Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Why We Need Sabbath

'We need to get the economy moving' are the endless words spoken to us by the politicians and media.  It is the idea of 'keeping things going' and ensuring that business as usual is maintained.  There is no time to rest or wait, no opportunity to stop or be still, our purpose is to keep going, to keep moving and to keep spending our money.

It is drilled into us that spending our money is a seven-day-a-week necessity, not only for our good, but for the good of the whole nation.  And what's more, the instant satisfaction and happiness you get from this is what makes life great - well that's what we're told anyway.

This constant 'doing' and continual movement is a sign that we think we don't have enough time.  We think there is a lack of time, so we need to make the most of it, doing whatever we want.  Yet the reality is that we don't do whatever we want, we do whatever we are told by those who influence us and manipulate us; we can be puppets to the rich, the advertisers and the products we own.
'Life is short', 'time is of the essence', and
so we have a fear of lack of time and impending death.  We think that the universe is dying and we are frustrated that things don't happen 'now'.  We want things before we've asked or desired them and we want things to happen before we've even thought them, because time isn't on our side.

Jesus has changed all of this though and called us into a new reality.

Time and death have been redeemed and transformed by God.  The cross and resurrection usher in a new reality.

Christians have all the time in the world to do what God wants them to do.

We are called to take time to pray and be in the presence of God.  To allow this time to shape us and change us.  To enjoy time as a gift from God, not to as an enemy of life.  Time spent at the Lord's Table is treasured time not to be rushed away from.  Time with loved ones is beautiful and precious.  Time to rest and relax enables us to tap into the rhythm of God's good creation; here there is a natural order of rest and work.  Time focusing our time on God, listening and responding to His Presence is vital.

We are not robots and mechanisms called to work and produce and succeed.  We are created in the image of Jesus, fully ourselves in Him.

Time only makes sense in light of God as creator and redeemer of time.  So time has a future reality, a redeemed reality, a hope.  Time here and now then should be spent in light of the hope of the future when all things will be made new.

Sabbath is a call to worship and rest.  It is the belief that God is in charge, that he is the redeemer of the world and that, as Hauerwas puts it, we do not have to work to make things come out right.  Human work is not central to the transformation of life.

Waiting on the gift of the Spirit teaches us patience, endurance and faithfulness, virtues that God gives us.  Waiting on God does something beautiful and new in the here and now, anticipating the beautiful and new of the future hope made real in the person of Jesus.

Culture constantly tells us to save time, to take shortcuts and to reduce waiting.  We have become a more impatient and frustrated people as a result.  Speed and instant results are what we crave and desire.  And yet in doing so we have lost our ability to properly care for ourselves and each other.

Marriages break down because time is not given to each other.  Children are neglected because time is neglected with them laughing, playing, crying and nurturing.  The sick are abused because time is abused by a need for instant results.  The disabled are ignored because attention is not given to taking time.

In a culture of instant satisfaction we become more violent because we become more frustrated.  Go out on a Friday night in any major town and see for yourselves.

We are called to wait, be still, rest and take time to worship.  The church has lost sight of this in its constant activity and over burden on people to work harder and longer within its walls.

We need Sabbath.  Jesus tells us that Sabbath is for us.  Look around at our society that has lost Sabbath and then see how you and the church might once again reclaim and practice the beauty of Sabbath.


Mark Styants said...

Thanks Joe.
I appreciate this and wholeheartedly agree.
How do you manage this practically with two small children (or 4 in my case!)?
How do you encourage your wife to practice Sabbath?
Do you have Sabbath practices as a family?
How does it work/what does it look like?
Any thoughts appreciated!

Joe Haward said...

Hi Mark - Good to hear from you.

As with all these things it is something I am working out as I go along, not something I have mastered or will ever truly master...

I would say it begins and ends in prayer though. So when we pray we learn patience which in turns teaches us how to be a Sabbath people.

Practically with children it is really important, especially as ministers, that we take seriously our time off together as a family. Nothing should take that time away from us. In those moments of time together, enjoying each others company, resting together (whatever that rest looks like) is where we experience the very real presence of God.

So make sure you guard time together. Hold each other to account. If any of you are not taking time together then pull each other up about it.

The other thing is to not to get lured into 'time pressure'. Time is not our enemy, so if stuff doesn't get done, it doesn't get done!! That's not to say we become lazy or irresponsible, but it is to recognise our limitations and to make others aware of our limitations.

It is a long journey my friend that I am still figuring out...

What do you think? Anything you can add to this discussion?