On the last night of our pilgrimage to Spain in 2003, before flying out of Madrid early the next morning, a group of us took the Metro to attend a tablao, a flamenco show, the highly structured folk art from Andalusia. We listened as song, dance and the music of the guitar were blended together in the passionate rhythms of southern Spain. By nature oriental, flamenco dance differs fundamentally from other well-established European dance forms. Complex rhythmic patterns are created by a sophisticated footwork technique (with the rest of the troupe providing clicking or clapping accents), and the dancers wear special shoes or boots with dozens of nails driven into the soles and heels.
Flamenco dancing, even when a man and women dance together, is highly individualistic. One young man, dressed in black, sat on stage through two-thirds of the performance, and when he finally took his place at center stage, commanding our attention with a remarkable interpretation of anguish, and defiance, and anger, we in the audience were somewhat relieved that he had a place in the troupe.
In contrast, the Sabbath dance, one of the weekly rhythms of observance built into Christian practice, is not individualistic. It is a communal expression that includes infants and children, the newly married and the recently divorced, grandparents and teens, the disgruntled and the enthusiast, new believers and wise saints.
We enter into the rhythm of Sabbath for the sake of the whole Body (not to satisfy our individual preferences—what a surprise!), and when one of us sits out “the performance” like the young man waiting to take part in the flamenco, the whole is diminished. During this weekly holy event, enacted 52 times a year, earth is connected with heaven in some way that is different than the rest of the days. That connection can only be accomplished through this communal dance. Tragically, it is estimated that some 12 million believing Christians in the States are sitting out “the performance.”
Although observing Sabbath is more than going to church, it includes the obedient practice of showing up for “dance classes,” week after week, year after year. “Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another…” Hebrews 10:25.
One summer, in between churches, David and I (well, mostly I) sat out the Sabbath dance. Sorrow and fatigue had slowed me; I was hesitant about the missteps of disappointment, but in my heart I wanted to be passionately engaged in a local church, my shoes driven with nails so that I could pound out the melody of redemption in time with fellow believers, all of us flawed, failing, sinful, striving and neglectful, but despite our human ineptness, helping each other become formed in the image of Christ, making a whole that is more, much more than the sum of its parts, touching together—in barely explainable ways—the realities of heaven. I long deeply to be part of the communal pattern once again.
One Saturday night, I put together a Lord’s Day Eve meal; we lit the Sabbath candles, read the Vespers service together, then went to a new church on Sunday, as husband and wife, taking our small part in the “work of the people.” Hopefully, the grand Sabbath waltz, for me, was beginning again.
Other projects involving Karen Mains right now:
Getting the ordering procedures set on Web sites so readers can once again enjoy the books of Karen Burton Mains. Making Sunday Special is one that has been out of print for a decade. In it she looks at the restoration of the Old Testament pattern of Sabbath-keeping and explores joyful ways of incorporating that practice into our contemporary busy world.
Karen is also continuing to develop and expand this, her Christian blog. Additionally, she is designing a Webinar that will mentor writing wanabees. The topic of that Webinar will be Personal Memoir Writing. See www.KarenMains.com for more details.
About Making Sunday Special
In this insightful, encouraging and delightful book, bestselling author Karen Mains challenges Christians to celebrate Sunday with a Sabbath heart—to make the Lord’s Day so special that its impact launches a weekly cycle of reflection and growing anticipation. Making Sunday Special will help you and your people restore the biblical “rhythm of the sacred” and then fall in love again and again with Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath.
Making Sunday Special is available for purchase through Sunday Solutions, the Webstore of Mainstay Ministries.