that is yet to come.