Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Good Sabbath...

There's "No Sabbath" - What falls into this category are those weeks and days when all margins have been consumed. It's during these seasons when life feels like a video game; everything is coming at you with increasing speed and you are simply reacting - meeting - check; project deadline - check; social event - check; pay bills online - check; get frustrated and mystified because your insurance carrier didn't receive your last online payment even though the bank withdrew it from your account - check; look at siding on the house and feel guilty - check. And so it goes. The convergence zone of social engagements, work obligations, and domestic life can squeeze the margins dry in life. And Americans, working longer hours and sleeping less than our European counterparts, are paying the price: obesity, hypertension, and various forms of addiction all testify to our malady.

The recovery of Sabbath won't begin until we receive it as both the gift and precept from God that it is. God has wired us, it seems, to walk in a rhythm of work and rest, and we violate this at cost to both our enjoyment of life and our creativity/productivity. When we see that in God's economy for our lives, there's enough time for rest, we'll begin to structure our lives so that rest is part of plan, building margins into our daily and weekly routines. This is an act of faith, perhaps for more challenging than the faith required to budget money! It's a badge of honor in our society to say, "I'm busy", so that we face both social pressure, and our own desires for fulfilled, active lives. But if we don't change things, we'll pay the price.

There's "Bad Sabbath" - Having carved some margins into our lives, the next critical questions becomes, "What do I do with these margins?" The danger is that we'll use our newfound time to either catch up on the projects that have fallen completely off the radar of our lives, or that we'll simply allow ourselves to lapse into a passive state, wasting the day away in front of the television, knowing neither community nor creativity. Another danger is that we'll exhaust ourselves with some genuinely enjoyable activities, but arrive back to Monday having known little of either the rest or cultivation of gratitude that is intended to characterize the Sabbath.

There's "Good Sabbath" - It's interesting to not that in Exodus 16 we're told that the Sabbath is for humanity, but is also called a Sabbath to the Lord. For this reason the Sabbath needs to be about using the space God has provided for restoration, worship, and celebration. One author says it this way:
“Sabbath time is time off the wheel, time when we take our hand from the plow and let God and the earth care for things, while we drink, if only for a few moments, from the fountain of rest and delight. Sabbath is more than the absence of work; it is not just a day off, when we catch up on television or errands. It is the presence of something that arises when we consecrate a period of time to listen to what is most deeply beautiful, nourishing, or true.”

We need to work at this for several reasons. Those who have developed some habits for sabbath days or sabbath moments generally have the staying power to serve, love, create, and bless others over the long haul. And this, after all, is our calling.

If you have a moment... please share your thoughts:
What are the challenges you face in developing sabbath practices?

Are there things you do to help assure that you'll find some Sabbath time?

What does "Good Sabbath" look like in your household?


At 6/6/07 19:54, Blogger Nova said...

thanks for this post, Richard. i listened to your sermon yesterday morning - as i rushed off to another overly busy day at work. i have one of those jobs that never ends (leading a social service agency), the type of which ten of me cannot do the job adequate to address all the community's needs.

i loved the idea of breathing - inhaling and exhaling. the question in my life is "where do i draw the line wherein i must say 'no' now in order to be able to say 'yes' later?" i don't know...

when one's profession (as you probably deal with consistently) is one focused on stewardship, how does one protect one's time to focus on regeneration - physically, socially, intellectually, creatively and of course, spiritually? i'm looking forward to others' answers on how they manage this.

At 7/6/07 20:40, Blogger Ryan Wink said...

I am tired of you articulating exactly what I need to work on in my life. No more than a month ago I discovered that I have no Sabbath day to rest. Going to school full time while coaching/playing a high level of Ultimate on the weekends... I literally don't have a full day off to let my body and mind rejuvenate. You are completely and frustratingly right, I am getting burned out. I feel like there is no room in my life, or our culture for that matter, to have a day of rest. And I have come to the conclusion that it is one of the most valuable and important things you can do. It's no wonder the divorce rate is so high and more and more people are feeling isolated and lonely. They have no time to allow their physiological and spiritual lives to heal. Stop preaching about what I am going through! (Actually, don't. That would be even more frustrating). Anyway, to some extent, I don't feel like it is possible in our society... at least in my life, to curb my activities for a day off. However, this attitude is dangerous because there will probably be a breaking point later down the road. But what do I cut out? I need to make money in order to go to school. I need to go to school in order to make money in the future. I guess I could stop playing Ultimate, but then I would no longer maintain an active lifestyle that creates better health. I enjoy working with kids and they are my future... so that seems difficult to part with. My problem is I want to do too much and don't know how to evaluate the importance of things, because they all seem like very important things! Maybe I should just pray for more hours in the day...

At 7/6/07 22:24, Anonymous Sierra said...

My favorite book on the subject is Mark Buchanan's The Rest of God . He talks about connecting to the peace of God on the Sabbath and about remembering God's peace and grace throughout the week.

This relishing and rejoicing is a far distance from when I grew up--unable to go anywhere on Sunday, even if we were sick.

Now, I make a special effort to pray and admire creation, to reflect, marvel, on Sunday. And, if I must work, to do it mindfully and not use that day as a catch up day. If I am with friends, who may or may not be Christians, then I make a special effort to share my relationship to God.

It's not a day off. It's a day on with God. I actively imagine myself resting in his grace. If I am really focussed then by the end of Sunday, I find myself truly refreshed.


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