What is a Sabbath for? It is for Rest, Liberation, and Holiness.
A Sabbath is for Rest. Take a moment—imagine you are in the middle of a dance floor, everything is whirling around you, strobe lights, base bumping in your chest, bodies radiating energy everywhere, everyone a little dehydrated but going on anyway… and then, you step back and ascend a staircase and see the whole thing from the balcony, maybe drink a glass of water while doing so… and you can see the whole of it, and how you are a part of it, getting perspective before you return to the dance floor.
Sabbath rest does that, allowing us to cease and assess, and see God’s work in our life—this rest reveals and reminds us of God’s grace—the givenness of creation—all that is, seen and unseen, we ourselves in our individual and collective totality, are a gift; life itself, a gift—and if that is true, and it is, then taking care of our bodily needs will not end the world, it won’t stop spinning just because we take some time—in fact, taking care of this gift of life that God has given us respects the Giver! Humans were created for rest as well as labor—to ignore that is inhumane. We are very important, the maintenance of our life is a Godly task, and we’re not that important, our rest will not endanger all of creation.
A Sabbath is for Liberation. Look around, these gifts of God, all of them, are all gifts of God… Just as you are worthy of rest and respect, so are we all. Look around you, see these other humans before you, they too are worthy of dignity and rest. And look out the window at the creatures and trees and grass and land and sky—they too desire and deserve rest… did you know the Amazon—which produces 20% of earth’s oxygen, is burning because we would not rest—we desired farm land more than fallow forest and set it ablaze—an Amazon at rest no more.
While Sabbath calls us to rest, it also calls us to act, to act for the liberation of everyone! There is no sabbath without service! If everyone can not have Sabbath, there is no Sabbath—and so we must work for a world where all are freed. God destroyed the Egyptians because their slaves were forced to build bricks with not rest. God cast the Israelites out of the Promised Land because they did not give the Land rest every seventh year. If those in bondage do not find freedom of the Sabbath, it is not the Sabbath.
The Sabbath is sacred. Through it we may look up. Siblings of the faith, lift up your eyes. Look up to see the one who saves us. Listen to the stories of God’s activities and together sort out what God is doing in our lives right now! In these moments we re-prioritize the very order of our existence, remembering that our time is God’s time.
Taking Sabbath re-orders time and breaks the all-consuming nature of work work work, or even work play work. Holy time enter into the cycles of our life, it points to the ways we use time and are used by time, the ways we offer up our time, to those things in our life that are not God, the Idols that, at the end of the day, offer and are, no more than idle time. The seasons of our lives are different when infused with the sacred.
What is Sabbath for? Rest, liberation, and Holiness. All three weaved together into a bold and unique way of living life.
You can not have Sabbath without Rest, because you’ll get burnt out—acting for the liberation of others becomes drudgery and holiness becomes hellish…
Yet, Rest is not enough, for Holiness and Liberation together gives space for God to act when our actions are not enough—the miraculous is found in the interaction of those two!
You can not have Sabbath without Liberation, that is the point of today’s readings from both Luke and Isaiah. Holy days become excuses for inaction and rest becomes laziness—freedom is put off and selfishness is bolstered.
And yet, liberation is not the totality of Sabbath—after all when Rest and Holiness are held together there can be, at least for a day, equality—all affirmed as God’s Children, all able to rest, as Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “When a Walmart cashier and a bank president are both lying on a picnic blanket at the park, you can’t tell them apart.” The very thing liberation seeks is fostered by Rest and Holiness.
And if Sabbath isn’t sacred, it isn’t sabbath. Without Holiness, the “Child of God-ness” the “giveness of creation” the “made in God’s image-ness” the “out of one blood he made all people-ness” without Holiness, there is no why behind Liberation and behind Rest—they themselves can become ends, idols too.
And while Sabbath without the sacred isn’t sabbath, it does not follow that the Sabbath is only sacred—Freedoms call and a recognition that humans need rest are intertwined with one another and also uphold one another—choirs are often taught staggered breathing—people take breaths at different times so the song may still continue. And so too, rest and liberation—we can trust each other to keep working for freedom and trust that the work will continue when you need to take care of yourself!
What is a Sabbath for? It is for Rest, Liberation, and Holiness. For looking down from the balcony, for looking around and truly beginning to see your siblings of all sorts, for looking up and being pulled into sacred story. Each of these have the ability to transform our lives for the better, taken together they re-enforce each other and can transform the world!
Sabbath is for Rest, Liberation, and Holiness. A+A!