SabbathThis month I sit down with an unusual problem. Often I have to scratch my head to come up with a newsletter topic. This month I have 3.
One idea is to reflect on some of the decisions and discussions that happened this summer at the 43rd meeting of the General Council. One idea was to talk about something co-developed by our new Moderator the Rev. Dr. Richard Bott. Working with Dave Anderson Richard developed a resource to develop discipleship using the acronym U.N.I.T.E.D. The third option sprang from an article that Sharon shared at our August Council meeting about Radical Sabbath. Upon reflection I think I will go with option 3 (and likely use option 2 in the October Newsletter since worship in October will have a Stewardship focus).
I am guessing most people have heard about the idea of Sabbath. After keeping Sabbath is one of the 10 Commandments.. The question is “what is the best way to do that?”
The article Sharon shared talked about a church that went very radical. They challenged folks to keep sabbath by not even having worship every second Sunday. Instead folks could take a day off. Not another day to get caught up on errands but a day to release and relax. To quote from the article: “They spend every other Sunday doing things that bring them joy. There is one rule: whatever you do on Sunday you do it out of a desire for joy – if it’s an obligation, it’s not Sabbath.”
That is extreme. But it raises some questions. What does it mean to take Sabbath as a time the reinvigorates, a time that adds joy to our lives, a time when we step back from the busy-ness of life and gain a different perspective? Does the way we currently do church help us do those things? And if it doesn’t then how should we change the way we do church?
Having read the article Sharon shared with us and the article that it itself references (you can read the latter here: https://tinyurl.com/y6wft37f) it is obvious that the congregation was not giving up on worship. They were trying to re-imagine what it means to be the church. And it seems to have worked for them. I am not convinced that it would work for everyone, there may be something gained but also what might be lost. I am more interested in the questions it raised in my mind, not the specific solution that congregation chose to try.
We live in a culture that contradicts sabbath time. We are told that we have to be achieving something all the time. And the church is not immune to that. I think we need to make a choice, largely as individuals but also as a community. I think we need to make a choice that we will set out time to be “non-productive” (though I believe such time turns out to be highly productive in other ways). Which is hard, I know that I rarely, if ever, have a full day where I just do things that provide joy. And even if I did would I be able to stop thinking about all the other stuff that needs to be done? I admit to having trouble envisioning what it would mead t set a whole day as sabbath time. I am going to guess that I am not alone in that.
So the first thing I think that we can do as part of how we “do church” is ask ourselves how we can support each other in trying to create “non-productive” time. One way to do that is to help make at least the church part of our Sunday more like sabbath time.
Churches tend to think that since we are all together on a Sunday it is a great time to get the business of the church done. Sometimes it is through formal meetings (I have heard of churches who have Board meetings on Sunday afternoon). Most often it is through informal meetings and conversations over coffee (or during the Passing of the Peace). I am challenging all of us to covenant with each other that our Sunday gatherings will be set aside for worship and community building. We will commit that any business or planning that needs to be done can wait until a phone call or e-mail or visit on some other day – but we will not try to schedule those things in our conversations on Sunday mornings. I think it is a first step in how we can help make our time together solely about revitalization and building our relationships with God and each other. I also think it will be harder than it sounds.
We are told that keeping Sabbath is part of God’s plan and hope for us. We are told that it is good for us. One step at a time let’s try to help each other actually do it.