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Posts Tagged ‘sabbath’

In some ways a rule of life is a personal protest against the way things are. A rule of life is a statement that status quo is not the goal. It is a step toward growth in spirituality that serves as a mild rebellion against the dominant spirituality’s of culture. I like things to be as convenient as the next person, but I recognize that ease is not always progress. Perhaps we would do well to slow down and make an effort to simplify. Perhaps a rule of life ought to include ways to create space in order to allow the presence of God to be more recognizable.

I desire to be a counter to the majority, a one man resistance movement who is constantly inviting others to sign up. This will occur by an intentional slowing down. This will allow activities that help me to see process without rushing straight to conclusions. I intend to do this by practicing Sabbath and participating in activities that cannot be rushed. Therefore, my rule of life tries to slow things down and to accept that efficiency will not be my religion of choice. I brew my own tea, make my own soup, bake my own bread, and grow my own vegetables. These things take time but something becomes clear in the process. For example, as I have discovered before, “Soup making is worthwhile activity. It provides time to play, experiment, talk, listen, laugh, taste, and smell. Soup making reminds us that meal preparation is not simply the prelude to putting food into your mouth. It is a valuable part of the whole experience of eating.”

Gardening slows us down. What you plant today cannot be harvested tomorrow. It requires time in the soil. Time in the soil is not only beneficial for those of us trying to slow down, it connects us with our beginnings. “I roll up my sleeves. I breath in the smell. I reach into the earth. It gets under my nails. In my hair. It’s caked on my knees. I call it dirt. But I think about the sixth day when God first formed a human from this stuff and all I can say is ‘wow.’”

I will practice Sabbath. Sabbath is a gift for those who are tired. Sabbath is a gift that reminds us we are not in control. Sabbath reminds us we can take the day off and still wake the next day with everything we need. Sabbath reminds us that God has provided, still provides, and will continue to provide. We do not have to collect manna again on Sabbath; God has already blessed us with enough to make it through another day.

Practicing Sabbath is rebellion. Practicing Sabbath is what people of the resistance do to protest the rhythms of culture that drive us to do more, get more, and nurture the lie that we must take care of ourselves. To practice Sabbath is to promote that God is in charge around here. Silence is a mini Sabbath, and we are reminded there is a time and place for quiet and listening.

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We spend a significant amount of time devising strategies to help ourselves survive the wilderness. Perhaps that is what Exodus has in mind when we are introduced to Sabbath. A day we do not work and yet still receive. Exodus is asking “Do you think you are surviving out here on your own?” Exodus gives us Sabbath and then adds “Go ahead, take a day to rest and when you are still provided for you will know this was not by your own doing.”

Sabbath becomes increasingly important as Pharaoh increases his efforts to control us. Pharaoh and his scheduling issues offer no rest. God gives something different – Sabbath. It is counter to Pharaoh. It is a rebellious move. Sabbath is admission that we are not in control and neither is Pharaoh. Even as we rest, God continues to take care of us. This goes against any worldview that we control our own destiny.

Like Hebrews looking for manna on the seventh day, we challenge God for control. We convince ourselves for six days that we are surviving on our own. In contrast, Sabbath is a gift to remind us we cannot deliver ourselves; not from hunger, thirst, or slavery.

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The loudest voices are trying to convince us that we need something else, something more, something we do not yet have.  This is exhausting, all this chasing after things that have no real value.  We are running with a herd that wants more, uses more, eats and drinks more.  Sabbath speaks to those of us caught in this, invites us to break the cycle, and be reminded that we are not in control.  Of that, we are not even capable.  Sabbath is counter cultural – An act of rebellion.

The command to remember the Sabbath comes to us as part of the Ten Commandments in both Exodus and Deuteronomy.  In Exodus it comes in response to creation where God rested.  Sabbath is woven into the fabric of creation since the very beginning.  In Deuteronomy it comes to us in response to Passover.  A time when we did not rescue ourselves, we were not delivered by our own hand.  We are reminded in both instances that we are not in control here and do not need to be.  There is a danger of believing in the lie of self-sovereignty.

Sabbath speaks into the disorder of our lives.  We think restlessness is normal.  It is not – even God rests.  Rest is initiated by God, indeed He participates in it.  Walter Brueggemann says that “God’s sovereignty is so sure that even God can ease off daily management of creation and the world will not fall apart.”

Exodus 16 offers us a narrative commentary on Sabbath.  The people have convinced themselves that serving as slaves in Egypt is better than what God has done for them.  But God rains bread from heaven and tells them to gather the bread each morning.  On the seventh morning there is no need to gather bread.  So what do we find?  “It came about on the seventh day that some of the people went out to gather…”  The people thought they would die if they did not gather on the Sabbath.  Or they thought that their efforts would get them ahead.  Or any number of lies they were telling themselves.  But God had provided enough.

We may not be singing that we want to go back to Egypt or about lack of food in the wilderness, but we do grumble about not being satisfied with what we have.  We grumble about wanting something more, or at least something different from what we already have.  Sabbath suggests that our restlessness, our desire for more, our insecurity, and our lack of faith in the claims of God are ridiculous.  Why do we continue to think that God’s gifts will come to an end?

Sabbath is evidence of God’s reliability.  We are given a Sabbath because for six days we convince ourselves that we are the brains behind the operation.  We convince ourselves that we are surviving by our own efforts.  We are given a Sabbath because for six days we convince ourselves that we are capable of delivering ourselves from the things that enslave us.

Sovereignty is a daily battle.  When we rely on ourselves, like the Hebrews looking for manna on the seventh day, we challenge the sovereignty of God.  Sabbath gives opportunity to re-assign the energy we use to control situations.  Sabbath invites us instead to delight in God and to serve others.

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