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Sabbath as Resistance: You are Enough

Sabbath as Resistance: You Are Enough - Sermon #01

Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor • Jan 14, 2018 • Rev. Donnell T. Wyche, Senior Pastor

Avocado Toast

At the heart of the American dream is the idea that you have arrived when you have gotten married, purchased a house, and had an average of 2.3 kids. Achieving this dream is taking longer and longer. Often requiring you to put in long hours, sometimes at a job that might be describe as lifeless or soul-crushing, but you “shoulder on” because that’s what is expected of you. This is an echo of the refrain, “that’s just the way the world is.” But there’s a group of folks who aren’t participating. They are brunching with their friends eating avocado toast instead of saving money to buy a house.

If you aren’t up on the latest memes, I’m talking about millennials. Whenever someone refuses to conform, instead of trying to understand what motivates and directs them, we tend to undermine them. It’s just easier that way. I don’t have to understand you, or see you, or the situation you are in, if I can just condemn you, and the millennials have been condemned. They have been called lazy, entitled, selfish, and shallow. But I don’t think they deserve those labels. How would you feel if I offered that brunching with friends eating avocado toast is a lesson that all of us could stand to learn from and even emulate?

At the heart of brunching with friends eating avocado toast is the realization that there’s more to life than just material acquisition, home ownership, status, and laboring non-stop in the gig-economy all while trying to survive a system that over 70% of people worldwide say is rigged. Taking time to rest, refresh, and recollect is a form of resistance. It’s resistance to a worldview and culture that says that your worth is tied up in what you produce. In the Scriptures God calls this Sabbath. In the creation narrative, the Sabbath was the climax of the story, not its end.

We were created for and always intended to experience shalom. A Hebrew word that's pretty all encompassing meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility.

God invites us to Sabbath and meets us there.

Practicing Sabbath trains us to remember that we are created for shalom—for dancing, singing, feasting (brunching with friends), inventing, dreaming, resting, and delighting in God, in creation. Sabbath helps us live well in a world run amok.

More Than Just Work.

As citizens in a consumer culture, we pay little to no attention to the instruction from God to Sabbath. And if we do rest, it’s just to store up energy to get back to work. This isn’t new or unique, remember Pharaoh demanded non-stop production to feed his worldview that there isn’t enough.

There’s this interesting exchange captured between Moses and Pharaoh in Exodus chapter 5. If you have a Bible, a Bible app on your mobile device, we will start the story in Exodus chapter 5, verse 1,

Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’ ”

Moses starts with a simple request, let the people of Israel take a three-day retreat to rest and worship their God.

Pharaoh answers truthfully,

2Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.”

In the clearest response in Scripture, Pharaoh tells the truth. “I do not know the Lord, so why should I listen to him?” Aside from our personal access to this Biblical story, why would we come to a conclusion different than that of Pharaoh's? The only way we answer differently is through faith. Faith that results in trust or trust that defines our faith. Both take courage. How we approach our time is a reflection of our our faith, or our lack of it. If our approach to time doesn’t reflect what we believe what God has said, then our faith is lacking. It needs development, it needs work. How do we develop more faith? Faith to trust God? First, we recognize that we all start with a measure of faith.

3For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. (Romans 12:3)

Then we ask for more, if we need it.

23“ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” 24Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

One of the things we have to consider and make space for is God’s awareness of our reality, and God’s participation in our world. It is easy for us to construct a narrative that God is out there somewhere, uninterested in our lives, even the mundane of our lives, like our work and ability to rest.

There’s a lot to said and written about the exchanges between Moses and Pharaoh captured in Exodus, but one thing I want to focus our attention on is the fact that God is doing something significant in these exchanges. God is revealing who God is.

In the first exchange between Moses (acting as God’s representative) and Pharaoh, God reveals that rest and worship are active and vital components of our lives. God is already saying that there is more to life than what you produce. Moses is declaring to Pharaoh that the Creator God legitimates and authorizes a socioeconomic political system that values rest and worship.

In reply Pharaoh reveals the god and the system that he serves is one of endless production and accumulation. In Pharaoh’s world there aren’t enough good things, so Pharaoh lets his fear rule his worldview. Consider this, when Pharaoh was at the pinnacle of power, with endless resources and wealth, Pharaoh was endlessly anxious. Why is he so fearful? He had almost all of the land. He had all of the grain in the world, yet he's afraid. He's afraid because he fears that creation won't produce sufficient food (Genesis 41:15-32), which leads to his hoarding. Remember during our Advent sermon series, I argued that Pharaoh was the first speaker in Scripture to assert that “there’s not enough.” Pharaoh believes in scarcity, which is really striking because it actually contradicted his wealth and power. To ease his fears, the slaves are to produce more bricks to house the grain that Pharaoh is hoarding.

4But the king of Egypt said, “Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their labor? Get back to your work!”

But a world where we believer there isn’t enough forces us into a system of hoarding in order to protect what we have or what we think we have. The goal of Empire is to break intimacy, to break our connection and bonds between each other, to get us to stop caring for, loving, supporting, and looking out for each other. Empire wants to convince us that there isn’t enough, “Hoard, so you have enough,” because when there’s not enough, we won’t see each other as participating in the shared humanity.

5Then Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of the land are now numerous, and you are stopping them from working.”

What Pharaoh fails to see is if there’s no rest for those who labor then there’s also no rest for him.

6That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people: 7“You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. 8But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota.

You are Enough

Pharaoh has to supervise the work, Pharaoh has to instruct the supervisors, the taskmasters, the slaves — they are all caught up in an endless cycle of production. In this view there is no rest, no rest for anyone.

Pharaoh takes God’s abundance, hoards it for himself, and turns the people of God into slaves. But God is the creator of abundance and generosity, God does not create or will monopoly, God does not accept scarcity as a rule of life. God invites us to see the world the way it is, full, abundant, overflowing.

God invites us to Sabbath.

Our success-oriented society forces us to constantly ask ourselves, "Am I enough?"

God answers.

“I am.” -God

When we enter a reality where God is enough, we are able to have faith, we are able to trust. We are able to let go and fall into powerlessness and vulnerability because we are guaranteed that God's abundance and sufficiency allows us to rest and not produce.

Join me in rest. See the world the way I do. The world and who you are belong to me.

8“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. (Exodus 20:8–10)

This is why I think the millennials have it right, they have a lesson for us, if we are willing to learn it, the Sabbath isn’t an interlude, it’s “the climax of life” as Abraham Heschel says in his book, The Sabbath

On the seventh day, God created tranquility, serenity, peace, and rest.

Come to Me and Find Rest

We must be aware of and open to the reality that kingdoms will clash. God’s kingdom will often and quite powerfully collide with the systems of this world. We have to repent of our partnership and participation in the Empire. Jesus invites us to renounce the idols of the Empire: “success, achievement, acquisition, technology, and militarism.” Those yokes are not easy. You have to strive in order to achieve, accomplish, and maintain them. Their burdens aren’t light either. When you have to carry those idols around they are demanding. The idols of the Empire require time, attention, and resources to maintain. These idols rob us of life, which is why Jesus invites us to put them down.

28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28–30

Instead, he says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble and you will find rest.” Jesus is saying, "I am enough." I am in this with you. I want you to experience kingdom life and joy. I want you to trust me as I reveal my Father to you and the world. I will teach you the way, but you have to do it my way. You can’t do it using the tools of the Empire. Yoke yourself to me and take on my burden. Surrender yourself to me take up my tools through sacrifice, love, forgiveness, trust, service, and be transformed.

Practical Tip:

Sabbath is tricky because we don’t (and can’t!) earn our way into it. In order to start experiencing Sabbath rest, we have to start actually keeping Sabbath. Maybe it’s not about changing your mind about the value of rest or your worth as a person in order to then make room for experiencing the Sabbath. Maybe it’s about beginning to experience Sabbath and allowing it to teach you the value of rest and your worth as a person.

There’s a booklet on Sabbath on the sermon cart.

Prayer insights:

You’ve been told that you would never amount to anything.

Anxious presence or struggling with anxiety.

 
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