Encounter: Slowly read through Mark 2:23-27 & Colossians 1:15-22 in the NIV or NLT translation or listen on The Bible App. What words or phrases speak to you the most. Using a notepad or journal, write down those words and reflect on them daily for a week. Write down each day something you see or hear in these writings about the subject of why rest is possible and even encouraged by God.
We were in New Orleans for our daughter’s wedding and had flown in early to get situated in our hotel. After dinner, we ventured over to Bourbon Street to walk off our dinner and see some sites. Naively, I did not realize what existed on just this one street and so after we made it a short distance, I could no longer take the public display of modern day slavery, drunkenness and debauchery of every kind.
So, without much thought, I walked up to a police officer asking who was in charge of bringing justice for those being abused and taken advantage of, to which they replied, “It’s not our department.” Such anger welled up inside of me, a desire to make things right, to make sure those “daughters of someone” knew they were loved, valued and protected became so strong within me, I knew I had to leave before I myself was arrested for causing a disturbance. I knew at that moment, I simply was not prepared to take on this battle. I realized that in order to enter into the captivity of Bourbon Street, I would need to live further into God’s rest, drawing from him the capacity and resources needed to identify with the suffering in that place. I would need to remember Sabbath with God’s reminder that I can do nothing without him.
Sabbath is that ancient idea and practice of intentional rest that has long been discarded by much of the church and our world. Sabbath is not new. Sabbath is just new to us. Historically, Christians have kept some form or another of the Sabbath for some two thousand years.
But it has largely been forgotten by the church, which has uncritically mimicked the rhythms of the industrial and success-obsessed West. The result? Our road – weary, exhausted churches have largely failed to integrate Sabbath into their lives as vital elements of Christian discipleship. It is not as though we do not love God — we love God deeply. We just do not know how to sit with God anymore while we serve Him through our worship.
We have come to know Jesus only as the Lord of the harvest and of justice, forgetting he is the Lord of the Sabbath as well.
Sabbath forgetfulness is driven, so often, in the name of doing stuff for God rather than being with God. We are too busy working for him. This is only made more difficult by the fact that the Western church is increasingly experiencing displacement and marginalization in a post-Christian, secular society. In that, we have all the more bought into the notion that ministering on overdrive will resolve the crisis.
Sabbath is assumed to be the culprit of a shrinking church. So, time poverty and burnout have become the signs that the minority church remains serious about God in a world that has rejected him. In the Western church, even pastors rarely practice Sabbath, and because of that they shy away from teaching about the Sabbath. And because we do not preach the Sabbath, our congregations are not challenged to take it seriously themselves.
The result of our Sabbath amnesia is that we have become perhaps the most emotionally exhausted, psychologically overworked, spiritually malnourished people in history. Not any different than the challenges of the cultural realities we face.
Mark Labberton writes, “…our Sabbath-keeping practices awaken us to God, cause us to confess our self-absorbed lives, draw us into a deepening Christian life and move us back in the other six days of the week with a fresh vision and reminder of who we are, who our neighbors are and where we live, then things begin to change.”
This Sunday we continue our series, The Dangerous Act of Worship, listening to the ways God invites us to a Sabbath that most often feels counter to fighting to make things right in our world. Hasn’t our Creator given us the example from the beginning? And So, the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.
Resting with you as we worship,
Reflect: What does living in God’s rest mean to you? How does it relate to your worship of God? How does it relate to your trying to do justice in the world? Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the needs in the world around you? How does this effect how you respond to these needs?
Encourage: Do you have Sabbath practices in your life? If so, what are they and why do you observe them? Meet with a couple of friends and brainstorm ways that you can incorporate a Sabbath into your rhythm of life in a normal week. Encourage one another weekly with a text, note or message, reminding them of the blessing of rest as you seek to carry God’s justice where you live your life.
Gather: In your Life Group or Sunday Study Group discuss how biblical Sabbath relates to justice. If doing justice involves action, how and why does doing justice start with rest? Share with one another one practice in your life that most renews you then take time to put it on your calendar before you leave your group time.
Included are some excerpts from Subversive Sabbath: The Surprising Power of Rest in a Nonstop World, Baker Publishing Group, 2018, Location 255.