More ramblings on the Sabbath...

Amazing but yet another Sabbath day has arrived. I am grateful. Given my on-going "Sabbath jag" - professionally and personally - I've been listening for, and reading and thinking about, the various ways contemporary people both understand and practice hallowing the Sabbath. And what I am learning is that our connection to Sabbath as 21st century Americans falls into these broad categories:
+ Some of us acknowledge our obsession with work and bottom lines, we lament it and even resent it, but are unwilling to do much about making changes. We complain, we find passive-aggressive ways to resist, we sometimes sleep in and skip worship because we're too damn tired to do much of anything else and we talk about cutting some things out of our lives in order to free up more time for rest. But mostly we continue to live as if no alternatives to our exhaustion really exist. For this cadre, regardless of age or faith tradition, the status quo seems to be the only reality imaginable.

+ Others among us, while recognizing the need to slow down, choose changes that actually shrink their connections to creativity. Altering or challenging our relationship to work rarely seems to be part of the equation - it simply cannot or will not be addressed - so everything else is up for grabs. We cut back on our volunteer activity, eliminate regular participation in worship or forsake any form of exercise because "something has got to give!" We feel the pressures and act to do something about them, but in the process seem to diminish our lives rather than enrich them.

Still others make a conscious decision to wrestle with ways to balance work, family life and self-care. We know that Sabbath is crucial even if we are uncertain about how to live into its blessings. And while we are just as bound to the bondage of the status quo as the other two groups, we intentionally explore new ways to feel our soul and break open our connections so that joy and hope emerge from our quest for rest.

As you might guess, while I hold all three groups close to my heart and prayer - and understand the plight of each - I find myself most attracted to and in solidarity with group number three. In my theological imagination, the Exodus story resonates here: the first group is in bondage like the slaves of Egypt who have no idea what to do except endure and suffer; the second group resembles the children of Israel wandering in the desert after liberation - they are clueless and stumbling - and keep slipping back into their old ways after God has offered an alternative. Group number three is no more holy or wise than the other two, but they are faithful to a vision that promises hope and renewal. They move towards the sacred rather than the stultifying and this makes all the difference in the world.
It is a major distinction - intentionally and consciously seeking the sacred promise of Sabbath rather than surrendering to suffering and/or stumbling in ignorance - for it creates a possibility of a new life. In an upcoming post I will share some of the practical ways people are currently practicing Sabbath in families, in congregations and in the wider world. One group, having written a modern Sabbath Manifesto, summarize their practices like this in their quest to find a measure of rest in a hectic world:

+ Avoid technology

+ Connect with loved ones

+ Nurture your health

+ Get outside

+ Avoid commerce

+ Light candles

+ Drink wine

+ Eat bread

+ Find silence

+ Give back

This is a good foundational summary of practical ways to refresh and renew. There is nothing dogmatic or overtly theological in their Manifesto, just simple options that tune our humanity to the holy so that our bodies become a living prayer. For those who want to go deeper, check out the Sabbath Manifesto @  Now it is time to take a long walk with the dog out in the woods...


ddl said…
Thank you for the list and link, RJ. I also made a part of the retreat. Great post/writing. Sad week in the news...trying to process...and simply be.
RJ said…
Here's hoping your retreat was a holy one.

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