Rest, Tranquillity, Serenity

Saturday: Genesis 2. 1-4

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and God rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.”

The Hebrew word translated here as “rest” is “sabbath”. “God finished the work that he had done, and God sabbathed on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.”

It turns out that the end of Creation—that is, the purpose of Creation is rest. Think about that for a moment. The purpose of Creation is rest. The purpose of work is rest. The purpose of “all the work that God had done” was to stop what God was doing, and do something else.

But the sabbath imagined here is not a summer afternoon lying in a hammock under a shade tree with a cool drink in your hand (though there is nothing wrong with hammocks and cool drinks). Sabbath is something different; something deeper. The medieval rabbi Rashi once said that the Creation was not finished in 6 days, but was still lacking something. What was lacking, even after the stunning appearance of humankind in the image and likeness of God “was menuha, the rest, tranquillity, serenity and peace of God…menuha suggests the sort of happiness and harmony that come from things being as they ought to be… It is this capacity for happiness and delight, rather than humanity, which sits as the crowning achievement of God’s creative work.”(2)

Happiness, delight, tranquillity, serenity—these are Sabbath. God creates happiness, delight and serenity—by looking around, noticing what has been made, delighting in it and saying, “This is very good. This is the way it should be”.

There is also, in God’s menuha expression of rest, an invitation for the whole Creation to join in the celebration. The storyteller’s imagination of the Creator is surprisingly personal here. “Like a parent frolicking with a child and in this joy and play demonstrating an abiding commitment to protect… and love into health and maturity the potential within the child”. (3)

The Creator has created a world, you see, that will do just fine, thank you very much, without constant striving—by God or by us. There is built into the created world a sufficiency that gives us permission, and in fact urges us, to sit back now and then and take it all in; to delight in the abundance and trust that things are “as they ought to be”.

And there is, in this 7th day, an invitation for us to be co-creators of sabbath with God. We live, after all, as the image and likeness of God whose greatest creation was delight, serenity and happiness. Shouldn’t we, as Jesus once said, “Be about (our) Father’s business”? (Luke 2.49) Shouldn’t we come to the end of the Creation week so full of delight that we can’t contain it? Can we, from the deep tranquility of the 7th day, contribute to the “spring of water gushing up to eternal life” (John 4.14)?

Prayer: Take us deep into tranquil time, Creator God. Shower us with your sabbath delights and through us bring serenity, goodness, completeness into this world you created and love and still sustain. Amen.