"Sundays should come with a pause button."
So said Amazon in the email we just received.
Was Amazon trying to make a profoundly theological statement? Probably not. (They actually wanted us to "pause" what we were doing and go shopping.) But they capitalized on our collective longing for a break from a to-do list that never seems to end. And in so doing, they pointed to the wisdom of Yahweh's command at Sinai: "Remember the Sabbath."*
The fact is that we all need a break. A rhythmic time of rest. A chance to recharge so we can re-engage our work with fresh energy.
Sabbath is less about attending a worship service (this is important for other reasons) and more about recognizing that we are not machines. We all need to hit the "pause button" or we will quickly reach burnout.
For the Israelites, just rescued from slavery to Pharaoh in Egypt, the Sabbath was a weekly reminder of their freedom (see Deuteronomy 5:12–15). Yahweh was their provider. They no longer had a harsh taskmaster who required ceaseless labor. Six days of work was sufficient. Every member of the household, even the animals, were afforded a day of rest. The very architecture of God's creative work recognized the delightful rhythm of work and rest (see Genesis 2:1–3). As a nation, Israel was to model their work week after God's (see Exodus 20:8–11).
Our problem is that we often fall to one extreme or the other. On one side are those of us living a lifestyle of laziness, doing as little work as possible and prioritizing entertainment -- social media, TV, Netflix, and computer games absorb our attention hour after hour. On the other side are those of us who never unplug from work. Task-oriented emails, income generating activity, and household chores permeate our evenings and weekends until our days are indistinguishable from one another. We never stop because if we do, we're afraid we'll be snowed under. We can't rest because we'll fall behind. We must keep pushing or we'll lose our competitive edge.
For those of us in this latter category, Sabbath saves us from ourselves. We are our own most ruthless taskmaster. For us, Sabbath signals our surrender. Jesus is Lord. Not me. God is in control. Not me. The Almighty is my provider. Not me. I can rest in his tender care.
Sabbath is more than a schedule change. It involves a radical reorientation of our perspective.
Sundays do come with a pause button. We just have to have the discipline to push it. When we do, we'll find that it is one of God's wisest and best gifts.
Did you hit the pause button today? If so, what life-giving and restorative activity took the place of the work you set aside?
*I'm aware the Sabbath falls on Saturday, not Sunday. But in keeping with the rhythm of the early church to meet for worship on Sunday, I'm thinking of that day as the Christian "Sabbath."
Sunday, November 27, 2016
Amazon's Call for Sabbath
Dr. Carmen Imes is the Associate Professor of Old Testament at Prairie College in Three Hills, Alberta, and serves the broader church through teaching, speaking, and writing. She earned a PhD in Biblical Theology (Old Testament) from Wheaton College under Dr. Daniel Block, an MA in Biblical Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a BA in Bible and Theology from Multnomah University. She and her husband, Danny, served as missionaries with SIM 15 years. They have three children: Ana, Emma, and Easton.