Sabbath and Mission

Sabbath is a practical divestment so that neighborly engagement, rather than production and consumption, defines our lives
— Walter Brueggemann, Sabbath as Resistance

When we think about the invitation from God to introduce Him to others through proclamation and service [i.e. mission], Sabbath is probably not high on the list as a foundation.  Mission is an active word, something we do and sabbath seems the opposite of this, inactivity, stopping, not doing.   But as we think about what often prevents us from moving out in mission, particularly in service towards others, sabbath actually plays a vital role in the Christian’s heart because effective and fruitful mission moves out from the heart. 

What is Sabbath and how do we learn to practice it?  Practically, it simply means making purposeful space in our lives to declutter and refocus our minds and hearts. This means weaving into our schedules, moments, when we can stop before God.  Take time to lay out our burdens, our struggles before God, learning to quiet ourselves before Him, listening to Him, allowing Him to interrupt, refine and redeem our thoughts and desires. 

As Walter Brueggemann, wisely and winsomely articulates in his book Sabbath as Resistance, when God instructs people to place nothing before Him in the first of the Ten Commandments, it is because He is intimately acquainted with our hearts and the way they work.  He knows that if we put anything before Him, that thing, whether a relationship, a possession, a career or dream will consume us, our thoughts, our attention and our desires.  Not only that, but this mindset then often reduces people around us to commodities to get what we want or hindrances to getting what we think we need to make us happy or what Brueggemann calls “threats and competitors" 

Sabbath then, is about learning to stop, to slow down and reevaluate the root and foundation of our happiness.  Sabbath is learning to find rest for our cravings in God through trusting that He knows what I need, when I need it. [Romans 8:31-32]  

When I can learn to find rest in God like this, trusting that He is enough, that His plan and His timing for me are good and perfect, my eyes are lifted off myself.  When this starts to happen in my heart, I can learn to let go of my time, my money my possessions, my career, and turn my attention towards blessing and serving others with what I have. Learning to rest in God helps me see my neighborhood, my school, my workplace not primarily as places that I get from but can learn to give to because I learn to see that God is enough for me.

Sabbath is a vital part of mission because it re-centers my heart on what, or shall I say Who is most important.  Sabbath is learning to put my heart and mind at rest in the hands of my Heavenly Father who promises good things for His children [James 1:17] 

And so… 

  • What steps can I take towards practicing Sabbath this week?
  • How might finding rest in God help me be more free and aware of opportunities to bless others?
  • What other pursuits, pleasures, possessions are getting in the way of me find rest in God and serving others?