Jesus

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. 

The Lent Project Week 5: The Commuter/Environmental Fast

If everyone on Earth lived, drove, ate, consumed, etc. like the average American, studies show it would take about four planets to sustain the world's population. How do our personal and cultural habits reflect the invitation to serve as good stewards of God's creation? 20150218_the_lent_project_banner

During this week, we invite you to:

(1) Make decisions to reduce your gasoline consumption by half (choose public transit, casual carpool, walk/bike, tele-commute, etc.).

(2) Consider what you notice about your regular commuting habits, your neighborhood's built environment, transit infrastructure, etc.

(3) Catalog your journey using #TheLentProject hashtag.

You are God's Currency (by Chris Schwass)

In response to the last few weeks of teachings at Open Door, Chris Schwass shared these thoughts and we wanted to share them with you all! Dive in and engage these thoughts! 20150104_coin_banner

We are God's currency Matthew 22:15-22

Matt 22:20-21: "Whose image is this? And whose inscription?"..."So give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."

Coins are imprinted in Caesar's image, so they belong to Caesar. Jesus says to give them back if Caesar asks. But what belongs to God? The ten percent tithe that he requires?

Humanity is made in the image of God (Gen 1:27), so we belong to God. We are His currency. He mints us in His image, sends us into circulation in His economy, and calls us to return. We carry His intrinsic value.

In Caesar's economy, scarcity rules. The more I can accumulate and isolate/guard my coins, the more they are worth. The less everyone else has, the more what I have is worth. The value of my coins rests on the worth of Caesar's economy and the scarcity of how his worth is divided. If Caesar falls, my coins may be worthless. If a robber comes, my coins may be gone. The value I carry is extrinsic.

In God's economy, abundance rules. What I accumulate means nothing, because I carry God's worth. Matthew 6:19-34 reminds me to store up my treasures in Heaven, not on Earth, and not worry about what I eat, drink, or wear.

In God's economy, isolating or guarding my wealth - in essence not giving myself away, limits the value of God's investment. Perhaps the talent buried in the ground is myself - the very currency of great worth God created to be used.

In God's economy, I can have more and you can have more. God always has enough. In fact, it is in giving away that God multiplies resources. The widow has enough to eat after giving her last meal to Elijah. 5000 people have enough when Jesus' disciples give away the last of the food. The faith community in Acts has enough when everyone shares their resources.

God's economy rests on the awesome power of God. His kingdom will never pass away, so our value as His currency will never diminish. No one can steal our value or separate us from the love if God. Our value is intrinsic.

God's economy is living Matthew 22:23-33

Matt 22:23 "'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' He is not the God of the dead but of the living." Caesar's image is on an inanimate coin, a lump of metal. His coins don't create more coins. God's image is on living things, who - through His power - make other living things. God's currency multiplies.

This is the natural order, the way God built the world to operate when He commanded, "Be fruitful and multiply." When Jesus feeds 5000 with a few fish and loaves, he demonstrates how God always expands His living economy: making more fish from generations of fish, wheat from generations of wheat, always more than enough. He makes life from life: miracle and everyday. That has been God's natural way since life began.

Man uses a non-living currency we can control to transfer value. That creates scarcity and isolation because it is limited. God multiplies resources, humans divide them. Our act of submission to God's economy is to multiply resources by bringing them together rather than separating them, so each person has more than enough.

Jesus bridges the gap, making more fish from dead fish, as a man and as God. In faith, we lean into God's infinite provision and let go of our store.

It's a Battle

God wants us to operate as His currency, while Satan wants us to doubt our value and isolate our worth in fear. It's about more than money moving around. Satan uses illness, pain, fear, obligation, pride, and a host of other tricks to keep us apart, to stifle God's economy.

When we lean into God's economy and move into circulation, we will experience new freedom (through God) and new friction (through Satan). Satan would love for more coins to be lost, but Jesus is seeking out every lost coin to add to the treasury.

It is our obligation to enter in, to listen to God, and accept the great value that He has imprinted on us with His image. He is love, and we are called to transfer and multiply His love in the world. It will not always be easy, but it will always be good.

What do you think? What does it look like to live as God's currency? What kind of investment might God be asking of you?

Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire

20150104_coin_blogAs we've moved through Coin, we pointed to a few books as helpful resources and catalysts for thought and conversation. This week, I (Dave) will be posting a few thoughts from these books and summarizing the contribution they make to the wider conversation about following Jesus with our money in an economically-driven world. If you've picked up either book or have thoughts on what's posted here, please jump into the conversations (in the comments section below, over email, or a cup of coffee!). William T. Cavanaugh is a Catholic scholar who teaches at DePaul University in Chicago and has written extensively about formation, liturgy, and the way we are shaped by the culture that surrounds us. His book Being Consumed is an incredibly helpful guide for thinking about how we're shaped by economies and what faithful discipleship looks like in the 21st century world. It's a bit heady at times but constantly moves back to practical, everyday questions, examples and stories of an economic way of being faithful to God in the world.

Freedom and Desire

In Being Consumed, he addresses the way capitalist, consumer-driven economies shape and form those residing within it. He explores the ideology of free-market economics, and suggests, contrary to their name, free-markets are not actually free. Because they create, shape, and perpetuate desire in such a way that maintains a certain status quo, their end goal is freedom, but only in a very limited sense of the word fitting within the market-shaped and -enforced rules and norms of society.

In contrast, Cavanaugh explores the work of early Christian theologian Augustine of Hippo, who (Cavanaugh suggests) names that true freedom is "fully a function of God's grace working within us. Freedom is being wrapped up in the will of God, who is the condition of human freedom" (8).

Connecting freedom and desire, Cavanaugh distinguishes between arbitrary desire and intentional desire. Arbitrary desire is desire for desire and consumption's sake (e.g. the economy is in trouble, buy something - anything!) or for a shallow end (I have a deep longing and no idea how to fill it, I'll try television). Intentional desire is shaped by a vision for the ultimate purpose or goal, a desire not divorced from a vision for greater/ultimate meaning and purpose.

Consumption and Participation

"Consumerism is an important subject for theology because it is a spiritual disposition, a way of looking at the word around us that is deeply formative" (35). Unique to our American context is detachment. As a country, we're more in debt than almost anyone else and, as individuals, we save less than almost anyone else. We continue to, ourselves, produce less and less of our own 'stuff' and instead consume what others are producing, and our system is designed such that those who are doing much of our producing are invisible to us.

Yet Cavanaugh recognizes "there is no question about whether or not to be consumer. Everyone must consume to live. The question concerns what kinds of practices of consumption are conduce to an abundant life for all" (53). So the choice is not whether we consume or do not consume. Instead, we must ask the right questions about what our participation and consumption in the world looks like.

Abundance and Our Place the World

Cavanaugh suggests our default way of interacting in the world is as a tourist - "detached from all particular times and places...[craving] what is different and authentic...the tourist can go anywhere, but is always nowhere" (74). In contrast to the always-but-never-present tourist, Cavanaugh points to the paradox of Jesus who is both fully universal and particular: "Christ is the infinitely integrating one who makes room in himself for everything truly human" (78).

Cavanaugh writes that, as followers of Jesus, "we cannot stand back from the world and survey it; we must simply take our role in the drama that God is staging and give ourselves to it" (81). We do not become fully universal/particular in the same way that Jesus is, but we point to him with actions that "'realize' the universal body of Christ in every particular exchange" (88). Examples given include types of co-ops, fair trade, and community-supported agriculture.

Miscellaneous Snippets and Quotes

What really characterizes consumer culture is not attachment to things but detachment. People do not hoard money; they spend it. People do not cling to things; they discard them and buy other things. (34)

Many people do not see their work as meaningful, only a means to a paycheck. One's labor itself has become a commodity, a thing to be sold to the employer in exchange for the money needed to buy things. For many people, work has become deadening to the Spirit. (38)

We desire because we live. The problem is that our desires continue to light on objects that fail to satisfy, objects on the lower end of the scale of being that, if cut off from the Source of their being, quickly dissolve into nothing. (90)

Possession kills eros; familiarity breeds contempt. That's why shopping itself has taken on the honored status of addiction in Western society. It is not the desire for any one thing in particular, but the pleasure of stoking desire itself, that makes malls the new cathedrals of Western culture. (91)

The Eucharist tells another story about hunger and consumption. It does not begin with scarcity, but with the one who came that we might have life, and have it abundantly...The Eucharist effects a radical decentering of the individual by incorporating the person into a larger body. In the process, the act of consumption is turned inside out, so that the consumer is consumed. (94-95)

Practices of an Abundant, Sharing Economy

Our word economy comes from two Greek roots: household and management. So 'economy' is rooted in the practices and ideas that help a household (a family) flourish. It involves money, but it's also bigger than money. Economy is about money, relationships, possessions, and more. 20150104_coin_banner The last two weeks at Open Door we've talked about the idea of an economic imagination - the realization that the 'economy' we exist in has a particular vision or imagination for 'the good life' or life's ultimate goals or purpose. That imagination will inevitably form and shape our everyday economic practices - how we buy and sell, where we choose to live, how we relate to those around us, etc.

Capitalism has a particular imagination (involving retirement, self-sufficiency, upward mobility) which lends itself to particular practices (investing, consumption, seeking promotions, etc.).

In the same way, Jesus invites us into a particular economic imagination. The 'good life' that Jesus invites us into (life 'to the full') is marked by a pervasive and holistic shalom, love of neighbor, faithful stewardship of what we've been given, trust and reliance on God's abundance, and a family formed around Jesus. 

This Jesus-looking economic imagination invites us to consider certain economic practices that move us deeper into this kingdom imagination.

This past weekend, we continued our conversations about money, economy, and following Jesus with a focus on naming some of these specific practices and action steps we can take as a family - particularly those centered around Abundance and Sharing/Community.

Here are a few of the practices we named to help us live deeper into a Jesus-looking economic imagination.

Practices of Abundance (Luke 12:22-34)

  • Meditating on Scriptural passages of abundance
  • Journaling a daily gratitude/thankful list.
  • Dwelling in our identity as God's beloved child.
  • Immersions into nature, recognizing that the God who holds together the world cares also for us
  • Picking up pennies and seeing them as symbols and reminders of God's abundance
  • Developing a baseline for what is actually 'enough' (based on global averages, actual needs, etc.) and taking an inventory of possessions and actions to simplify.

Practices of Community (Luke 9:10-17)

  • Trusting you have something to offer to others (financial, relational, skills to share, etc.)
  • Offering an area of your abundance to the community (produce or flowers from your garden, time, skills)
  • Developing an infrastructure of sharing ("You need a power tool? I have a power tool you can borrow!")
  • Willingness to name what you need and what you have
  • Bringing meals to those with new babies, in transition or in crisis.
  • Believing God can do more with what you're willing to offer than you can imagination.

Taking steps of practice in these areas, I believe, will move us deeper toward the life that Jesus invites us into. These simple steps are the stuff of faithfulness in God's kingdom economy!

What other practices would you add to the list? How have you experienced growing depth towards a new economic imagination as you take steps of faith with our money, possessions, and resources?

Recommended Reading/Resources for Coin: Jesus on Money

  We're two weeks into Coin: Jesus on Money, our journey exploring how Jesus interacted with money and how we might seek to follow Jesus with our own money. When we look at the teachings and actions of Jesus, it seems that money functions in (at least) three ways:

  1. A window into deeper things.
  2. A tool for our cultivation.
  3. A resource for weaving heaven and earth together again.

We're taking time to dig in and explore these primarily through our Gathering teachings (each week's teaching will be posted here) and two of our winter Circles following Mark Scandrette's book Free: Spending Your Time and Money on What Matters Most.

If you're not able to join one of the Free Circles, we encourage you to grab a copy of the book and work through it on your own or (ideally) with another person. Throughout the Circles, we'll post a few blog updates and stories if you want to follow along with the journey.

In addition to Free, here's a few other resources to consider reading and engaging if you want to dig deeper. [Note: I'll be reading through all of these and posting some thoughts. If you'll be reading along, let me know and I'd love to have you engage in the conversation. -dave]

Do you have any other resources you'd recommend as we think and ask questions about money, economy, and walking in the way of Jesus? Add them below in the comments!