a flock of sheep mills about in a pasture

Sheep, Not Superheroes: How Sabbath Helps Us Right-Size

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It was just a tweet—a bit of wondering that a pastor named Richard Caldwell threw out there into the technoverse:

Could it be that God didn't wire us to carry every event, taking place in every part of the world, at every moment, as if it were ours? Could it be that technology has produced a faux omniscience and omnipresence that is hurting mankind not helping it? Just a thought.

This profound observation grabbed me, and it won’t let me go. Every fiber of my being says “YES” in agreement. We were not created to be Godlike in our knowledge. At least in this world, we are limited, place-based, time-bound beings. But inventions like the telephone, radio, television, personal computers, and now smartphones have broadened our focus exponentially. They entice us to become godlike: all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful.

As a result, we’re overwhelmed by all the illness, violence, hatred, death, and despair that shows up in each day’s news cycle. We’re exhausted by the constant calls of Facebook friends to do something now about a myriad pressing issues. Our compassion is stretched to the breaking point, and our focus on our fellow human beings is shattered into a thousand tiny splinters.

So if Richard Caldwell’s diagnosis of the illness pervading our society is correct, what’s the antidote? 

Maybe it’s a faith practice that goes back for millennia—a practice so beneficial and life-giving that God made it an actual commandment: the practice of sabbath.

Marva J. Dawn writes in Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, “A great benefit of Sabbath keeping is that we learn to let God take care of us—not by becoming passive and lazy, but in the freedom of giving up our feeble attempts to be God in our own lives.”

In other words, Sabbath is a time to “right-size” ourselves. It’s a time to remember that we are the “sheep of God’s pasture”—not the superheroes of the universe. It’s a day to realign, a day to tend to our souls and to the souls of those around us. It’s a day to fast from our frenetic pace and feast on the goodness of God.

There are many restorative and joyful ways to celebrate sabbath. The Faith Formation Ministries team has gathered some helpful sabbath resources for individuals, groups, and families through the Faith Practices Project. We invite you to explore them, to introduce them to your congregation, and to discover afresh the weekly rhythm of God’s good gift of 24 hours to remember who—and Whose—we really are.

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Contributor

Chris, Thanks for these thoughts. One of the struggle we have is loving the Sabbath, for many it was a burden when growing up and now it is often an afterthought. Your words reminded me of some things I looked at in a Sabbatical that led me to think about the Sabbath as being one of the things we need to love. I grabbed these ideas:

We Love the Sabbath

We recognize in the Sabbath God’s gift for rest and being reshaped as a people who live for his glory. 

The Sabbath has always been God’s counterpoint to the world’s striving. 

The Sabbath has always been God’s counterpoint to those who seek glory for themselves. 

The Sabbath has always been a way to de-center ourselves and center on God. 

The Sabbath has always been God’s call “to rest from our evil ways and to let the Lord work in us through his Spirit”  (Cf. Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 38).

Participant

Thanks for engaging with us on Sabbath, Larry. Sandy Swartzentruber wrote this particular post reflecting on how Sabbath is a gift of grace that counters the temptations toward knowing everything that comes with the hyperconnectivity of our current North American culture. So, it's really Sandy who deserves the thanks for this post. 

More broadly though, let me say that Faith Formation Ministries is really enjoying the conversations that are springing out of this focus on faith practices, like Sabbath. What you have outlined here resonates with a fair number of the conversations our team has been having. I really like how you are naming this invitation to love Sabbathing. Growing up, we talked about Sabbath more as a duty or obligation - and certainly not as affection or love for the Sabbath. That Heidelberg Catechism answer you quote has also been one that has caught my attention in recent years. Sabbath is a way of life, rather than a day. 

Community Builder

Thanks, Larry! Yes, sabbath can be a struggle, even though it's a great gift! It's our hope that the Faith Practices Project resources will be helpful as people enter into an exploration of how they might come to love and celebrate sabbath more fully. And thank you for your June Network post! I just ran across it and will add it to our sabbath resources--good stuff to ponder there.