Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Sabbath Keeping for Busy People
Somewhere in my preparation for sermon writing this Sunday I read: our standard answer to the question, ‘How are you?’ has shifted from, ‘Fine, thanks.’ to ‘Busy.’ Possibly with a shrug and an implied or explicit, ‘Well, you know,’ because we all experience it. I certainly have answered that way many times myself. Who isn’t busy who’s juggling a balance of work with family and other relationships plus additional community responsibilities and pursuits.
‘Busy’ is exactly the problem that the gift of Sabbath seeks to engage. The problem of busy is that most of what makes us busy is the race to keep up with a culture that has nothing to do with God’s economy and kin-dom (built on relationship). It has, instead, everything to do with the empire of better, more, faster. This is true even when individually our activities may be good and necessary ones. Jesus was explicit: “Sabbath is made for humans.” We should embrace this gift.
Lee Hull Moses writes in Hopes and Fear: Everyday Theology for New Parents and Other Tired, Anxious People, “The Sabbath commandment is rooted in God’s own day of rest after six busy days of creating the world: ‘and on the seventh day, God finished the work that [God] had done, and rested on the seventh day from all the work [which was] done.’ (Gen 2:2) That word finished glares at me from the page…The hard part, it seems to me, is the stopping – especially when the work isn’t done…Must I really finish all the work before I rest? ‘God,’ I think irreverently, ‘did not have a toddler at home.’”
And yet if we want our toddlers – or our teens or our children of any age – to understand the goodness of the world God created, and to live in that reality rather than one created by the constant activity of produce and consume, the rhythm of Sabbath is important. Not only important but key in recognizing the God of Creation as the God of justice for all created beings. As the people of God in the Bible let go of Sabbath keeping and turned away from it as a way of life, they turned more toward injustice. Prophets like Isaiah and Amos are not kind in their words for those who ‘profane’ Sabbath.
Do a quick search on Practicing Families for Sabbath and you’ll see many ideas about how different families incorporate this practice into their lives (eg. here, here and here). A little to my chagrin, some of them even involve staying home from church. None of them, however, involve sports practices, homework, email, errand running or laundry. What they have in common is a focus on holy rest, relationship, and a reminder that at our center, we are God’s not the world’s. It is out of this rhythm of knowing whose we are that we can re-enter busy.