Thursday, January 29, 2015

Reflections on "Sabbath as resistance"

"Sabbath as resistance: Saying 'No' to the culture of now" - Walter Brueggemann

I often feel the need to be connected, in control, busy with something or simply to be constructive. Along with others, I too fall into the trap of seeing busy-ness as a sign of productivity and worth. Brueggemann poses a strong challenge: How do we observe the Sabbath?

Brueggemann compellingly argues that we need to slow down. We need to breathe, look around, love and enjoy life. This is, after all the space the Sabbath provides.

The book is divided into six chapters.

In the first, the relationship between the Sabbath and the First Commandment is described. God is God and God should be loved. God is also a Sabbath-keeping God, inviting creation to join in the pleasure of being, instead of racing after riches and possessions which we may hope will define our being.

Chapter 2 describes Sabbath as resistance to anxiety. This is by no means a reference to the psychological disorder, but a description of our tendency to find 'fulfillment' by being in a constant state of panic. What does it mean to worship? What does it mean to be human? Anxiety leads to treating our neighbors as competitors, and that which we are custodians of as self-enriching, person defining commodities. Worship resists this notion. Sabbath asks of us to see our neighbor as God's gift to us and ourselves as God's gift to them. To be human is to be in relationship with God, with ourselves and with our neighbor.

Sabbath is also resistance to coercion (Chapter 3). The following quote sums it up well:

"Sabbath breaks that gradation caused by coercion. On the Sabbath:
- you do not have to do more
- you do not have to sell more
- you do not have to control more
- you do not have to have your kids in ballet or soccer
- you do not have to be younger and more beautiful
- you do not have to score more.
Because this one day breaks the pattern of coercion, all are like you, equal - equal worth, equal value, equal access, equal rest." (p.40-41)

Sabbath is, fourthly, resistance to exclusivism. Sometimes we may think that Sabbath is best served when we meet with people who worship like us, look like us and believe like us. Scripture challenges this belief by showing that God is experienced in diversity. Those who refuse Sabbath in diversity "... produce sour grapes, the grapes of wrath and violence and envy and, finally, death".

Then the one that hurt most: Sabbath as resistance to multitasking. Have you ever sat at the dinner table and text'd at the same time? Have you ever sat in the cinema and attended to emails? Have you ever been in church and worshipped another god? Multitasking is " making deep love but all the while watching the clock". It is quite okay, therefore to give our full and undiluted attention to our loved ones in conversation, in participation and in worship.

In conclusion the book outlines the relationship between Sabbath and the tenth commandment. We started by focussing on Sabbath and loving God. Now it finds expression in loving our neighbor. It comes with a warning: love your neighbor, not your neighbor's possessions!

"Sabbath is taking time...time to be holy...time to be human".

I am deeply challenged by this profound teaching.

Leadership and respect

I am so proud of our boys.

Matthew was made a monitor at school and is taking the responsibility very seriously, but with great sensitivity. This morning I asked him how the monitoring is going. Here is his response which made my heart very proud:

"Dad, I think that when you treat people with respect, they are much more likely to listen to you. When the children walk in the gutters instead of on the pathways, I ask them nicely: 'Can I please ask you to walk on the path?'. Then they do. If they don't, I ask them nicely again, just in case they didn't hear what I said. If they still don't, I tell them how they can injure themselves, so the rules are there to protect us all. And when I speak to younger children, even grade 1's about litter, I say 'Sir/ma'am, may I please remind you to help us pick up the litter on our school grounds?' You know what? They cooperate. No problem."

I am very proud of him and his approach.

Nathan then chipped in and said: "It is true. Matthew asked me that way to pick up litter and I did. It was so funny; I got busted by my own brother. Hahahaha"

Did I mention that I am proud of our boys?