Week 2: Sabbath as Rest from Anxiety

In last week’s Sabbath reflection, we noted that Sabbath, as a guiding principle, is rooted in the creation narrative- on the seventh day, God rested. But God did more than to simply rest from action, from creative energy. God rested from anxiety about that work as well. On the seventh day,

God did not show up to do more. God absented God’s self from the office. God did not come and check on creation in anxiety to be sure it was all working. God has complete confidence in the fruit-bearing, blessing-generating processes of creation that have been instituted. God exhibits no anxiety…God knows the world will hold, the plants will perform, the birds and the fish and the beasts of the field will prosper. [1]

 

For me, this is the hard one. I’m checking my e-mail to see if I’ve heard something important, or keeping an eye on the Facebook page to see if there are new likes or comments that need responded to. I’m wondering how I’ll order my day tomorrow, which things I’ll be able to cross off of my to-do list and noting which things didn’t get crossed off from the day before. What do I need from the grocery store, who do I need to call, where do I need to go, what am I forgetting? The list can be endless- even, and especially on my day off! And I wonder if there are others who can relate to this anxiety. We, all too often, live in a world that calls us to keep doing- our success is dependent on our ‘doing’. And it’s a hard habit to turn off- to rest- not only from work, but also from worry about work done or undone. And it’s that very way of being that God calls us to embody. That’s the power and promise of Sabbath.

 

Psalms 104:27-28 and 145:15-17 call us to recognize this Sabbath world-

These all look to you
to give them their food in due season;
when you give to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are filled with good things.”

“The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand,
Satisfying the desire of every living thing

 

God created the world without anxiety. God, in creation, gave to the world everything that it needed and then God rested. And God’s rest models restfulness for all of creation- us included. Our anxiety feeds a world that God did not intend. We have another way.

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it” –Exodus 20:8-11

 

Again, let’s turn to Bruggeumann: “Rest as did the creator God! And while you rest, be sure your neighbors rest alongside you. Indeed, sponsor a system of rest that contradicts the system of anxiety[2]

 

Reflection:

-What might it look like for you/ your family to “sponsor a system of rest”? Do you have neighbors or family friends who you could partner with? Could you spend time together? Eating? Talking? Having fun? How can you help one another fend off the anxiety of ‘doing’? What about someone from Epiphany?

-What are you placing in your Sabbath box this week? Is it easier than last week? Harder? About the same?

-What are the ways that anxiety drives your life? What might be one way you could rest from that anxiety in the week upcoming? For me, this week, I’m committing to not check on e-mail on my phone. (Don’t worry- I’ll still check it plenty on the computer). Resting from the feeling of having to be connected in that way feels like a big way I can give myself rest from anxiety this week.

 

Activity:

-What is one thing you love doing, or you and your friends or family love doing together? Do it! Maybe it’s playing a game, or watching a movie, or going on a picnic or taking a walk or going to the park or doing a craft. Make time during this Sabbath time.

-What keeps you from making time to do things like this?

-What is it like to imagine that part of your Christian identity is to make time like this?

 

Friday Night Prayer:

Lord,
it is night.

The night is for stillness.
Let us be still in the presence of God.

It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done;
what has not been done has not been done;
let it be.

The night is dark.
Let our fears of the darkness of the world and of our own lives
rest in you.

The night is quiet.
Let the quietness of your peace enfold us,
all dear to us,
and all who have no peace.

The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day,
new joys,
new possibilities.

In your name we pray.
Amen.

-New Zealand Night Prayer

 

[1] Walter Brueggemann, Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014), 29.

[2] Breuggemann, 30.