“In our own contemporary context of the rat race of anxiety, the celebration of Sabbath is an act of . . . resistance . . . . It is resistance because it is a visible insistence that our lives are not defined by the production and consumption of commodity goods. Such an act of resistance requires enormous intentionality and communal reinforcement amid the barrage of seductive pressures from the insatiable insistences of the market, with its intrusion into every part of our life . . . .” Walter Brueggemann
“The departure from that same system [the exploitation of modern day ‘brick-makers’] in our time is not geographical. It is rather emotional, liturgical, and economic. It is not an idea but a practical act. 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. It is for good reason that sabbath has long been for theologically serious Jews, the defining discipline. It is for good reason that Enlightenment-based autonomous Christians may find the Sabbath commandment the most urgent and the most difficult of all the commandments of Sinai. We are, liberals and conservatives, much inured to Pharaoh’s system. For that reason, the departure into restfulness is both urgent and difficult, for our motors are set to run at brick-making speed. [But] To cease, even for a time, the anxious striving for more bricks is to find ourselves with a ‘light burden’ and an ‘easy yoke.'” Brueggemann
“And Pharaoh’s slave drivers beat the Israelite overseers they had appointed, demanding,
‘Why haven’t you met your quota of bricks yesterday or today, as before?’”
Exodus 5:14 NIV
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- The Sabbath calls on you to stop, even if you prefer “brick-making speed.” How else will you practice “neighborly engagement?”
- Many brag about working 80-hour weeks, or never taking vacation. Does it make sense to you that anyone would brag about living like a slave? . . . as if life were all about making bricks?
- If Sabbath-keeping in our seductive culture requires “enormous intentionality and communal reinforcement”, is there any hope that you’ll succeed at it? What can you do?
Abba, help me to join the subversive, exodus-causing God, and his community, in resisting unjust powers in my day. Make me available for loving my neighbor.
For more: Sabbath As Resistance by Walter Brueggemann
Thanks for reading, following and sharing these “Daily Riches!” Look for my upcoming book –Wisdom From the Margins: Daily Readings for more of these provocative quotes, verses, questions, and prayers.
Brueggemann, Walter. Sabbath As Resistance: Saying NO to the CULTURE OF NOW. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2014.
“Modern medicine may have added an extra decade or so to the three score years and ten originally laid down in the Bible, but we still live under the shadow of the biggest deadline of all: death. No wonder we feel that time is short and strive to make every moment count. But if the instinct to do so is universal, then why are some cultures more prone than others to race against the clock? Part of the answer may lie in the way we think about time itself. In some philosophical traditions—Chinese, Hindu and Buddhist, to name three—time is cyclical. On Canada’s Baffin Island, the Inuit use the same word—uvatiarru—to mean both ‘in the distant past’ and ‘in the distant future.’ Time, in such cultures, is always coming as well as going. It is constantly around us, renewing itself, like the air we breathe. In the Western tradition, time is linear, an arrow flying remorselessly from A to B. It is a finite, and therefore precious, resource. …As long ago as the 1830s, the French writer Alexis de Tocqueville blamed the shopping instinct for jacking up the pace of life: ‘He who has set his heart exclusively upon the pursuit of worldly welfare is always in a hurry, for he has but a limited time at his disposal to reach, to grasp, and to enjoy it.’ That analysis rings even more true today, when all the world is a store, and all the men and women merely shoppers. Tempted and titillated at every turn, we seek to cram in as much consumption and as many experiences as possible. As well as glittering careers, we want to take art courses, work out at the gym, read the newspaper and every book on the bestseller list, eat out with friends, go clubbing, play sports, watch hours of television, listen to music, spend time with the family, buy all the newest fashions and gadgets, go to the cinema, enjoy intimacy and great sex with our partners, holiday in far-flung locations and maybe even do some meaningful volunteer work. The result is a gnawing disconnect between what we want from life and what we can realistically have, which feeds the sense that there is never enough time.”
“making the most of your time,
because the days are evil.”
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- What does “making the most of your time” mean to you?
- Are you always in a hurry to “cram in as much consumption and as many experiences as possible?”
- Could striving for more actually be providing you with less?
For More: In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honore
Thanks for following my blog! I appreciate it. – Bill (Psalm 90:14)
“We mostly spend [our] lives conjugating three verbs: to want, to have and to do. Craving, clutching and fussing, we are kept in perpetual unrest.” Evelyn Underhill
“My jabbering prayers have been full of what I want, what I think I should have, and what I want God to do. …Instead of fussing, striving, and monitoring, we surrender ourselves to God over and over again. For those of us who are hooked on productivity, this approach is radical. …Letting go of the need to perform for God sets our hearts on things above and turns our backs on self-importance. Instead of trying to have an accomplishment-driven relationship with God, enjoying God’s presence points us toward:
- resting instead of productivity,
- being silent instead of talking,
- listening instead of giving advice,
- empowering others instead of preaching to them,
- asking questions instead of knowing answers,
- surrendering instead of gritting your teeth,
- giving instead of consuming,
- striving for brokenness instead of upward mobility, and
- gearing down to simplicity instead of gearing up to empire building.” Jan Johnson
“In our religious striving, we are usually looking for something quite other than the God who has come looking for us.” Eugene Peterson
“Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Are you “kept in perpetual unrest?” Are you “hooked on productivity?”
- If so, what do these things say about your need to seem important to others? …to seem important to God? Could that be what you’re “usually looking for?”
- The Scripture reminds us that God does not require or want our anxious striving. The list above spells out what a relaxed, trusting life might look like. Look at that list again. Is God speaking to you about anything there?
Father, May I rest instead of striving.
walk instead of racing.
receive instead of grasping.
listen instead of speaking.
endure instead of quitting.
May I trust instead of worrying.
appreciate instead of griping.
forgive instead of blaming, and
above all, may I love.
For More: When The Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative Prayer by Jan Johnson
These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)
“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”