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Sabbath: Joining God by Playing

Posted on March 25th, 2014

The Greek Fathers in the fourth century chose the word perichoerisis to describe the perfect, mutual indwelling of the Trinity. It literally means “dancing around.” I had a difficult time understanding what this had to do with me when I first studied it. But it was Jurgen Moltmann, the great German theologian, who opened up for me the notion of Sabbath as play in his book, Theology of Play. In Proverbs 8, he argued, we observe God “playing” when he made the world. “I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in humankind” (8:30-31). God informs Job that when he created the world, “the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). God is a dancing, playful God. There is a playful wastefulness built into God’s ways in that millions of seeds never germinate, leaves on trees that turn brilliant colors when no one is looking, incredible species of fish that swim deep on the ocean floor that we no one will ever see, and flowers that remain beautiful even when no one is looking. They are simply there. We were made to enjoy “playing” like our Creator – especially on Sabbath. We are invited to dance with our God who joyfully runs the universe with his love and power. Sabbath balances off our tendency to be too serious and driven about our work. Everything is not a means to an end. Play does not serve any pragmatic purpose except to keep our lives in proper perspective. Our lives are about entering the love of God found in the Trinity. Part of that involves learning to play – especially on Sabbath.

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