How Do We Get Our Sabbath Skills Back?
'We confuse working with living' Matthew Sleeth pg 99.
In this chapter Matthew Sleeth writes about both the importance of physical labor and of actually observing Sabbath.
In my limited experience the American Church is terrible at Sabbath. I've suggested that the church I serve observe Sabbath by not shopping on Sunday's for a month. There were many baffled looks, quizzical looks, and some open verbal skepticism as to the practicality of such a thing. (to be honest, I too am so used to thinking about sabbath as 'day to go to church' and not 'day to be at rest and refrain from producing and even being a consumer' that the very next week I went home and ordered a pizza. What a great 'lead-by-example' guy I am!
Sabbath came up again in a recent Sermon Talk-back Session on John 5 in which Jesus asks a paralyzed man, lying by the pool of Siloam if he would like to be well. after telling the man to pick up his mat and walk, (it is Sabbath) a Sabbath controversy erupts.
So we started talking about Sabbath. The discussion was a combination longing for the rest and simplicity of a real Sabbath, tail-chasing about what we could and couldn't do if we actually were to try to observe sabbath, some confusion about Saturday Sabbath and Sunday Sabbath, and some 'spiritualizing' of sabbath, (an internal practice that doesn't necessarily connect to skills or practices put to use externally.) The sharing was honest and open and real and we learned a lot but what I learned was how confused we are about sabbath as honestly and earnestly as we want to obey God.
It seems to me that we have in a few short years since Sunday Commerce laws were relaxed, we have lost the skills to observe Sabbath. We don't even know how to begin to think about it.
I think that Matthew Sleeth begins to approach the re-establishment of Sabbath skills by putting both work and sabbath together. I sometimes wonder if on some level we have a hard time conceptualizing Sabbath because we aren't quite convinced of the value of our work. Yes, we are getting a pay-check, but what are we creating?
Perhaps we would be more clear about how to do Sabbath is we were more clear about the purpose of our labor beyond getting the bills paid and the retirement fund safely nestled for the future.
Which, by the way, is seems to be suggested by Jesus own answer to those who are angry about the healing on the sabbath. Jn 5:19 the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. I hear Jesus saying, 'God, my Father is still working, creating life, and so am I.' Perhaps if we were clearer about how our vocation fit into the on-going creating and redeeming that God is still doing, we would also be clearer about how to practice sabbath. If our vocation doesn't give us a clear connection, perhaps an avocation will.
Which is what makes the Christian's engagement in Creation Care seem absolutely vital to me. As I read Genesis 2, God created us to serve and protect the rest of creation. We were made to be engaged in the rest of creation and not alienated from it as we so obviously are. I have begun learning about, preaching about and practicing creation care, not only because of the damage I see humanity doing to God's glorious creation, but also because I think the Bible tells us that unless we are engaged in caring for creation, we are not quite fully human the way God created us to be.
So what am I gonna do with all this mental wandering and pondering?
1. As a Pastor, physical labor isn't commonly demanded of me so; come spring, we are going to do some gardening in our back-yard.
2. We are going to do some gardening in the form of trash pick-up in our neighborhood.
3. I have already stopped shopping on sundays. Instead we invite friends over for dinner or gather with extended family for dinner and game night.
How do we get our Sabbath skills back?