Sabbath as the Provocative Center

  From the first week of our Sabbath learning journey - listen to the podcast  here .

From the first week of our Sabbath learning journey - listen to the podcast here.

In the beginning, God created a rhythm of moving and breathing and living in the world.

God moved to this rhythm and God invited humans to do the same; to be human was to move to this divine and sacred rhythm that began with rest and wonder and awe and deep and divine community.

It was out of this rhythm that the Community of God created the universe, shaped the very first humans, and then invited them into the magnificent and creative task of making the rest of the earth look like the garden paradise they were created in.

But before the humans got to work, they were reminded of this rhythm, this provocative center of a starting place - that though there was good work to be done, they paused and entered into this rhythm, this starting place, this sabbath.

Before Sabbath was a command
Before it was a law or a practice,
Before it was something to be argued about and defined
Before it was performed or abandoned            

It was simply the rhythm of reality and divinity and humanity. 

THE FIRST HOLY THING

The very first time in all of the scriptures anything is called holy, it's not God who is called holy, but God who calls this rhythm of rest to be holy. This day, this period of time, and all that's encompassed within it, is blessed and called holy by God. A holy and provocative center for nearly everything. 

THE VERY FIRST DAY AND THE REALITY OF OUR DAYS

The first full day the first humans experience is an invitation to sit back and rest in the wonder and delight of God’s creation before taking up the God-given mantle of continuing the work of creation.

Think about this first day. What would it would have been like to be a human in this world?

Contrast that with our experience of the world.

Hectic, frenetic, chaotic, busy, constant go-go-go. We live in a "never enough" reality.

Never enough time money sex possessions iPhones books records deals trips cars shoes.

It's never enough. There can never be enough. You are not enough. You can never be enough. 

A myth of scarcity enters a story of abundance and we are completely out of sync from this rhythm that undergirds everything. 

THE SCRIPTURES AND SABBATH

Sabbath doesn't start as a command - just a reality. 

It becomes a command after the Israelites are forced to work for the furtherance of Pharoah building bricks and more bricks every day. The command of Sabbath is to remind God's people that they free from the oppression of forced labor, that they follow a God of freedom and liberation, that they are invited to TRUST that

their lives are not in their own hands
their worth is not dependent on their work
the pinnacle of their existence is not earning or production or the capital they invest
but the simple and sacred beauty of their soul at rest in God’s presence.

that they are creatures who are a delight to their creator and
filled with creativity and beauty and mystery and
an invitation themselves participate in God’s creation.

Sabbath is not a command to pull them out of their rhythm but a reminder to hang on to what is most true about them, about God, about the world.

Later in the story, when Israel is not under the thumb of an oppressive empire but at risk of becoming the empire, Sabbath becomes a prophetic and provocative reminder that God's call to justice and righteousness and rest and life and flourishing is for all people in all places (Isaiah 58). Sabbath s a subversive and countercultural call to deep justice and pervasive peace for all people and all places. 

And when Jesus arrives on the scene, Sabbath has been ritualized and littered with rules. It had become a chore on the weekly to-do list - far from its intention and purpose. So in all of the gospel accounts Jesus has these encounters with cynics about sabbath practices. Jesus says he is not beholden to sabbath but actually lord over sabbath (lord = master = knows what it's all about).

And he says humans were not made for the sabbath, but the sabbath was made for humans. 

In other words, humans aren’t invited to squeeze themselves through a sabbath-shaped hole, but recognize that the rhythm of sabbath shapes us into Human-shaped humans.

Without sabbath, we are not the humans God intended us to be.

God did not create us as robots or worker bees but
as magnificent and creative creatures of delight that
the scriptures call humans and
God calls supremely good.

In the Book of Hebrews, the writer comes close to just flat out saying that Jesus is sabbath, the very rest of God - that to understand Jesus is to cease our striving and our yearning and our constant questioning of who’s in and who’s out and whether or not we measure up.

A PEOPLE OUT OF SYNC

If our first response when we’re asked how we’re doing, is “I’m busy,”
we’re out of sync with this rhythm.

If six days we labor and toil and on the seventh we wake up and stress and worry and fret about our labor and toil until we open our computers or inboxes so that we can continue labor and toil,
we’re out of sync with this rhythm.

If we think that we’ll take a break one or two weeks a year, or that we’ll stop working once we hit 65 or 68 or 70,
we’re out of sync with this rhythm.

If we think that a set of religious practices is going to earn us space near and dear to the heart of Jesus,
we’re out of sync with this rhythm that invites us to set aside our striving and our earning. 

If we try to outsource our responsibility for others by cutting a check or casting a vote,
we’re out of sync with this rhythm that draws us together as humans. 

If our brothers and sisters of color don’t feel like their lives matter,
we’re out of sync with this rhythm that reminds us what it means to be created in the image of God.

If our rest and leisure and pleasure comes at the expense of others - their humanity, their health, their dignity -
we’re way out of sync with this rhythm built into the fabric of our world. 

The world is waiting
The sacred is humming
The invitation is there.

Will you sync up with this rhythm of reality?
Will you step into this provocative center?
Will you live as a human created in God’s image?
To rest. 
To wonder.
To enjoy.
To sabbath.