Sabbath and the Challenge of Community

          Jasen Frelot, Curator of Conversation and Community

          Jasen Frelot, Curator of Conversation and Community

Exodus 20:8-11 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

One of the largest challenges to practicing Sabbath is the fact that we are often compelled by forces beyond our control to practice it alone. Scripture teaches that Sabbath is intended to be experienced and practiced by the entire community together. Every living thing is to participate, servants, out of town guests, even the livestock all are commanded to cease from work and rest.  There are not many modern examples of this type of communal and ecological resting except for perhaps Christmas day or after a good hearty snow storm.

If one were to walk outside after snow fall there is a silence that is unlike any other. It is as if you can hear the earth breathing. If there is any sound at all it is often the sound of children playing. Imagine that type of communal silence weekly. Capitalism seems to constantly invent new ways to rob us of the few opportunities for communal rest that we have. It wouldn't surprise me at all if within the next five years, Christmas Day becomes a second Black Friday.

Our weekends were traditionally designed to be a day of corporate rest. We owe our five day work week to a theological debate about which day the Sabbath was intended to be observed. Yet what was intended to be a time of rest has become a clear indicator of our economic and social inequality. Where God intended for Sabbath to be an equalizing force, the American Sabbath has become a time where we can see clearest of all the inequality that we are to busy to see during the week. Sunday morning worship remains amongst the most racially and economically segregated times of the week. As we pursue leisure, entertainment and even spiritual connection over the weekend we are often blind to the poor, black and brown hands that make those pursuits possible. Even as we kneel at the Lord’s table for eucharist we rarely if ever truly consider those who remain shut out to the bounty of God’s kingdom, as a result of our own selfishness and apathy.

Scripture teaches that there is no true sabbath unless everyone gets to participate in it. Our corporate refusal to allow ourselves and others to rest leaves us with the sad reality that we must find Sabbath where we can and how we can. Many of us can not take a full day to Sabbath, so we must find sabbath within the chaos of our lives. Many of us can not help but see the cruel irony of a segregated communion table so we must make do with drink and bread with a dear friend.

Sabbath is the practice of God’s kingdom. May God’s Kingdom come, may we allow it to.


Sabbath, Fear and Courage

          Jasen Frelot, Curator of Conversation and Community

          Jasen Frelot, Curator of Conversation and Community

1 John 4:18- There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experience God’s perfect love

Sabbath by its very nature is an act of resistance, even rebellion to the status quo, and as such requires courage to practice it. Sabbath for me this month has meant the refusal to network or conduct formal business outside of the cultivation of already existing relationships. This has meant living with the discomfort that I might be letting an opportunity slip by.  The fear of failure, of being viewed as unproductive or lazy is particularly powerful for me.

As a black man I am constantly struggling with the perceived or actual perception that I don’t work hard enough, that I am a drain on society.  With the added stress and joy of being a father and husband, I live with the knowledge and the weight of black fatherhood and everything that that entails. Sabbath practice thus becomes an act of faith. I rest, refuse to work, sit in silence in defiance of what the world and even I might think of what I am doing.

I let the fear that I might be called lazy, part of the problem, or selfish wash over me in the pursuit of living the kingdom of God. I acknowledge and celebrate abundance allowing the fear of lack to come and go as a spiritual discipline.

Sabbath has compelled me to address injustice in a new way. Reminded through frequent, daily prayer  that the earth and everything in it is the Lord’s I have become more aware of the folly of our scarcity and ownership mindset. By living slowly I am able to see how driven by the fear of lack, injury or loss we are. This fear compels us to live in a cycle of purchasing and hoarding. Despite the overwhelming abundance of our Western society we are paralyzed by the fear that we will run out, that we don’t have enough, that someone we don’t know is coming to take from us. So we buy, we hoard and we demonize each other.  

We are afraid of losing what we believe to be ours so we oppress and exploit one another. And yet, Sabbath practice reminds us that God’s kingdom  is in our very midst. We have been given an earth that provides for and sustains us. We are given each other to love and to be loved by.  There is nothing to fear. There is no need to exploit or oppress one another. We are left only with the humble compulsion to live with compassion.

May God’s kingdom come and may our eyes be opened to the fact that it has already.




Advent and Sabbath

          Jasen Frelot, Curator of Conversation and Community

          Jasen Frelot, Curator of Conversation and Community

This Advent my family and I have resolved to practice Sabbath. This means for us as a family the praying of the hours and for me individually the reduction of non essential work (i.e. starting no new projects and focusing exclusively on the development of pre existing relationships).

In my prayers I have asked God to give me the courage to live slowly,  to truly see and hear the people I encounter throughout the day and to give me a heart and mind towards Sabbath.

Although it has only been a week of practicing this discipline I have found that Prayer has become an essential part of my day. To the point where I am shocked that I ever existed without doing it with greater frequency.

I have discovered that Sabbath, is as Walter Brueggemann teaches truly an act of resistance. Living my life attuned towards Sabbath rest is truly freeing and liberating experience that reminds me that I and my family are ultimately accountable to God. I am reminded of the Psalm of forgiveness David prays, Against you, and you alone have I sinned oh God. Sabbath practice has shown me that we are all God’s children, all accountable to God and all loved by God.

This realization simultaneously increases and decreases the importance of each person and interaction. It liberates me from the need and desire to please people but convicts me to love more deeply and fully. Freed from the fear of disappointing or saving others I have entered into a space of deep connection, love and liberation.

This practice has also revealed how odd and rare the practice of rest and reflection is in our culture. In my desire to move slower I can see others around me moving at fast forward, frantically trying to keep time that there never seems to be enough of. Yet Sabbath has taught that there is enough time, infact time is infinite, sprawling and unchanging . God gives us time as a gift, a tool to love each other and to find peace and love in him.

I have found that Sabbath practice has caused me to see the injustices I experience as a black man in our culture more clearly. I have seen how this culture demands that I justify it by submitting to it even as it refuses to acknowledge my humanity and individuality. Sabbath and prayer ground me in the divinity of my humanity and compels me to act as simply a man, a child of God, nothing more and nothing less. It has given me the freedom to assert the simple but profound authority I have as a human, born free and designed to live free.

Sabbath practice has not been easy but it has been good in the best possible way. I look forward to experiencing more of what God has to teach me through this discipline.