This blog post written by the Rev. Jeremy D. Scott is a result of Leaders for Hybrid Futures, a community of learning and practice created by Rev. Tim Schenck and Learning Forte’s CEO, Rev. Stacy Williams-Duncan, to reflect on and experiment with hybrid ministry. This innovative program is a partnership with LEAD, TX, and Learning Forte’s Digital Ministry Initiative and is funded by a leadership grant from Trinity Church, Wall Street.
I have a recurring realization that slips into my mind when I’m hard at work, amassed in Zooms and cables and headphones and screens.
It has to do with sabbath-keeping.
…that it’s still a thing.
Or should be.
The childhood evangelical in me is quick to point out that it’s pretty high up on the list of the commanding words the Lord gave to Israel through Moses on Mount Sinai. Fourth, in fact. You know…before even concerns of stealing or lying or killing people.
So I guess keeping the sabbath is kind of a big deal.
Or should be.
When the global pandemic began, I remember thinking what a great opportunity it would be for a different pace. A forced sabbath! I encouraged my family and the church I pastor to allow ourselves to be okay with being unproductive. After all, we didn’t really have a choice.
So we did things to fill the space. We went for family walks (and enjoyed seeing quite a few other people, couples, and families doing the same). We played table games, pieced puzzles, and took the time to bake or cook things we otherwise would not have made time for. (I do have to take a moment to give credit to Meghan, to whom I’m married, in that she was making sourdough bread, homemade granola, etc. well before the pandemic hit, so perhaps that groove was easier to slide into in our home.)
Nonetheless, I have to say that this pace of life was rather nice. We knew it wouldn’t last forever, but in those incredibly uncertain early days of March and April, 2020, it kept us sane.
Then it didn’t.
As we all shifted and re-organized life to new normals, that old busy-ness was so easy to find in new wineskins. I think I excused myself into busy-ness because I had to learn the ins and outs of Zoom and cameras and just how to interact with people in new kinds of ways. The busyness was a particularly terrible one because it rarely had any kind of tangible or visible fruit.
And it’s this very sense of busy-ness that gives us such a good excuse to ignore the things of sabbath-keeping. When that afore-mentioned realization hits me, the strongest punch is that keeping the sabbath is a direct command of God, re-established by Christ’s teaching and practice. It is an essential, a non-negotiable. It’s at the heart of both God’s design and hope for humanity.
If I thought the journey through a global pandemic would make sabbath keeping easier or more natural I was wrong. Those first few weeks of a “forced sabbath” may have made for some temporary opportunity. But maybe part of the nature of practicing sabbath is that it cannot be forced. It must be intentionally practiced.
At the heart of God’s plan for us is to become more human, for us to rediscover what it is to have life, to taste life, to live life.
There are scenarios in which technology aids such life-discovery. But I probably don’t have to tell you at this point how too much sustained entanglement in Zoom rooms and Airpods and Netflix is life-sucking.
Sabbath-keeping is still the antidote. It’s still the counterpunch to the culture. It’s still the daily and weekly and yearly reminder of God’s truest intentions for us.
Or should be.
Rev. Jeremy D. Scott has been the pastor of the North Street Community Church of the Nazarene in Hingham, MA for sixteen years.