Last week I started this series on the Sabbath and looked at how it is a good gift from God to us, not an oppressive rule over us. Today I want to explore how when we receive this gift we can then offer it to the society around us, and how relevant it is right now.
As we look at the society around us we see mental health problems on the rise often due to the high levels of stress people are under. We see loneliness and family breakdown on the rise – often because we are too busy to invest in relationships and to care for those around us.
Also, we see more and more people turning to eastern practices such as meditation, yoga, and mindfulness… people are starting to realise we can’t go on at the pace that we have been going. There’s growing discontent towards the ceaseless rat race we step onto as soon as we begin nursery (and often we have joined it earlier purely by accompanying a parent or carer in their ceaseless activity while we lie in a pushchair or car-seat.)
As Christians we could be modelling an alternative rhythm – providing a tired and increasingly sick society with a viable and life-giving alternative. But instead, I’m ashamed to say that I as a Christian (and I suspect probably a good deal of you are similar to me) have just joined in with the crazed over-busyness that society presents to us as the only option.
Walter Brueggemann says in his book: Sabbath as Resistance, saying NO to the CULTURE OF NOW: “In our own contemporary context of the rat race of anxiety, the celebration of Sabbath is an act of both resistance and alternative.”
This is such a huge opportunity for us, if we are willing to learn and change… it’s an opportunity to improve our own health and well-being, but also to show the world the way of life God intended for us – the way of a God who says:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
God gave us 10 commandments to live by – and the longest of them concerned our rest – he gave us this commandment because he created us to work to this rhythm, we weren’t made to keep going 24-7 – he knew we would begin to crumble mentally, physically and spiritually under the weight if we didn’t keep to this – we would forget how to trust him, and we would become our own gods as we try to provide for ourselves – and over time we would fail ourselves, lose hope and struggle to find purpose in the rat race.
My Sabbath survey which a lot of you completed for me a while back found that 65% of us experience one or more stress related health condition, but that amongst those that said they never completely stop that rises to 88%. But, amongst those that say they take a whole day off each week that number goes down to 45%. This is just one area that is affected…
The Sabbath asks us to cease – to step back from the unhealthy and destructive habits we have become dependent on. It asks us to rest, in God’s love and to depend on him instead. It asks us to embrace counter-cultural Biblical values for our lives. And it asks us to feast on his goodness and all the gifts he has blessed us with – rather than just rushing by them, too busy and stressed to appreciate and value them. Think of the effects this would have on all the other days if we spent a day intentionally practicing this each week… Imagine the impact it would have on society, and the life it would bring!
Jesus said: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
The Sabbath isn’t intended as a life sapping restriction, it’s a good gift from God for us – that we can share with the society around us.
Next week I’ll look at how it’s not just a gift to us and the society around us, but for the whole of creation! And then after that we’ll move on to how we can go about actually putting into practice, here in busy Sutton Coldfield, or wherever you find yourself.