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  • Writer's picturePastor Liz

Sabbath: Rest + Resistance II

Last week we started a six-week focus on Sabbath. We talked about finding that balance between restrictive Sabbath and our culture of overworking and how we might begin to carve out time in our lives for a day or hours of Sabbath. For both the Christian and Jewish faith traditions a Sabbath practice is established as a part of a covenant between God and the Israelites, who had recently been freed from slavery in Egypt.

God Emancipated the Israelites not only from slavery in Egypt but from the work and economic system in Egypt. An insatiable economic system that demand endless produce, in their case bricks to build pyramids. It was an economic system that held that captive to production. A people who are overworked, tired, disconnected from themselves, each other and from their higher power do not have the capacity to rise-up. It is the perfect scenario. Through liberation and a new covenant, God invited them into an economy with a commitment to relationship rather than commodity. An economy with a day of rest at its heart. Today, we have traded an economy of outright slavery for one of equal insatiability, that of “not-enough-ism”, insufficiency, or scarcity. Both demand endless production and value commodity above all else. Our economy of insufficiency results in restlessness and anxiety. Brene Brown talk extensively about our culture of scarcity in her book Daring Greatly, where she quotes Lynn Twist,

“For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is 'I didn’t get enough sleep' The next one is 'I don't have enough time.' Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives worrying about what we don't have enough of. . . . Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we're already inadequate, already behind, already loosing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds are racing with a litany of what we didn't get, or didn't get done, that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thought and wake up to that reverie of lack."

In this culture and context, to rest, to cease production, is an act of subversive resistance, a liberation from the slavery of production and scarcity. We stay late at work, take on more projects than we have time for, over spend out budgets, seek to conform to unrealistic expectations and standards, all in an effort to prove our worthiness in a culture that places our value on the amount of money we make, the size of our house, make and model of our cars and the brand of our clothing. We become stressed out and anxious people all trying to prove to ourselves and other that we are enough. The very thought of taking a day of intentional rest amid that mindset is panic inducing. How will I ever get it all done? I’m already so behind, it’s impossible to take a day away. We have fallen into scenario where we hold ourselves captive through our own lack of worthiness.

What are some of the things that keep you from carving out a Sabbath, or taking a day off for rest? In other words, what are you excuses.

Theologian Walter Bruggerman writes in his book, Sabbath as Resistance,

“Sabbath keeping is a way of making a statement of peculiar identity amid a larger public identity, of maintaining and enacting a counter-identity that refuses mainstream identity, which itself entails anti-human practices and the worship of anti-human gods. Understood this way, Sabbath is a bodily act of testimony to alternative and resistance to pervading values and the assumptions behind those values.”

Embracing a Sabbath practice breaks the insufficiency, scarcity, anxiety cycle. The covenantal commandment between God and the Israelites, between God and us, “invites the awareness that life does not consist in frantic production and consumption that reduces everyone to threat and competitor.” In this sense, taking Sabbath is an act of resisting to fall into the trap of complacently. In Daring Greatly, Brene Brown goes on to say that, “The counter approach to living in scarcity is not about abundance. In fact, I think abundance and scarcity are two sides of the same coin. The opposite of “never enough” isn’t abundance or “more than you could ever imagine.” The opposite of sacristy is enough…” Knowing that we are enough. Wholly. Inherently. Simply enough and worthy of rest. It can be a radical notion.

What would it mean for you to embrace a worthiness with rest at its foundation? An awareness that you don’t have to earn it, it is something that is simply given, simply expected. How might we find that sense of worthiness?

It will require a great deal of intentionality to defend your worthiness and right to rest. To cultivate a Sabbath practice will require fierce protection on our part. It will require boundary keeping. Boundaries are perhaps the most important of Sabbath practice because without boundary-keeping there is no space for us to experience restoration, reconnection and rest. The old saying that “good fences make good neighbors”, better applies to Sabbath “good boundaries make for good Sabbath.”

We are all too comfortable with our excuses, the reasons that we talk ourselves out of Sabbath keeping. But what are the things we can do, the ways we can build in boundaries in our lives that allow us to fully embrace and experience a Sabbath?

Embracing a Sabbath practice takes effort. It takes great intentionality. It requires us to resist the dominate culture that places our value and worth on what we accomplish and produce. Sabbath requires that we resist the dominate narrative of scarcity and rise-up to claim our inherent worthiness. One of the ways that Sabbath is so subversive is that it can fuel us and prepare us for the work of resisting the oppressive powers in our culture. When are able to resist the systems and structures that are designed to keep us overworked, stressed and fearful we are able to resist the systems and structures that keep us complacent, silent, and oppressed. I invite us to claim a Sabbath practice not as selfish, narcissistic commercialized version of “self care”, but as a subversive act that seeks to step out of the cultural expectations that stifle and bind us all.

What do you think a Sabbath practice might bring to your life or enable you to do?

In this week ahead I want us live as if there is enough, practice it so that it may become true. See Sabbath as an invitation to live as if there is enough. Enough time to rest. Enough energy to give. Enough work done to simply be present. Inherently worthy and enough.

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