The Sabbath’s resonance

You can pluck a string on a cello and a nearby cello will sound out with the same chord. The Sabbath works this way too, Nadine Ellsworth-Moran writes.

Photo by Massimo Sartirana on Unsplash

I have often marveled that God built a day of rest into the architecture of creation. With each addition to our world, God gave us something necessary – water, sun, light, dark, animals, vegetation, community, and finally, rest. The Sabbath was not an incidental afterthought; it was an intentional part of the design, meant to be observed and known as the essential gift of living well that God desires for us. So why do we find it so difficult to honor the Sabbath? Oh, I know, there are a thousand reasons … or should I say, excuses. We were, after all, also given the tremendous honor of free will. We can choose how we spend our time. There are exceptions, of course. We must earn a living, which means we may work on a Sunday, but there is always a call to the Sabbath — ideally, in community.

I was reminded of the connection between the Sabbath and community one Sunday while standing at the back of the sanctuary in the small church where I had my first call. That day, I felt worship in a way that I had never felt it before. I had just given the benediction and walked past the congregants to wait for the end of the postlude and greet everyone. The music, although I can’t recall the piece, was lovely and soulful. Our organist had told me on more than one occasion that she plays for God, and that was evident. I placed both hands on the top of the pew, and for the first time in worship, I didn’t just hear, I felt the music — the vibrations traversing their unseen network through floor and wood to my fingertips. I was now part of the music, part of the sound.

I was now part of the music, part of the sound.

The holy had entered in, the proclamation reaching through me, and then traveling on to another. I knew if I could feel this resonance at the back of the sanctuary, surely, I was connected to all the others sitting in the pews who felt it too. We were linked by this holy vibration that began somewhere at the beginning of creation and has kept its resonance going from seeker to believer to proclaimers and receivers, all the way to the keys on an organ in a small church nestled in the middle of a neighborhood in North Carolina.

Resonance can be described as “the reinforcement or prolongation of sound by reflection from a surface or by the synchronous vibration of a neighboring object.” It is the reason why plucking the string on one cello will cause the same chord to vibrate on another nearby cello that’s not being played. I imagine the Sabbath in this way. God plucks the chord to inspire holy rest, holy renewal. As we feel this chord grow in us, and we begin to resonate this sabbath sound, and we pass this chord to the next person and the next and so on until we are all, together, sounding the same holy chord in one magnificent symphony of praise and presence.

Sabbath is connectional and embodied, and that Sunday morning I understood it in a way I never had before that morning. From that day forward, I have learned to anticipate the growing resonance of a Sabbath that begins when the dawn breaks and the vibration begins to spread and increase in holy intensity, creating a wondrously connected web of humanity that vibrates with life and love and the movement of God in our midst. In this resonance, I remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy.