Sunday, March 15, 2015
A War Against Rest?
Last Sunday the lectionary, or schedule of scripture readings for worship, included the Exodus passage with the Ten Commandments. It is difficult to do justice to any of the ten in a sermon let alone all of them, but I chose the Sabbath as my topic.
I'm always a little uneasy speaking about Sabbath-keeping because it's unfair to beat up on those whose circumstances make it next to impossible to join with others on the Christian Sabbath, which is Sunday. Medical workers and caregivers and those in the food industry are often scheduled to work Sundays. There are Christians who are sanctimonious about Sabbath-keeping who go out for brunch afterward without a thought to those who are waiting their tables in restaurants.
I was relieved when a fellow in the congregation who works every Sunday morning in a restaurant emailed me to thank me for the message rather than take me to task. He faithfully reads the sermons even though he can't get to church and he stays well informed about what is going on in congregational life. He is hoping that a change in schedule will allow him to come to worship at least once a month. He misses the experience of joining with others on Sundays but he can't afford to miss shifts or to lose his job. He is attempting to be a Sabbath-keeper in other ways.
Then I found an issue of the Christian Century magazine from last November with this cover statement: Keep the Sabbath Holy* *unless you can't afford to. The article inside by Benjamin Dueholm is entitled The war against rest and it explores the impact of the last recession on time away from work for those who are paid poorly and struggle to make ends meet. Some are working at multiple jobs with low wages, and the expectation is that they will work when the employer wants them there -- no questions asked. Recently one of our daughters decided to quit her job because of the long hours, six and seven days a week. She had no time with her partner working every weekend, so they decided to take the risk of her unemployment. Fortunately, when her employer received the letter of notice they offered consecutive days off every week and a significant raise. We don't hear these stories of an accommodating employer very often. And still, her days are Friday and Saturday so the opportunity for worship, even when she comes to visit with us aren't there.
The article reminds us that the commandment to keep the Sabbath is costly -- 15 percent of life. Yet our Judeo-Christian faith insists that idleness is sacred, literally and figuratively freedom from slavery.
Those of us who have this precious freedom can be mindful of those who don't, and ask how our society can be liberated from the slavery of 24/7.