missa gaia and sabbath resistance...

As our ensemble, choir and band shift into high gear in anticipation of this weekend's "Missa Gaia" concert - Sunday, November 22, 2015 @ 3 PM -  there is one aspect of this event that warrants a comment: Sabbath. Yes, yes, I know I've been all over Sabbath/sabbatical stuff for the past year. Yet still I find new invitations and insights about this discarded and holy act almost everywhere I look. Last night, I read these words:

Sabbath is the great equalizer, the great reminder that we do not live on this earth, but in it, and that everything we do under the warming tent of this planet's atmosphere affects all who are woven into this web with us. Just because the land and the livestock cannot hire lawyers does not mean they have not been violated... (clearly) other gods go on getting their way. Where there is money to be made, there is no rest for the land, nor for those who live on it. 

In the rural county where I live, developers bulldoze the laurels by the river where the raccoons taught their babies how to fish. An entire pine forest comes down to produce the paper for one mail-order catalog. People who have already run out of closet space work overtime to pay the interest on their average $9000 credit card debts, while economic predators send teenagers applications for their own preapproved cards in the mail. No resistance to such ravenousness will come from those who are heavily
invested in its revenue. 

The resistance will have to come from elsewhere, from those who live by a different rhythm because they worship a different god... Sabbath is the true God's gift to those who wish to rest and to be free - and who are willing to guard those same gifts for every living thing in their vicinity as well. Remember the commandment? It is not just for you. It for your children, your employees, your volunteer helpers, your hunting dogs, your plow horses, your fields and your migrant workers.

It does not matter in the least whether they believe in your God. YOU DO so they get the day off... Practicing Sabbath over and over again... gradually (helps) us resist the culture's killing rhythms of drivenness and depletion, compulsion and collapse.

Consider two of Barbara Brown Taylor's insights:  1) the resistance will have to come from elsewhere; and 2) it does not matter in the least what others believe when it comes to Sabbath rest.

+  One of the unintended consequences of an established religion in small communities is the way being official and respected has robbed us of our identity as resisters.  We are the church, god damn it, not renegade counter-culturalists! We maintain the integrity of order and strengthen both the moral and legal contours of this society. We are the elected officials, the sitting judges, the lawyers and physicians and teachers. We are the elite with a clear role to play in maintaining order. Law and order, to be precise. 

The upside of noblesse oblige has always been the commitment of the privileged to provide charity for the wounded. Public service on behalf of the less fortunate has been an historic obligation. The downside, of course, comes when the so-called best and brightest get bored and move on to new projects leaving the poor forgotten and hurting. In the 21st century, there are very few of the old timers with the money, dedication and time to actively care for the common good. They have long ago died or moved away. What remains is the legacy of their theological blindness: an inability to recognize our role as counter-cultural activists for justice and compassion.  So many of us in the mainstream have been trained and conditioned to consider ourselves a part of the movers and shakers that we chafe and rebel when charged to resist our culture's avarice and addiction to activity. This may be shifting given the polarization taking place around Syrian refugees, but our spiritual amnesia has deep roots and won't give up without a protracted battle.

+ The other is the inherent generosity explicitly anticipated by those living into the resistance of Sabbath blessings.  Nobody got it better than Stephen Colbert recently when he said, "If you want to know if somebody is Christian, just ask them to complete this sentence: Jesus said ‘I was hungry,’ and you gave me something to eat, ‘I was thirsty,’ and you gave me something to drink, ‘I was a stranger,’ and you _______" If they don't say "welcome them" they are either a terrorist or a candidate for President."  (check it out here: https://youtu.be/lkRpAK3OtqQ)

The two candles on a Jewish Sabbath table teach us that the whole point of Sabbath living is to become more like God. The first represents the initial creation story in the book of Genesis:  "In six days the Lord made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them and then He rested on the seventh; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it." All the other days of creation were called good, but the Sabbath was named holy - it is sacred - and those who learn how to rest like the Lord let themselves be re-created in God's image. Rest is how we practice letting God strengthen and renew all that is holy within our humanity.

The second candle points to the other articulation of Sabbath keeping in Deuteronomy 5: "Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the Lord your God freed you from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day." Barbara Brown Taylor writes: "Resting every seventh day, God's people remember their divine liberation - and that is what the second Sabbath candle announces: made in God's image, you too are free!" 

Sabbath is not only God's gift to those who have voices to say how tired they are; Sabbath is also God's gift to the tired fields, the tired vines, the tired vineyard, the tired land. Leviticus 25 shows divine concern for grapes, for God's sake. It promises both the tame and the wild animals in the land enough to eat, along with the hired hands who presumably have time tot take up wood-working and water aerobics during the year that the tractors stay parked in the barn. (The Jubilee Year according to tradition.)

The blessings of freedom and rest - the call to stand and speak for those without a voice and resist our perpetually consuming culture - is what Sabbath is all about. And so, we come back to this weekend's Sabbath concert: it is a way to experience and sense the promise of Sabbath in the hope that it will evoke the spirit of compassionate resistance. The dancers will share their creativity in an embodied way. The singers will mix their songs in solidarity with the songs of the timber wolf, the humpbacked whale and birds of the air. And the instrumentalists will take up the sax and cello, the guitar and drums, the organ, piano and bass and give expression to the heart of Sabbath living. To use Taylor's wisdom:  all spiritual truth must take up residence in our bodies and actions in order for them to be true.

From within our culture of consumption - a culture currently obsessed with fear-mongering in addition to possession - our small concert is a way of resistance. I hope you will join us.

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