Wed Quote - Walter Brueggemann - “Thus the Sabbath of the fourth commandment is an act of trust in the subversive, exodus-causing God of the first commandment, an act of submission to the restful God of commandments one, two, and three. Sabbath is a practical divestment so that neighborly engagement, rather than production and consumption, defines our lives.”
Wed Thought -
My hope is that I have established that Sabbath is not simply a rule to follow, but a gift given. A gift that reminds us that we are loved by God, not because of our productivity, our success, or our striving, but just because we exist and God delights in our existence. It is also a gift that reminds us that we need not live in the fear or anxiety of lack. Sabbath is, in essence a reminder not to worry, as Jesus taught in Matthew 6, about what we will eat or drink or wear, but to trust in God to provide. Falling into fear and anxiety creates tension and violence. Sabbath trust in God to provide shapes us as kind, loving and generous people.
The implications of that realization go far beyond our own sense of being loved and at peace. For instance, when we look to Leviticus 25 we find that the Sabbath day grows into a Sabbath year. Every seven years the land is to lie fallow, to have its own rest. And, every seventh Sabbath year is a year of Jubilee. This is a year in which debts are forgiven. When we read Leviticus 25 carefully we see that God has instituted Sabbath, Sabbath year and Jubilee as spiritual practices which teach us how to treat one another with dignity. In the year of the Jubilee, the poor are offered a chance to escape their poverty and provide for themselves again. If they have sold land, that land goes back to their ownership. If they've sold themselves into slavery due to debt, they go free. And the description of this year of Jubilee includes details of how to treat the impoverished with dignity; “‘If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you. 36 Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you.'
Leviticus is not the only place we see this. In both Isaiah 58 and 56 which I have encouraged you to read as further study this week, Sabbath practice is directly connected to the dignity of the vulnerable. In Isaiah 58 we read, 'If you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry,' the prophet says,' and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, which he then connects to keeping Sabbath. Isaiah 56 extends the blessing of God to two social groups often considered farthest from God's blessing, foreigners and eunuchs, when they keep Sabbath. When they take on the covenental identity of one of God's chosen by keeping Sabbath, they are given the gift of dignity. It is no longer ethnicity or gender identity that identifies them or qualifies them. They are loved by God because they have chosen to accept the gift of Sabbath. All of this is rooted in the passage of Deuteronomy which is our scripture for the day. The gift of the Sabbath day is given as a reminder that God rescued the Hebrews (the outsiders) from slavery and gave them a new identity as God's chosen people. Sabbath is a reminder of this radical dignifying and re-identifying act by God on behalf of the Hebrews. Or, as we say in our communion celebration, Sabbath reminds us that God turned nobodies into somebodies by giving them (us) God's family name.
We are encouraged to rest and not labor on Sabbath so that we remember that unlike Pharoah who only values us for our effort and labor, God values us because we exist. And that Sabbath gift of love and dignity is given, according to Dueteronomy to all, including the foreign and domestic slaves that live in the land. The dignity of rest is a gift for all, regardless of where they come from or where they exist in the social hierarchy. Sabbath restores to us our dignity. We are loved. We are beloved. We have not earned it, which isn't a reminder of how sinful we are, but a reminder that we are no better or more worthy than others. Returning to Sunday's story, when Jesus heals the disabled man, he is restoring the mans dignity, his ability to earn and provide for his family, his status as God's beloved. While saying yes to Sabbath does mean saying no to some things, it also means saying yes to the opportunity to love others and treat them with dignity, for this is the purpose of Sabbath.
Wed Study - Matthew 6; Leviticus 25
Wed Prayer - Remind me Lord, in this moment of Sabbath, that I am loved. Too often my failures, faults and frustrations crowd my thoughts. Remind me in this moment of all that is Beloved in me. Still the voices that tear me down and allow me to hear your voice of confidence and affection. Then send me out into the world to lend my own voice to your own that I might remind someone else that they too are your Beloved.