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.