God acts to release people from bondage. But this is not some abstracted releasing, the word implies another actor is in play. Pharaoh held Israel in bondage, the Accuser held this woman in bondage - God’s liberative acts are acts for us and against another. Sabbath, then, is a time where we take stock of our lives, our communities, our world and seek to see that which is out of line with God’s will, that which is in opposition to God’s creative, liberative, and restorative work. When we come to such a state of awareness we draw near to God so we may be better postured for what God has released us for: participation in the making right of all that is wrong, every day of the week.
Sabbath is about learning what it is that God demands. We must learn to rest: it is not all up to us, and our worth is not found in our productivity, or busy-ness (This is why it can be helpful to think of days beginning at night, with rest, than in the morning, with work. Rest is not something we earn from our labour, it is a gift given to us, just because we are human, and it is from that place that we then turn to our labour). We must learn to organise our communities in a way that lets others rest - especially those who work jobs with less security, or those who have to work multiple jobs just to meet basic needs (this is why I am passionate about the campaign to keep Boxing Day a public holiday - the combination of Christmas and Boxing Day serve as the only time of the year in which people could be guaranteed two consecutive days off - those at most risk of losing that are the vulnerable). We must learn to let the earth rest - to let fields and fuels rest by being ready to relinquish the privilege of “everything now” (my daughter has eaten watermelon almost every day of her life, and while I am thankful for the option when all else is failing, it is also concerning that we have structured our society in such a way that a seasonal fruit is available all year round). Learning Sabbath is also bout learning Jubilee; Sabbath is about the justice and equality that comes through the redistribution of land, the setting free of slaves, the wiping clean of debt so that people will not be stuck in cycles of poverty, so that disparity in wealth, health, and opportunity will not be enshrined and past on across the generations. Sabbath is about learning to be a people whose lives are shaped by God and God’s reign - where the lowly are lifted up and mighty cast down, the last are first and first are last, where the poor are blessed and so too the peacemakers, and where the banquet halls will be filled with those who are never on anyone’s guest list.
Image credit: Barbara Schwarz OP, 2014Read More