Author and pastor Mark Buchanan tells readers why he became a Sabbath keeper rather than a Sabbath breaker --- and it wasn't for any gloriously pious reason. In fact, Buchanan writes that after working for forty straight days and feeling obsessed (driven even), he grew increasingly slothful. Yes, Buchanan was busy. He was also irritable, paranoid, bitter, self-righteous and gloomy. He slowly came to realize that Sabbath-keeping is more than simply a day off; it must morph into an "orientation --- a way of seeing and knowing." States Buchanan, "...it is both time on a calendar and a disposition of the heart." Further, learning to keep the Sabbath well must start with how people think, which, in turn, will lead to a dramatically different direction offered without apology, and invite and embrace a fresh way of living, working and seeing.
Buchanan, whose prose is always lyrical, has done a superb job at approaching this oft-worn topic from a singularly unique angle. At first glance, readers may presume that the author's topics are timeworn and tired; these assumptions could not be more erroneous. Every chapter is deliciously ripe with meaning and overflowing with delightful insights on living, working and playing in this world of demands, deadlines and soul-destroying detours. Buchanan redeems every aspect of life by offering a Sabbath-keeping perspective that provides hope, resurrection and renewal to believers who are willing to put off faulty archetypes and, through imaginative faith, walk toward a life unfettered by former societal chains.
The author even brings up liturgy --- a term (and practice) many evangelicals may be tempted to squelch --- and explains the term's original meaning, its "other-orderedness" that he shares at the close of each chapter. In so doing, he invites readers to some self-examination and then provides what he terms are "hints and prompts and invitations" to incorporate into one's own particular Sabbath-keeping dance.
Some of the subjects necessary to genuine Sabbath-keeping include understanding the blessing and curse of work from a biblically historical standpoint. Also, Buchanan details practical ways to change one's habit of thinking while learning to rest trustingly in God. There are also chapters devoted to numbering one's days aright, ceasing with legalism, removing taskmasters, taking time to simply play (or waste time), tasting the kingdom with a ready palate, listening for God (and hearing Him), pausing to pick up the puzzling pieces of life, and acclimating one's focus on eternity.
Readers will especially resonate with Buchanan's poignant and telling chapter on making a hard and fast determination to loosen the chains set in place by internal and external taskmasters. This is most clearly evidenced by their guilt-inducing, fretful, compulsive-laced voices that offer nothing more than half-truths designed to hold prisoner every Christian whose heart and mind are beginning to reach for the freedom Christ offers via Sabbath-keeping.
Buchanan hits every American reader straight on with the truth that the Sabbath is indeed an issue of trust, as believers must turn over to God "all those things --- our money, our work, our status, our reputations, our plans, our projects..." Through this letting go, men and women of faith can rediscover that their identity is rooted in something far greater than achievements and material things. It is sealed by their position as children of God, who watches over them so they can rest.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on January 31, 2006