Dearest monks and artists,
Every summer we try to step back from this wonderful work and take a bit of time off for planning, dreaming, and resting. Sabbath is one of the profound gifts of a generous and abundant divine presence who says that work is good and rest is necessary.
We are so grateful for all the ways this community supports our work in the world and we are eager to listen more deeply in the coming weeks to what new things want to be birthed through the Abbey in the coming year.
We will be taking a break from our weekly love notes and daily quotes and questions starting tomorrow and will return on Sunday, August 1st with more Abbey goodness. You are still welcome to email us (or register for programs) we might just be a bit slower to respond than usual.
Here is a short excerpt from my book Sacred Time on the invitation of Sabbath in our lives:
Theologian Walter Brueggemann has a brilliant little book titled Sabbath as Resistance. He describes the origins of the practice of Sabbath in the story of the Exodus in which the Israelites are freed from the “Pharoah culture” of endless productivity and relentless labor into the “Yahweh culture” where rest is essential and we reject our slavery to perpetual anxiety. He writes:
“Into this system of hopeless weariness erupts the God of the burning bush (Exod. 3:1-6). That God heard the despairing fatigue of the slaves (2:23-25), resolve to liberate the slave company of Israel from that exploitative system (3:7-9) and recruited Moses for the human task of emancipation (3:10). The reason Miriam and the other women can sing and dance at the end of the exodus narrative is the emergence of new social reality in which the life of the Israelite economy is no longer determined and compelled by the insatiable production quotas of Egypt and its gods (15:20-21).”
The God who is revealed in this story is completely unlike any they have known before, a God committed to relationship and rest. It is worth imagining for a moment the revolutionary power of this revelation and how strange the Israelites seemed to other cultures in their radical commitment to a day of rest each week as an act of resistance to the endless systems of anxiety. Everyone rested, no matter what gender or social class, because God saw that as very good.
It is worth further imagining the ways that each of us is enslaved by the current “Pharoah culture” of perpetual overwork and exhaustion, of busyness and relentless doing. We may have our freedom, but how many of us choose to exercise that in favor of our own nourishment and replenishment?
I love the image of Miriam and the other women dancing in celebration because a new story has emerged. In the scripture text one of my favorite details is that they carried their tambourines with them in their flight from Egypt. In the mad rush to flee death and destruction, one of the essentials they carried with them were their musical instruments, what allows them to revel and dance.
I leave you with this poem I wrote about the gift of Sabbath (published in Dreaming of Stones) and the poetry video created by Luke Morgan.
Even as the subway car hurtles
into the tunnel and calendars heave
under growing weight of entries,
even under the familiar lament
for more hours to do
a bell rings somewhere
and a man lays down
his hammer, as if to say
the world can build without me,
a woman sets down
her pen as if to say,
the world will carry on
without my words.
The project left undone,
dust on the shelves,
dishes crusted with morning
egg, the vase of drooping
flowers, and so much work
still to complete,
I journey across the long field
where trees cling to the edges
free to not do anything but
stand their ground,
and bluebells sway
and in this taste of paradise
where rest becomes luminous
and play a prayer of gratitude,
even the stones sing
of a different time,
where burden is lifted
and eternity endures.
-Christine Valters Paintner, Dreaming of Stones
May the gift of Sabbath rest be yours in the days ahead.
With great and growing love,
 Walter Brueggemann, Sabbath as Resistance (Westminster John Knox Press, 2017) Kindle edition.
Video Credit: Morgan Creative