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Making room for the Sabbath: the power of community

Social Chaos: Where's the Faith?

Marva Dawn has written a book called Keeping The Sabbath Wholly. She’s a great writer. The book is practical yet able to draw this beautiful picture of what Sabbath time with God can be, and what’s at stake if we don’t make time for it. In the book she describes the wonderful shape Sabbath might take when we stop working, stop worrying and stop trying to stuff 200 hours worth of activity into our 168-hour weeks.

Making Sabbath time might include things like savoring a relaxing meal. Enjoying a leisurely walk outside. Shutting all work-related books and papers away into a cabinet … out of sight, out of mind. Right? Inspiring book – right?

Until you get to chapter 4, when she casually mentions that she’s a single person with no children and an academic’s schedule. At this point, many people might be tempted to toss the book aside and give up.

Rev. Shelley Cunningham put it this way. “I know I need Sabbath. I don’t know how to get it, but I need it. So, I’ve tried to tackle this whole Sabbath idea in more bite-sized portions. Less like Sabbath ‘chunks’ and more like Sabbath ‘moments.’”

I’m still going to the gym and working out and I’ve been told to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Sometimes it’s hard to find the time to do it – so, if you can’t do it all at once, try for three 10-minute increments.

Instead of thinking I can’t possibly find a whole day for rest, try for a few minutes every day. Light candles at dinner. Pick up your Bible or a devotional instead of Words with Friends before you go to sleep. Breathe deeply, especially when you’re about to get upset! I’m a work in progress. You’re a work in progress. It’s about intentionally asking what is God inviting me to do in this moment?

Sabbath is better in community.

We hear this in Ecclesiastes, “Two are better than one, for they can help one another succeed.

If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. One person standing alone can be defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer.”

As a single person, this text can feel like just one more reminder that I’m going at it without a partner. I’ve read this at so many holy unions and weddings – and I am sincerely happy for the couple, but in my mind I’m asking, “When will it be my turn?” Always the preacher and never the bride!

Being single can seem magnified when it seems the world is made for couples. But let’s be honest, just because you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean you can’t feel alone. In fact, if your relationship is unhealthy or dysfunctional or just plain dead, you might feel even more alone.

Dorothy Day once described her life as “the long loneliness.” I get that feeling sometimes – Don’t you? But she also said, “We have all known the long loneliness, and we have learned that the only solution is love, and that love comes with community.”

Not just with a spouse, or with a partner, or with children. But with others – people of all ages and shapes and colors. With God’s fabulous creation who can be on the journey with us.

It’s that we’re aware of it. We’re paying attention to what God is doing. We’re looking for God’s presence. Isn’t that part of what Sabbath keeping is all about? An increased sense of the holy all around us?

Oh, the power of community. There are wonderful implications to the value of community when it comes to Sabbath – both in the way we keep it, and that we do keep it. For one thing, there’s the accountability factor. It’s way too easy to let things slip when we have only ourselves to answer to. There is a time and a season for everything under the sun. Community helps us see things about ourselves we can’t necessarily see.

Who do you have in your life who can help you focus on time with God? And, who can you help keep focused?

When we come together as a community, we are reminded that God says we’re wonderful, beautiful, unique – awesome! When the world around us might be telling us otherwise. Or when we’re listening to old tapes from our parents or the churches we grew up in. Knowing who we are is so very helpful when it comes to feeling connected to God. It’s a reminder of who we are and whose we are. This kind of community is essential. Never underestimate the kind of effect you have on people and the gifts that you bring to others.

But just as important, is that community brings a measure of truth to the limits we have. That’s where Sabbath comes in. You can’t do everything. You don’t have to fix everything. And Sabbath is our way to remember that.

Last week I had a vacation that turned into a staycation. It started on Monday. I was talking with my neighbors and they said they had thrown wildflower seeds in a portion of my front yard that I had pretty much neglected for the past couple of years, and those wildflowers were starting to spring up and grow! I thought to myself, Oh my – they’re getting tired of looking at weeds and want to see something pretty.

So, since I had some time I was able to take a closer look – and sure enough, I could see wildflowers growing here and there. And I knew I’d never be able to enjoy them if I didn’t get rid of the grass and weeds that were already choking them. Someone asked me how I spent my vacation – and I responded – “on my knees!” I was in my front yard, on my knees pulling weeds – in the dirt. And I thought, this is a huge project, and I could complain about my aching back – but then, it started to become fun. It was therapeutic. I had time to think. I didn’t have music on, only the sound of the birds. Butterflies would wisp by me and I’d get a whiff of a flowering tree on the other side of the yard. A hawk even came and landed in my birdbath and stayed there for quite awhile before hopping off and getting a lizard and flying off – not 20 feet from me!

I had time to think – and let my mind wander. I was so grateful for the opportunity to have the time (to take the time) to take a closer look. Because it was in taking a closer look I was able to see the wildflowers. Sabbath–taking is natural therapy. And I sure was getting a big dose of it and I knew healing was taking place on many hidden levels despite the cramps and aches.

You know, no one ever said this process would be easy. It’s not easy. But it is important. And it does matter. So keep trying. Keep paying attention. Because whatever this theme of Sabbath-keeping is doing in you, one thing is certain: God is stirring you. God is touching a nerve, speaking to your heart, showing you just how much you need Sabbath rest and peace.

And I trust that as this season goes along, we will be changed. Because when God starts stirring, things happen – holy things. And there’s a joy that comes in experiencing those things with others. Amen

Rev. Dan Koeshall is the senior pastor at The Metropolitan Community Church (The Met), 2633 Denver Street, San Diego, California, themetchurch.org. Services every Sunday at 9 and 11 a.m.

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Posted by on Apr 4, 2013. Filed under Bottom Highlights, Where's the Faith?. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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