There continues to be a surprising number of new books on the Sabbath from Christian writers. Four caught my eye recently:
Sabbath: The Gift of Rest by Lynne Baab is one of the LifeGuide small group Bible study guides from InterVarsity Press. Includes materials for eight sessions, focusing on the Genesis, Exodus and Isaiah 58 texts in the Old Testament and threads of gift, value of humanity, social justice and grace from the New Testament. Quotes virtually everyone who has written about the qualitative elements of the Sabbath, including Celeste Perrino Walker, Making Sabbath Special (Pacific Press).
Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline by Lauren Winner (Paraclete Press) is actually out this year in paperback. Somehow I missed the original hard cover edition in 2003. The author grew up Jewish and began a Christian as a young adult and the purpose of this book is to recover as much as possible of the Jewish roots of Christian faith into contemporary practice. It starts with Sabbath as the cornerstone and builds a whole life pattern. I highly recommend this project and the book!
Sabbath Presence by Kathleen Casey is from a Catholic publisher (Ave Maria Press) and the author begins with her Catholic faith, but focuses on how the Sabbath is a spiritual discipline that orders all of our days, our entire life, toward our relationship with God. The 13 chapters include scripture, meditative questions and activities that can be used in a group setting or individually.
Sabbath and Jubilee by Richard Lowery (Chalice Press) has been out since 2000, but I found it only recently. This is more theological and less focused on spirituality like the others. The author attempts to make a strong connection between the Sabbath, the "Jubilee system" also laid out in the Old Testament and 21st century social problems. Unfortunately, he allows modern, critical Bible scholarship to so dismantle the key texts that he actually weakens his case. (He cites Bacchiochi as one of the four most important scholarly books on the Sabbath.)
What is interesting to me is that all of these books entirely ignore the issue of which day of the week actually is the Sabbath. Abraham Heschel, the great Jewish theologian that they all quote, would, of course argue that a "pick any day that is convenient to you" approach undercuts the entire concept and makes the exercise meaningless; a "temple in time" is about time, not just practices. A number of Christian theologians would agree. But the publishers are to be commended for these excellent volumes despite the fact that they wish to avoid this fundamental controversy.
If you are interested, all of these can be found at www.powells.com as well as other online booksellers.