It’s the waning days of August. The last part of vacation. Last week was my annual beach time with my clergy colleagues. I love beach time, the rhythm of the days. I wish I could take a whole week. Or more. So I’m thinking about rest.
What do you think of when you think of sabbath? It’s clearly important. In Abraham Joshua Heschel’s classic, it’s built into the framework of the universe. It breaks the relentless march of time. We need time to remember: i.e., put ourselves back together. Like when a painter steps back from their work to review the canvas.
For Walter Breuggeman, sabbath is resistance. A protest against the commodification of everything. It’s also about equality. All people, including servants, and animals, get a sabbath. (Although there was a tradition, not Biblical, of hiring a Sabbath goy).
NO business is to be done. (That would mean NO meetings….they break the spirit of Sabbath…and no L’shan hara…NO speaking ill of another, that too, breaks the spirit…
Rest. Clergy need another day for our sabbath. But…there’s a problem. Part of the concept of sabbath is it’s communal in nature.
What do you remember as a child? “Blue laws”…all the businesses closed. A big dinner after church. Then quiet time. Until supper. I could feel that rhythm of quiet all around me.
Being in Israel on Sabbath, you can feel it.(Conversely it’s strange waking up on a Sunday and finding rush hour traffic and the beginning of the work week..)
It’s a struggle to preserve even Sunday morning in a multicultural world. (For my kids in this neighborhood, soccer and little league baseball took place on alternating days. I was lucky in my 15 years as coach…got lots of “favors” to keep church time free for my games. (When I was in Oklahoma, I played FIFA soccer. We won division 4. Then 3. BUT…Division 2 played at 11 AM on Sundays. I was moved when my team voted to stay in Division 3 so I could still play.
Obviously the Bible takes it seriously. For Breuggeman.it’s the center of the commandments. A bridge between those before,which relate to God, and those after, which relate to to neighbors. In our Bible Study, breaking the Sabbath demanded capital punishment.
That’s why the people are so upset with Jesus. But then he uses the traditions around animals to make a point. It’s about Settingfree…unbinding…not healing or curing but setting free…Sabbath as liberation….
What in our life needs to be set free? (Last week Jesus was in a straight place, stressed…)
His response’ like a Pittsburgh parishioner once told me, was to Set principle aside and do what’s right…
So what is sabbath to you?
We spoke of our memories, of quiet times, family times. And how hard it is for us now…the bigger issue of course, is Jesus call to be set free from the world of commodification, set free to live….
10Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” 15But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” 17When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.