The Soundtrack of the Seventh Day

11 07 2011

Reflections on chapter 11 of Sabbath, a book by Dan Allender: Sabbath Justice, as well as the Conclusion of the book.

Our daughter, Alecia, is in India

  • loving it — “a feast for the eyes”
  • and wrestling with it — “India doesn’t make sense…One might not kill a chicken for fear that it might be their twice removed great aunt, but will have no problem dehumanizing a man of lower caste.”

Our off-kilter world has come into focus for her in a new, startlingly vivid way. After driving through an old part of New Delhi, Alecia writes,

Children and mothers and men with crippled limbs come to my window to tap in hopes of winning money. In very few is there still a youthful hope at change; for the majority, the life they live is the life they will live and despite their ask, they have swallowed the idea this is where they’ll stay. Even though I know the money I might give them won’t stay in their hands, it will be taken by whoever is in charge of the beggars in that area, it is still breaking to have to say no to the ask.

One day she writes about the poorest of the poor, and the next day she writes about wealth and privilege. Depending on where one lands, at either end of the scale or somewhere in between, the experience of living will either be filled with ease, or an endless trial.

As for me, whether I have had a good day or a bad day, I have still lived at the privileged top of the heap. If I think I understand this, I am lying to myself. I don’t understand what “unfairness” really feels like. I have not lived anywhere where I have felt “unequal.” I have not experienced what it is like to be in a hole that has no ladder out of it. Tucked into my Western world, I have not lived the life of the poor and oppressed; I have lived in a world that plays favorites, as the favored.

I recently read, “Lucky Man” by Michael J. Fox where he writes about the privileges of the privileged. He writes: “I had stumbled upon one of the lesser known truisms of American society: those who got, get.” Once you have, it is easier to have more; once you open certain doors, more doors are opened for you, and everyone knows their part in playing this game and helps to keep everyone else in their place so it all works.

Ever since people decided that they were so great, greater than God, a worldwide caste system was formed and our “justice” began to look like “injustice” to three-quarters of the world.

How radical, then, is the interruption of the Sabbath and its relative, the Year of Jubilee. Lest some get too comfortable in our comfortableness; and, conversely, lest others lose hope at their disadvantaged position, the Sabbath comes in, impractically every week, with robes of justice, with much disruption, and defies our world order. “It resents our equilibrium in a world that is chronically imbalanced by the burden of the curse” (178) and it stands against “the tyranny of injustice and announces in real time that no one is to be left behind in the rut of powerlessness” (179).

Just take a moment and read this carefully, mindfully. It is from Deuteronomy 5:12-15 in the Old Testament of the Bible:

Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

Some things really stand out to me.

  • First, to take a day of Sabbath is a command.
  • Second, it is a day for us, our family, those who work with and for us, our animals, our neighbors (no matter who they are or where they are from), all men and women alike, whether they believe as we do or not. It is a day to proclaim freedom, share it, and live it out loud.
  • Third, that people are to enjoy the day as we do, with the same extravagance, celebration, love, delight and freedom. It isn’t a Scrooge day, where some get the Turkey and some get the bones.
  • And fourth, if we are of “higher” position in life, to remember where we came from; to remember the grace given to us too so that we don’t think we are deserving of something more than anyone else deserves. We were once all slaves.

Pretty stunning passage as I look at it again.

Allender writes, “The Sabbath frees slaves, foreigners, and strangers from the bitterness of their servitude and frees their masters from the corrosive hardening of absolute power. Sabbath is a gift of equality that offers a stunning reversal of the Fall” (180):

Before time we are all equal —  no one has more or less due to their power or position – and death, time’s scythe, creates ultimate equality in that no one can escape its amputation. We are called to submit our lives to the Sabbath, which is to bend the knee before the One who submitted himself to time yet is the ruler of time (181)

Allender writes that it isn’t just a day to change our routine and to stop working; it is a day where we eradicate barriers; it is a day when we make choices about the love, peace and justice we will take with us out of the Sabbath and into the other six days. On the Sabbath we “renounce all activity that impoverishes, enslaves, or demeans others. It is a day set aside not to take or to procure, but to nourish and to give. Indeed, it is a day to dream and to hope” (186).

The Sabbath has a sound track, a song we can sing in the world; in my neighborhood, in the neighborhoods of India; the words are the same no matter the language,

The Sabbath was the music that took the groans of hurt and the words of hope and created a song. The Sabbath song is also a song of inclusiveness, a song that affirms the place for every person in God’s family – the resident alien, the immigrant mother, the Korean family that lives next door, the Latino teenager, the man dying of AIDS, the women of all races who know domestic violence, all of society’s marginalized. The Sabbath is a sanctuary for the alien, a sanctuary where there is always room for another person because it is a place in time, not space (quoting Kendra Haloviak, 187)

Every single person on the planet wants the same thing: we want to rest from our burdens, we want to laugh with joy, we want to experience pleasure and live life with people we we are known to and loved by. We want to be invited, to be valuable, and in our world that keeps the majority of its people excluded from the party, the Sabbath crashes it and invites all to come in.

Most of the world taps at our window, clothed in injustice. Is it overwhelming or underwhelming to me? Maybe I am so caught up in my own “poverty,” as George Bernard Shaw said,  “a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making [me] happy,” so sorry for myself I don’t even feel sorry, really, for anyone else.

When we keep our heads down, scarcely observing the Sabbath, it allows us a safe distance from our story of rescue and the offer of rescue to others. The reminder of the goodness of God on the Sabbath reminds us that this goodness is for all people.

Jesus said (in Luke 4:18):

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

On the seventh day, the day we stop every ordinary routine and exchange it for a celebration of God’s awesomeness, a natural expression of our renewal is to call others to enjoy the same:

“Open up the doors
Let the music play
Let the streets resound with singing
Songs that bring Your hope
And the songs that bring Your joy
Dancers who dance upon injustice!”

(“Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?” Martin Smith, Matt Redman)

This book (loved this book!) has been inviting me to a party, this “sanctuary in time,” given to me as a deliverance from the “noise and grime of [my] soiled days” (193); and in this last chapter the call is naturally, obviously, joyously, how might I share the invitation with others who don’t know they are invited?

‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

 

(Luke 14:15)

— Teresa Klassen

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2 responses

11 07 2011
Tina

Hi Teresa,
I loved reading your thoughts about the Sabbath. Just wondering if you have any suggestions on how to practically carry this out with a young family? What does a Sabbath look like at your house?
I think I’ll get the book and have a read too. 🙂

11 07 2011
teresaklassen

I would definitely read the book because he talks a lot about what he does. The thing is, it isn’t about the “Sabbath” in a traditional Jewish sense. Not a day of rituals exactly — although some of your own favorite things might become a welcomed routine. The main emphasis in the book was it not being about rules, but about community, communing especially outdoors so that we get out of our boxed environments, delighting, engaging in joy…all the things I reflected on in the past 11 blogs. For me, I think I have done well at setting “time” aside, but I haven’t really understood the joy of the Sabbath as I do now, having read this book. It really opened my eyes and my heart to a lot of things…some days when I have “rested” I haven’t actually delighted, or laid my burdens down. I haven’t seen broken relationships as redeemed, I haven’t dreamed of the future, I haven’t laughed enough…so I am on a journey with this too, really trying to be mindful of how I am treating this day…I think with a young family, actually setting aside our work (actually, and all of it), being thankful, doing joyous things, being free of sadness for the day because of the hope Christ gives us, engaged with each other more intentionally, being hospitable, telling stories, celebrating in worship along the way, noticing and experiencing wonder together…I think for everyone that is a little different, but it should be about us shedding something, and having a very different day, different from all the rest.

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