Teachings

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. 

A Theological Framework for Play: Becoming Kids Again

Three weeks ago we started our summer learning journey called Play: Becoming Kids Again (listen in on the Podcast). The past few Sundays we've focused on developing a theological framework for the journey. This framework will lead us forward into the next month as we look at several postures of play. Here's an overview of where we've been:

Becoming Kids: A Critical Step (Matthew 18:1-4)

In response to the disciples' question of who's the greatest, Jesus suggests they fundamentally misunderstood what God is up to in the world. To enter God's kingdom, you must become like a little kid again. Greatness is not found in moral superiority, social status, or intellectual prowess but humility, hospitality, and the playful abandon of childlike faith. 

One commentator writes that to become like a child is to "give up our adult-mania for greatness." This requires recognizing and naming so much of our learned behavior as unhelpful and even destructive (sinful), turning from this (repenting), and instead embracing the posture of a child to enter God's kingdom (salvation). Like Jesus told Nicodemus, we must be born again and begin to approach God as a child would a parent.

God as Good Parent: An Essential Understanding

So often our relationships with our parents are complicated and difficult to navigate; too often they're painful and broken. The stories told in the Scriptures indicate this isn't a new phenomenon - there is inherent difficulty in navigating cross-generational relationships (particularly when our biologies are intertwined!). And yet the Scriptures continually bring us back to the image of God as a good parent. Not just as a loving Father but also as a loving Mother, the perfect image of a good parent - strong, gentle, wise, guiding, nurturing, and protecting.

Through the work of Jesus, God is actively creating a new family - inviting each of us to bring our own experiences with our parents to the feet of the Good Parent who desires to give good gifts. This invitation to see God as Good Parent transforms our approach to prayer and the way we relate to the God who invites our full stories into deep and abiding relationship.

The Revelation of God's Kids: Creation's Breathless Anticipation (Romans 8:14-21)

In Matthew's Gospel, when Jesus is baptized God's voice from heaven proclaims "this is my beloved son and I'm pleased with him!" This affirmation of Jesus' identity shapes his vocation in the world; the very next story is one where Jesus is tempted in the wilderness for 40 days. Clarity on his identity as God's beloved leads to faithfulness in his vocation as Jesus follows God in the midst of temptation and trial. 

So Paul writes that our identity as God's beloved kids is made possible through the work of Jesus which gives us access to life in the Spirit (which the Scriptures describe as the very breath of God). While we struggle with our inclinations toward brokenness and captivity (Paul talks about this as sin or our fleshly nature), God's Spirit continually invites us to embrace our identity as God's kids because our vocation (to enjoy, explore and grow in the world God's gifted to us) depends on it! Paul even writes that all of creation itself waits with breathless anticipation for the revelation of God's Kids (Romans 8:21). The world around us is waiting for us to wake up to the Life God's invited us into. The world around us is waiting for us to play!

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What do you think? Questions? Thoughts? Pushbacks? 

How does this support or disrupt your understanding of what Jesus invites us into?

The Instant Between (A Poem About Falling)

The Instant Between by Krissy Kludt 
Originally posted here.

I.

I cling to the rock
gripping with all my strength
the tiny holds – cracks and ledges just
wide enough for a finger tip
Aware
only of the rock
and the air
behind, above, below.
Time passes – moments,
or eons, perhaps –
and then there is nothing but air rushing
by my falling body.
Silence.
Heavily weightless, nothing moves but the threads
of my hair, winding and unwinding around
one another in the wind,
a graceful dance.
Splash!
I plunge down deep, feet first
into the warm green water,
silence broken by the cavalcade of bubbles
babbling about me.
Suspended in the instant between
moving down and moving up
I taste the salt, feel it
kiss my lips, sting my eyes.
Then, in a rush, I surge to the surface
and suddenly it is sun, not water, that kisses my face.
I smile
and float,
held by the water, warmed by the sun
on the surface of a vast ocean.

II.

I wake in darkness.
I smell the rich, damp smell of earth
so close to my nose I can hardly breathe.
I can’t move enough to open my eyes.
I hear footsteps
muffled just enough
that I cannot tell if they are distant
or just above my head.
A moment passes –
or eons, maybe –
and I can feel a new warmth
stroking my hair.
I am suddenly aware of my arms
and the power to move them.
I push upward
feeling the damp, rich soil
move through my fingertips.
One by one, my ten fingers reach the surface –
there is no hurry here.
And then I discover my legs –
a slow flexing, a memory of movement –
I have done this before.
My legs push down
toes digging deeper into the soil
surrendering to its rich, fragrant darkness.
Time passes
in the in between
and then gradually
or suddenly –
which, I truly cannot say –
I feel the sunlight on my face:
a second awakening.
I blink the soil from my eyes
too accustomed to darkness
to take in all that light.

III.

I cling to the rock.
Or the ladder, rather,
there so long the rock has grown around it.
The waves batter my back
again
and again.
For many moments I can’t breathe
I cough the salt from my lungs,
blink it from my eyes –
the ocean has eclipsed all possibility of tears.
I brace myself for another wave –
just time enough to remember how to breathe
and adjust my grip on the cold, ridged metal
between each onslaught.
How long am I here?  I cannot say.
Time passes.
And then someone is behind me.
He is familiar, yet I’m not certain I
have seen him before.
He wraps his strength around me,
clinging to the ladder for me
pressing my body to safety
holding it with his own.
“I will hold you to this rock,” he whispers,
and in that moment I know his voice.
Time passes.  Moments.  Eons.
Gently, he pulls me from the ladder on the rock.
We float backward
He holds me in the swell
as my hands remember how to relax their grip.
“It’s okay,” he says, and I look around.
As he fades into the ocean,
the thought comes to me:
I have been here before.

The Lent Project Week 3: Digital Detox Media Fast

20150218_the_lent_project_banner What does the “life to the full” that Jesus invites us into look like? How do we find it? And what if the comforts, securities, and pleasures surrounding us might actually distract us that life?

We’ll be asking these questions throughout Lent and, each week, we’ll experiment together with a specific practice of denial and fasting to help us stand in solidarity with the Majority World and seek the life of abundance Jesus promised. Each week of Lent will involve stories of practice, hearing the words of Jesus, and invitations into a shared week-long experiment.

Week 3: Digital Detox Media Fast (full schedule here)

We spend 35.2 billion hours on Facebook and Youtube each year. The equivalent of 9 full DVDs worth of media content are received by each of us each day. We see hundreds and thousands of images and ads on a daily basis.

Each day these messages are forming our brains, hearts, and lives. We're shaped by what we see.

During this week, we invite you to:

(1) Turn off all media (computers, tvs, tablets, phones, etc.) each day from 8pm-8am. (2) Instead, tune in to silence, rest, and community. (3) Catalog your journey using #TheLentProject hashtag.

The Lent Project Week 2: Essentials Only

What does the "life to the full" that Jesus invites us into look like? How do we find it? And what if the comforts, securities, and pleasures surrounding us might actually distract us that life? 20150218_the_lent_project_banner

We'll be asking these questions throughout Lent and, each week, we'll experiment together with a specific practice of denial and fasting to help us stand in solidarity with the Majority World and seek the life of abundance Jesus promised. Each week of Lent will involve stories of practice, hearing the words of Jesus, and invitations into a shared week-long experiment.

Week 2: Essentials Only (full schedule here)

Over a million people in the United States, and nearly half of the world's population lives on less than $2 per day per person. This reality forces many across the globe to exist only on absolute essentials.

What if we framed our decisions and habits for one week around this guiding question: is this [purchase, habit, outing, etc.] essential for me?

During this week, we invite you to ask that question as you:

(1) Reduce your spending to the essentials: bills, toiletries, and three simple meals per day (prepared at home, pot-luck shared tables with others, etc.).

(2) Reduce your social activities and entertainment to options that are free: take walks, play at the park, etc.

(3) Calculate the money saved and join Open Door's Kiva Team and finance micro-loans to sustainably assist others in the US and around the world who are caring for their families, seeking education, starting a small business, etc.

(4) Catalog your journey using #TheLentProject hashtag.

The Lent Project Week 1: The Extras Purge

What does the "life to the full" that Jesus invites us into look like? How do we find it? And what if the comforts, securities, and pleasures surrounding us might actually distract us that life? 20150218_the_lent_project_banner

We'll be asking these questions throughout Lent and, each week, we'll experiment together with a specific practice of denial and fasting to help us stand in solidarity with the Majority World and seek the life of abundance Jesus promised. Each week of Lent will involve stories of practice, hearing the words of Jesus, and invitations into a shared week-long experiment.

Week 1: The Extras Purge

During this week, we invite you to:

(1) Take an inventory of all of your belongings.

How many extra coats, shoes, appliances, electronics, shirts, pants, dishes & pans, etc. do you have? Are there areas you have excess? Are there areas you have excess excess? Are there ways you feel possessed by your possessions?

(2) In areas of excess (and excess excess!), purge the extras (donate, share, trash as appropriate). (3) As part of the purge, bring 3-5 items to next Sunday's Gathering to help seed a sharing economy at Open Door. (4) If you're on social media throughout this season, catalog your journey using #TheLentProject hashtag.