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Basic Christian Life Skills 6: — Shabbat Shalom — Sermon


Scene setter

Two woodcutters applied for the same job. The job would go to the one who cut down the most trees in a day The first was an old, experienced woodcutter and the second was a younger, stronger man eager to prove his ability.

Both men set out to chop. The younger, stronger woodcutter kept chopping all day aware that the older man was taking frequent rests At the end of the day when the two woodcutters compared to see who had chopped more wood, the younger & stronger woodcutter was astonished to find that the older woodcutter who kept taking breaks had chopped a significantly greater amount of wood. He said, “How is that even possible? You spent far less time chopping than I did. I’m stronger and never once stopped cutting down trees. What is your secret?” The experienced man said, “every time I sat down, I was sharpening my axe.” Rest is important And the advertising industry has tapped into this Can you remember the advertising slogan for Kitkat?
A Kit Kat helps you work rest and play
What about the one for a Mars Bar?
A Mars a day helps you work rest and play

Digital age is making rest harder. It encourages us to be working 24/7 This advertising clip captures something of this

The danger of working 24/7 of course is burnout and when we are working flat out it doesn’t take much to break us Here is a little video clip I made of a match facing burnout and then being broken. There is no camera trickery, its simply that you wouldn’t see it if I did it live! So here is a short list of words we use to try and stop burnout happening Can you think of any more? What’s missing?

SERMON – Shabbat Shalom

Jesus said The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit

Shabbat Shalom is the Hebrew greeting which means have a peaceful Sabbath rest. And I could feel your disappointment that there was no strapline in the scene setter So here it is: Shabbat shalom. The gift that keeps on giving

Shalom, as I said last week in the scene setter, is a word I love. It’s so rich. It encompasses words like wholeness, wellness, harmony, contentment, tranquillity,
prosperity, justice. And in practice means:

  • Peace with God
  • Peace with each other
  • Peace with all creation

It’s a great word isn’t it Shabbat means to cease, to stop, to rest. In the Bible, Sabbath is a really important Basic Christian Life Skill. Before we put some biblical flesh on the bones of this statement, I invite you to do a complete mental reset of the word… So often the word Sabbath for the Scots has received a bad press.

This is a picture of a play park in Raasay.

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The image conveys an idea of Sabbath which is negative, boring, something that gets imposed on others. A legalistic, one-size-fits-all approach A sign that the Pharisees would have been well pleased with! That might have been the case fifty years ago in Scotland but now, apart for a few exceptions, nothing is restricted – The tills in our towns and cities are going like express trains 24/7.

We are free to make our choices. And we are paying the price for this – burnout – a term first used in the clinical sense in the 1970’s. This makes us ask the question: have we have lost the intended meaning behind the greeting Shabbat Shalom? The gift that keeps on giving So let’s be open to doing this mental reset and approach the word Sabbath as if we were hearing of it for the first time and by doing this we create the possibility for the idea of a sabbath to take on a new and deeper  meaning in our own lives. Where does the idea Sabbath begin in the Bible? When do we first meet the idea? The answer of course is here in Genesis

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. The Sabbath is not some afterthought. It is built into to the creation story itself. It establishes a rhythm. The creation story is why our weeks have seven days. God made humanity, you and me in his image, on day six of the creation story. I just love the fact that what we got to do on our first full day of life was … wait for it … rest! before we start to work. Jesus says the Sabbath was made for humanity (Mark 2.27). It is God’s gift of rest for his people. Part of the mental reset we need to make is to receive the Sabbath as a gift and not as an imposition. But it is so much  more than that … The Greeks had two words for time, both of which are used in the New Testament: Chronos and Kairos Chronos is ordinary time, the ticking of the clock that take us from minute to minute, day to day and year to year. Chronos is the root of many of our own words: chronology, chronicle, chronic. The word derives from one of the Greek gods – Chronos.  Chronos was a nasty God. he swallowed his own children he was always consuming. And from our perspective this morning, Chronos time will eat us alive if we do not constantly keep track of it and control it. We often say

• Are you keeping busy?
• Don’t waste time
• Time is of the essence
• We keep going 24/7

Chronos time is quantifiable. God created Chronos time in Genesis We are to use time wisely in both paid and unpaid work, to create beauty. But we can so easily get caught up in the rat race that develops from the mantra Time is money, and then our identity becomes:

  • what I do,
  • where I live,
  • what I earn,
  • what I have

rather than who I am as a child of God. and Chronos starts to eat us alive. We have working breakfasts, working lunches, and the biggest oxymoron of them all:
working vacations!

Kairos is the qualitative time of life. Kairos is the Greek God of opportunity. He has winged feet and darts about. He has a long lock of hair that hangs over his bald head, the idea being that you have to seize the moment when opportunity approaches. You have to quickly grasp this lock of hair. In the Bible, Kairos time is the appointed time. It is divinely ordained. Note in Genesis: God sanctified the seventh day, made it holy, set it apart. In Kairos time, you ask not ‘What time is it?’ but ‘What is the time for?’ Yes, Kairos time is within Chronos time, but Sabbath time is not about Chronos time. It’s about Kairos time, where we are invited

  • To lie down in green pastures
  • To reflect on our identity as a child of God
  • To be nourished spiritually
  • and be restored physically
  • To trust that God will provide for our other needs.
  • And we will return to work after the sabbath rested, refuelled, restored, revitalised and refreshed.

Our wood cutter story from earlier captures some of this sentiment. It’s a gift! Seize the opportunity! The Israelites, during their exodus from Egypt to the promised land lived on manna for 40 years. There was a sufficient daily amount for everyone. It was a flaky substance that appeared in the morning and rotted by the next day
except on the 6th day where it lasted during the 7th day – the day that the Lord had made Kairos time, the Sabbath. Manna was not a commodity to be bought and sold but a gift from God. The double quantity on the 6th day allowed the Israelites to cease from activity and experience rest. It taught them to trust in the Lord’s provision and not their own.There are echoes of this lesson in the feeding of the five thousand , as well as in the Lord’s prayer, where God provided and will continue to provide. So why do we find it so hard to trust that we can take time out? Why are we prepared to play fast and loose with this commandment – and face the risk of
physical and spiritual burnout? It all comes down to the fact that we are to a greater or lesser extent living as if we were slaves. We are all, to a greater or lesser extent, shackled to the false gods of this world – the world that advertising would have us buy in to. In our reading from Deuteronomy, the Sabbath is connected to the command to remember Egypt, to God liberating his people from slavery, from the tyranny of Pharoah. Pharaoh is seen as a human king representing everything that stands against God’s rule. Under Pharoah, there was no peace, no rest, no freedom. Just fear, greed and power. Exploitation of the weak and work, work, work. Echoes of many of the world dictatorships. And it’s not a big jump to see echoes also in many of the world’s economies… Your identity is secure as long as you are producing economic wealth. Our culture revolves around productivity, fuelled by advertising, targeted at always needing more, selling us stuff we don’t need.  Our culture measures our value by productivity, and are we a success or not? Not only are we slaves to consumerism; we are slaves to our own self importance. If it
wasn’t for me, the world would stop spinning. We need to be at the centre of it. so
Shove off, God
I’m in charge
No to your ways (SIN)

The Sabbath is the antidote to this thinking. The Sabbath reminds us we are not in control. Teaching us to trust that the world will keep on spinning, that the kingdom of God does not have the same values as the world. That is liberating and influences how we engage with the world. But there’s more! Have I already mentioned: it’s the gift that keeps on giving! Not only do we experience physical and spiritual nourishment; so does creation. The benefits are also ecological. For the sabbatical system is much more than one Sabbath every seven days. It also consists of one Sabbath year, every seven years and the year of jubilee every fifty years. The principle being that it allows the land to rest as well. And in this sense, there is a liberation of the land for it to be more productive. With modern urbanised culture, there is a tendency to become disconnected from the land. We have lost an intimacy, and land is no longer seen as a gift, but a possession. We have become consumers of the earth not producers, and we are paying the price, not least with the reduction in biodiversity. But we still need to dig deeper to discover that there is still more to the Sabbath. For the Israelites, Sabbath rest was a community experience involving families, servants, and animals.

It was also an activity that was a witness to the surrounding nations. It distinguished Israel from the surrounding nations. It was a witness to God’s provision. It was a witness that God was in control, where everybody is reminded of their identity as a child of God. It is familial, it is communal, it is ecological. It is physical, it is spiritual, it is liberating.

With the Kairos moment of the incarnation, Jesus came to fulfil the Sabbath to offer Sabbath rest – to open the doors to the kingdom of God. We are in the now in the familiar now-and-not-yet territory.

Jesus’ fulfilment of the Sabbath is for the here and now but it’s also for the future when Jesus comes again. In the here and now, we find spiritual rest through the working of the Holy Spirit; when he comes again, we will know perfect rest, Shalom in all its fullness. Jesus also kept the sabbath. The sabbath is consecrated time As we are realising, if it’s solely about taking a day off, we have missed the point. It requires preparation and discipline to fully experience the gift that keeps on giving.
What’s the application?

We need to work out how we apply the Sabbath principles to our own lives.
We need to develop a rhythm to our week where we cease from our usual activity, where
we remember God’s intervention in the world, and remember our own release from slavery
and bondage to SIN, where we remember God is in control.

Ideally, we do it in community, but one size does not fit all. We need to be proactive. We need to plan it. It won’t happen by itself. My sabbath day may be on a different day from someone else’s sabbath day. The sabbath may therefore look differently for those of us who live in a city from those of us who live in the country. For the sportsperson who has to play sport on a Sunday, for the minister who works on a Sunday, for those of us who are unemployed, for those of us who are retired, if we are not in paid employment. The sabbath also makes us consider what unpaid work is. What is unpaid work in family life? in church life? in community life? We rest to work, then recalibrated, refreshed, we return to the work that God has called us to do, both paid and unpaid. There is no such thing as retirement from God’s work. Shalom Shabbat…It’s the gift that keeps on giving

May that be all our experience and not just ours, but for all of creation, not just in the life to come, but in the here and now. Amen