Everybody I know is too busy and so am I. You probably are too.
“I’m too busy doing God’s work for God to do his work in me.”
And everywhere I go in the CRC, church leaders say that ministry is continually challenged because people are too busy to engage. They are consumed by week day sports games and weekend tournaments, music lessons, dance recitals, business trips, weekend getaways, family reunions, and retail therapy outings. Go ahead and add your own time-eaters to the list.
Social media and its cousins contribute by infinitely speeding up the pace for both interpersonal relationships and information gathering. Between texts, Facebook posts, favorite blogs, Twitter, the email inbox and all the rest, well, our schedules are full, our brains are constantly running on adrenalin, and our souls shrink.
Time has become the most valuable commodity in our culture and its scarcity is one of our leading stressors. And ultimately we are too busy for God.
What’s one to do? Here is my modest proposal:
Designate one month as congregational Sabbath month. A month is just enough time to work a major Biblical theme through the congregation’s collective consciousness and to invite a time of self-reflection and habit adjustment.
Here are 3 ideas for giving shape to such a month:
- Shape the month around a 4 week sermon series. The Biblical teaching on Sabbath is profoundly rich. It is rooted in both creation (Ex. 20:11) and redemption (Deut. 5:15), and flows from the heart of God (Gen. 2: 2-3). It literally means “cease”, inviting us to “cease living as if your life depends on your own efforts", and instead, to “let go and let God.” Sabbath invites us into a space of playful trust: I am not on the throne (thank you, Lord!), and as I trust the One who is on the throne, I am freed to walk in a spirit of playful abandon.
- Issue a month-long Sabbath challenge to every ministry, home, and person. Google “Sabbath ideas” and multiple lists will immediately appear. Compile the fifty that best suit your community and invite every ministry, home, and person to incorporate one Sabbath activity into their rhythms for this month. The youth group may practice Lectio Divina during its devotion time; a family may make origami mobiles for a women’s shelter; one person may take 15 minute prayer walks every other day while another fasts from Facebook for the month. Link these activities to the sermon series by giving space for short testimonies during the four Sundays, perhaps climaxing with an open mic celebration on the final Sunday (maybe during a potluck after the service).
- Identify a simple yet evocative phrase that will echo through the month. Repeated simplicity has the gift of breaking through to the human soul. A phrase such as “Go slow” or “Take time for God” or “Soul Space” or “Restore” that is matched with an evocative graphic would serve to focus minds and hearts on the theme. A banner in the sanctuary, four different bulletin covers designed by teen artists, or a letter-size color poster that could be placed on the fridge in every home will serve to help the theme reverberate through the community.
One of my mentors has lived the motto: “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness” for ninety years. Cursing the hurriedness and seemingly misplaced priorities of people’s lives tends to breed resentment, shame, and discouragement. Lighting the candle of Sabbath playfulness, restoration, and LIFE offers an invitation into grace, healing, and community and also provides a safe place to repent of misplaced priorities.
A “Sabbath month” won’t fix the problem of busyness. But I’ve always read the Scriptures as the story of our Lord nudging his community towards shalom. Maybe a Sabbath month will provide opportunities for hundreds of such Holy nudges.