My grandparents didn’t eat at restaurants or buy things at stores on Sundays. Sunday was a day of rest and you shouldn’t ask anyone to work, although it didn’t seem to matter that my grandmother worked very hard cooking Sunday dinner for everyone. Their theology changed after they retired and started spending winters in Florida. In Florida, it became a matter of rushing out of church in time to beat the Baptists to the all you can eat buffet; where one of the big draws was a sign on the wall that said, “no tipping allowed.”
Growing up in an evangelic tradition, Sunday was the Sabbath, and that meant going to church. Twice. Once in the morning and once in the evening, not to mention Sunday School before church, Wednesday night prayer meeting and Thursday night youth group. Beyond going to church, I didn’t really think much about Sabbath.
Even after I left the evangelic tradition and became an Episcopalian, I didn’t really give Sabbath much thought, until the renowned Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann walked into St. Timothy’s. Luckily, after visiting one Sunday, he decided to stay. He became a faithful member of the congregation, presenting lecture series a couple of times each year and preaching occasionally.
It was during this time that I started to see Sabbath as resistance. Or, as the subtitle to Dr. Brueggemann’s book Sabbath as Resistance puts it, “Say(ing) No to the Culture of Now.” It is about saying no to our 24/7 society of consumption.
Perhaps our entire being is out of alignment. We go, go, go. We stare at screens constantly. While staring at one screen, we are often also staring at another. How often do you find yourself reading something on your phone while you are watching TV? Come on, be honest. When the person we’re dining with gets up to use the restroom, we whip out our phone to check our email, text, look at stock prices, or read Reddit. You name it.
If Elijah had a cell phone, I wonder if he would have heard God’s whisper or if he would have missed it because he was too busy Tweeting about the wind, earthquake, and the fire?
Sabbath is a huge issue with Dr. Brueggemann. In fact, he sees it almost as a fulcrum between the first and the second segments of the Ten Commandments. The first three commandments are about our relationship with God. The last six commandments are about our relationship with each other. Sandwiched in between them is the Sabbath. Does Sabbath become a time of renewal and realignment that helps give us perspective on our relationship with God and each other? Perhaps the Sabbath is what unites us.
If Sabbath does tie our relationship with God and our relationship with each other together, then it starts to seem massively important. Perhaps there is so much anger in the world because very few of us take Sabbath seriously. We are out of balance with ourselves, which means we are out of balance with God and with each other.
I wonder what would happen if we all suddenly said “No to the Culture of Now.”
David Dreisbach serves as Director of Communications for the Diocese of Southern Ohio. Connect with him at email@example.com.