Week 3: Sabbath and Memory

We likely all remember the major highlights of the Exodus story. The Israelites follow Moses, trusting (sometimes) God. They have moments of anxiety and fear. They create Golden gods and they bicker. And yet, God’s covenant is renewed and eventually, after 40 years, they make it to the Promised Land. But right before they enter, Moses calls them to remember- to remember God’s promise, to remember that the desert covenant continues to bind them to one another and to their God.  He says:

The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. Not with our ancestors did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today.  The Lord spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the fire.” (Deuteronomy 5:2-4)

Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you from there with a mighty outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day” (Deuteronomy 5:15)

The clothes of your back did not wear out and your feet did not swell those forty years….Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 8:4;11).

Remember, says Moses. Remember that it is God who provides, who has always provided. Moses knows that the people have already forgotten this. And they will likely do it again. Because in the Promised Land, they will have fertile earth with which to grow, to produce, to flourish. And in such a context, it’s easy to forget.  “Israel will come to think that the goal of it’s life is to acquire and acquire and acquire. And in order to acquire, Israelites must compete with the neighbor. The system will turn one’s neighbor into a competitor and a threat and a challenge.”[1]

And so, he calls the people to remember- God, past, and Sabbath. But why? Why a reminder to keep Sabbath?

Because on the Sabbath:

“-You do not have to do more
-You do not have to sell more
-You do not have to control more
-You do not have to know more
-You do not have to have your kids in ballet or soccer
-You do not have to be younger or more beautiful
-You do not have to score more

Because this one day breaks the pattern of coercion, all are like you, equal—equal worth, equal value, equal access, equal rest”.[2]

Can we relate to the Israelites, wandering in the desert, stumbling into the Promised Land, forgetting that they have been led the whole time? I know I can. I can get on a roll with my life- I get busy with work, thinking that everything is going well. I’m invited to be on task forces and boards and I’m preaching and planning. Things are good. They’re good because of all the good stuff that I’m doing, so I do more, because, why not? I’ll write even better sermons and blog posts, facilitate even better meetings, respond to even more e-mails. Run even more errands, plan even more activities. And soon, it becomes easy to look for more things to do and to compare my doing to the doing of people around me.  And in the midst of all that doing, I forget to remember the God who created me, who calls me, and you, who calls us, out of slavery and into life. And for me, slavery doesn’t look like shackles and forced labor. It looks like getting caught up in a world where doing and being are regularly confused, where I start to see myself as a product of what I have and what I do.

Sabbath is not simply the pause that refreshes. It is the pause that transforms…Sabbath is an invitation to receptivity, an acknowledgement that what is needed is given and need not be seized.”[3]

 

Reflection:

-Where in your life do you need this ‘pause that transforms’?

-Where do you or your family sometimes fall into the pattern of comparing yourselves to others?

-What might “remembering” look like in your context?

-How do you see competition and the need to acquire playing out in our world today? Can you imagine a different way? What would that look like?

-How is your/your family’s Sabbath box practice going? Are there new things that you’re placing in it?

 

Activity:

-Sit down as a family, or with friends, or even just by yourself, and make a timeline of the things that feel really important. Maybe you create a visual timeline with pictures from old scrapbooks. Maybe you have some resident-artists in the group and they want to draw, or doodle memories along the timeline. Maybe you just want to make a list. If you’re sitting with other people, then tell stories about the things that you put on the timeline.

-What do you notice about the things that you remember, about the things you, or other people remembered as important?

-Are you surprised by anything?

-Why might remembering like this be important?

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.

[1] Walter Brueggemann, Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014), 37.

[2] Walter Bruggeumann, 40.

[3] Walter Breuggemann, 44-45