A couple years ago, I started a Graduate degree in Missional leadership. Beyond the required reading, lectures, and papers, we were asked to adopt a rule of life. A rule of life is an intentional set of disciplines designed as a part of Spiritual formation. If you are interested in a rule of life, then reading the Rule of St. Benedict is a good place to start. In my program we were asked to write our own rule of life and one part of my rule was a weekly Sabbath.
Sabbath is not an overtly Christian practice. Jesus has an interesting relationship with the Sabbath. The Pharisees approach him on several occasions because Jesus does not exactly follow the Sabbath to their standards. Jesus welcomes the sick and the lame because he believes healing is crucial on the sabbath. Jesus even says in Matthew 12, “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” For most of my life I interpreted Jesus’ teachings as a dismissal of the Sabbath but the last several years I have changed my tune. I am not making a case for the mandated Sabbath of the Orthodox Jewish faith. I do not expect my congregation, or any of my friends for that matter, to cease from all labor on the Lord’s Day. However, I do not think Jesus was taking a stand against Sabbath in the gospel texts and I think there is something life giving about the practice.
One reason Sabbath is life-giving is because it remind us of something about God. One of the themes of this blog and a constant refrain in post is the overwhelming love of God. It is by this love God created, it is by this love God pursues us, and it is through this love God welcomes us into communion. The beauty of God’s love is it is unconditional; it is the unearned embrace of God. Our identity is bound in this love. Before we do anything God loves. Sabbath points us back to this most important of truths. We are welcomed by God’s love the same when we are working and when we are resting. This is a powerful word to a society obsessed with work. It is so easy for our identity to be shaped by our 9-5 or the lack of a job. The good news to the unemployed and the overworked is you are not defined by your labor. You do not have to do more, try harder, or get a job to be embraced by God’s love.
The value of Sabbath does not end there. Sabbath also demands rest. This is crucial in a society constantly moving. If you are like me, my iPhone is my alarm, thus it is the first and last thing I look at each day. Along with the helpful wake up call, my phone allows to me to be reached in at least 5 different ways (Phone, email, text message, Twitter, and Facebook if you were counting at home). This means I am available at near anytime and all this does not account for the constant thoughts running around my head. Ours is a society that never rests and seldom sleeps, but this pace is not healthy nor is it the way of Jesus. Sabbath is one way the Church can live differently in the midst of this world.
Sabbath does not have to be a full day; and it could be as simple as unplugging for a couple of hours. Join me this year in a weekly sabbath practice. You might not have a perfect weekly record, but as much as possible experiment with a Sabbath.