‘Sabbath as Resistance’ by Walter Brueggemann, Intro

Quietness is hard to find, and even when circumstances clear up for it to be possible, it’s hard to achieve.  Yesterday, in ongoing efforts at cleaning and organizing and, ultimately, simplifying, we went to Ikea to find a shelf, and would up spellbound by its consumer witchcraft.  I’ll skip the details, but they may or may not involve “necessities” like pillows and floor lamps for the basement.  And I was reminded of the frightening fact that when I turn off noise, sit still, close my eyes, what comes to my mind is an impulse to browse, click, add to cart, and checkout.

I’m reading Walter Brueggemann’s Sabbath as Resistance and he quotes Michael Fishbane, who writes about the Sabbath:

One enters the sphere of inaction through divestment, and this release affects all the elements of the workaday sphere.  Business activity and exchange of money are forbidden, and one is urged not just to desist from commerce but to develop more interior spheres of settling the mind from this type of agitation… Slowly, under these multiple conditions, a sense of inaction takes over, and they day does not merely mark the stoppage of work or celebrate the completion of creation, but enforces the value that the earth is a gift of divine creativity, given to humankind in sacred trust.  On the Sabbath, the practice benefits of technology are laid aside, and one tries to stand in the cycle of natural time, without manipulation or interference.  (Ellipses Brueggemann’s). 

The idea is becoming quiet and mindful of God, not just against noisiness and people and busyness, but against the commodification of our bodies, the commercialization of our needs. the cycle of work and consumption that are always a live threat to define us.  Instead, we are offered Sabbath and Manna, resistance and alternative to what we need to and have to and are required to by the yokes of contemporary society.

Now Brueggemann:

This book is addressed exactly to those who are ‘weary and heavy laden,’ made so by the insatiable requirements of our society–in its taxation for the sake of imperialism, in its social conformity that urges doing more and having more (now perniciously embodied in ‘teaching to test’), in its frightened intent that there should be no ‘free lunch’ for anyone, in its assumption that there is a technological resolution of every human problem, in its pathologies of greed and control.

I am exactly weary and heavy laden by those particular loads of care.  I’m concerned about my taxation, and ours.  I’m constantly tested by measurement society.  I’m anxious about fairness, anxious about solutions, anxious about security and securitization.  Sabbath is not neglecting those things, it’s answering them with a resolution that they are not Lord.  Instead, the Lord sees as more than those things, not the sum of our assets and liabilities, not the evidence of our productivity or return on investment, not our plans and strategies.

I am interested in this alternative life of discipleship that Jesus invites and challenge us to.  I’m curious what kind of Sabbath practices weave into my week and daily life, weave into our life as a family, weave into the fabric of my thoughts and prayers, that offers a way of freedom.  A way where his yoke is easy and burden light.



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