Weekly Bible Devotional
“Inflation & the Cycle of Blessings: The Currency of Wellness”
October 23, 2022
Scripture: Exodus 20:8-11
8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9 For six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
Notes on the Text:
This is a part of the Ten Commandments that were given to Moses for his people. The giving of the Law to the people of Israel was an essential part of their journey into freedom from their slavery in Egypt. Slavery and oppression were the norms of what they knew and lived and that was why they needed a new vision for life. The first part of Exodus was about getting the people out of Egypt and out of slavery. The second part was about getting the slavery out of the minds and hearts of the people. It took a lot of spiritual and mental work to free the people’s minds from slavery and its ways.
The commandments were guides for the best ways for the Israelites to live in their new home and under the rule of God. The Ten Commandments were among a larger set of rules and guidelines for the people which provided for a life of abundance, justice, and peace in the community. For the people of Israel Sabbath keeping was not about learning to take a day off during the week. It was about learning to live a life of trust in God, a life of freedom and wholeness that was very different from their experience of slavery in Egypt. For their time in Egypt of over four hundred years, the ancient Israelites lived by the values of Pharaoh and their experience of slavery. The days of slavery in Egypt were days of hard labor and humiliation. The people of Israel had to work all the time with no time for adequate rest. In his book, Peace, Walter Brueggemann sets up a powerful metaphor for the experience of the Israelites in Egypt: “The Brickyard.” As anyone who has read Exodus 5 knows, the children of Israel were slaves to Pharaoh. They made bricks for Egypt. “A brickyard is a place of competent production. It is where bricks are made to specification and on schedule . . . The brickyard is also a place of coercion and profit.. . .the brickyard is a place of unhappiness, oppression, and, of course, enormous hostility . . . Not only must we produce for the others, but there is no prospect, not in our wildest imagination, that things are ever going to change. There will never be enough bricks to meet the quota.” Walter Brueggemann states that Sabbath rest is about, “withdrawal from the anxiety system of Pharaoh, the refusal to let one’s life be defined by production and consumption and the endless pursuit of private well-being.”
The Israelites had been schooled in the ways of anxiety. The Sabbath was God’s strategy to transform what they learned and teach them a new way. As slaves, the people of Israel forgot about the original goodness of creation and lived under the oppression of forced labor. They needed to reclaim the goodness of their own life. Their sense of wholeness was at stake. That is why the practice of Sabbath was essential for their health as a people. It was not just about luxury living and having time to play. It was about the essence of who they were as the people of God who were called to enjoy and share the currency of wellness.
This week we are looking at the currency of wellness as part of the cycle of blessings. Wellness encompasses the physical, social, economic/financial, ecological, and spiritual dimensions of our lives. Our wellness takes communal and personal intentionality. Yet, life comes at us with a variety of challenges that knocks off balance. At a time of high inflation, the stress seems to be even higher than usual. Think of the many people who are having to work extra hours to make ends meet. The pandemic has added an extra layer of stress for many of us and has isolated a lot of people from important social connections. Rapid inflation is causing us to sacrifice our health and the health of our planet for the sake of keeping the economy growing. The 24-hour news cycle of relentless bad news seems to wreak havoc on our mental health. The spiritual practice of Sabbath keeping can become a great gift for our lives. Sabbath is about remembering that within each one of us is a hidden wholeness that cannot be touched by anything. The invitation of Sabbath is to lean into this wholeness and to always be able to access it so that we can be realigned again and again to who we truly are.
This week we are invited to examine our assumptions about what honoring the Sabbath means for our lives. What are the practices that allow us to live by the values of God’s vision for our lives instead of the values of the Pharaohs of the world? Are there regular times and avenues for us to live by God’s law in our daily lives? Whether we are working, retired, or looking for work, the invitation of Sabbath Rest is for each of us because it is an invitation to reorient our time and our life to God’s spaciousness and freedom that makes life delightful, meaningful, and even more productive.
The Commandment about honoring the Sabbath seems to be extra challenging for us. In theory, keeping the Sabbath does not sound like a very tough challenge, but in practice, it is very hard when we are trying to fulfill the many demands that are put on our lives: Work, housekeeping, raising children, paying the bills, preparing our taxes, caring for loved ones who are sick, caring for our own bodies when we are sick, fulfilling our church and social commitments of service, dealing with natural disasters or political divisions, and the list goes on and on. With that kind of pressure there is always of sense of restlessness about how to remedy the situation. Even for those who are retired, keeping the Sabbath is not always easy as life’s busyness comes at us all the time.
Sabbath keeping is about personal and communal practices that come out of the valuing of life and the gift of being. We tend to define ourselves by what we do or what we have. Sabbath keeping reminds us that we are precious to God just as we are without having to prove anything. The ability to rest is also an essential measure of our social wellbeing. Do people in our community have time to rest and be or are they stressed out about money or caregiving responsibilities that they cannot let go and be rejuvenated?
In their book, The Truth About God: The Ten Commandments in Christian Life, Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon urge us to see that the Sabbath is not merely about resting, it is about time spent focusing on God and God’s work, rather than our own. “Sabbath is much more than doing nothing. We are enjoined this day to remember, recall, recollect, and re-create. We are not simply to remember that we ought to keep the Sabbath, but we are to remember who God is – active and loving, resourceful beyond our actions and resources. We are to remember who we are – gifted, sustained and blessed beyond our striving and achieving. . . At the last, Sabbath ought to be an occasion when we avoid making unnecessary demands upon others. Sabbath keeping is a defense against the exploitive, purely pragmatic, and ruthlessly utilitarian tendencies of the world. Like the Jubilee year in which Israel was to free slaves and land, so the Sabbath ought to be our time to enjoy one another. We know a family who for years has kept the Sabbath. Their rule is you can do no work on the Sabbath unless it is a joy. If planting bulbs in the yard is work, then it must wait until Monday. If it is a joy, then it is Sabbath work.”
“Sabbath might be saying that at least one seventh of life must be about non-performance and non-egocentric pursuit, or we forget our life’s purpose.” ~Richard Rohr
Prayer by Joyce Rupp:
O Divine Spirit resting within me, how precious is your presence. I am your temple, your cathedral. How humbling that I could be the abode of your unconditional love. May the dwelling I provide for you be one of ceaseless contemplation. Shine in the window of my soul and keep my heart swept clean. O Divine Spirit resting within me, all is yours now, all is yours. Amen.