Dancing the Sabbath in 6/7 time

I’m privileged to teach in Europe every year for a week or two. Europe, you know, is what the Republican party is afraid we’re becoming if we let everybody have access to health care. It’s the “post Christian” culture that so many are afraid we’ll become if we don’t vote properly. I’m not certain what “becoming like Europe means”… I know it means that we’ll spend less on health care per capita while our mortality rates will drop and our longevity rates will rise. I know it means that church bells will ring at the beginning, middle, and end of each day, along with each hour. I know it means that public schools will celebrate “prayer day” where they learn about prayer in history, and spend time actually praying. I know it means that there’ll be less access to AK47s and other rapid assault rifles for common citizens, and that the rates for homocides will be lower, as will the rate of incarceration. I know it means a barista won’t lose their home because they need open heart surgery. I know all this… I just fail to see what everyone’s frightened about.

However, rather than tackle the whole “socialist, church bells, prayer day, gun control” culture, I’d like to just talk about the Sabbath, which is practiced far better in Europe than it is here. Our culture is open for business 24/7. As a result, we’ve collectively lost our sense of rhythm, and this has serious consequences:

1. Because shops are open 7 days a week, we buy! This piece of our culture has the effect of enabling our propensity to wear ourselves out. In contrast, only activities that enhance leisure and relationship building (cafes, ski areas) are open on Sundays in the places I travel in Europe.

2. Because we buy, we do stuff, and the stuff we do often has the effect of displacing the leisure of eating a meal, slowly, with good friends, good wine, good conversation. Instead we’re painting the fence, or cleaning the house, or whatever.

3. These things we do, combined with our love of TV, are effecting our relational capacity. A friend from Europe visited some college students here in the states and found their capacity for lingering conversation lacking, as they preferred, instead to play wii or watch movies.

Of course these are generalizations. Of course there are exceptions. Still, I’d argue that we need to learn from our European friends, how to dance to the rhythm of 6/7 time. Work hard six days a week, and then spend a day investing in rest, restoration, recovery, relationship, recreation, receiving all of it as the gift God intended.

We surely have different vestiges of our Christian heritage more prominent in our culture than our European friends have, but we both have these ‘hangovers’ from the Reformation (good hangovers… if ever there could be such a thing). It’s high time we acknowledged that, maybe they’re onto something with this Sabbath thing, and we learn from them. We might not be able to change the culture at large, but surely we can march to a different drummer ourselves can’t we?

Have friends over for a meal
Sleep in
Worship
Play music with companions
Do something with your spouse: take a bath together, go for a hike, read aloud o each other

In short, make one day different, a day when you quit fighting the battle for survival, and simply enjoy the relationships, food, creation, health, that God has placed on your plate right now. Here’s a book that might help get you started… and good Sabbath to you.

What's the Most Important thing in Life? Ask the Tree
Taking Light Seriously... Living Light Loudly
Holy Week - and the mysterious glory of our guide
Marathon Bombs and Baseball's Best - Lessons on life vs. death from April 15th
About Richard Dahlstrom

As Pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, Richard teaches with vision of "making the invisible God visible" by calling people to acts of service and blessing. It's working, as a wilderness ministry, homeless shelter, and community meals that serve those living on the margins are all pieces of Bethany's life. "We're being the presence of Christ" he says, "and inviting everyone to join the adventure." Many have, making Bethany one of the fastest growing churches in America in 2009 according to Outreach Magazine.

  • http://www.ultranurd.net Nicolas Ward

    Documenting one category of exception, since I tend to jump to the defense of the role of social video games… I’m a regular World of Warcraft player, and we have a few members of our guild for whom gameplay with others online is their primary social contact (generally due to medical conditions that prevent them from leaving the home).

    Also, at some elder care facilities and hospitals, Wiis are used as part of social events. For individuals no longer mobile enough to go to a real bowling alley, a flick of the wrist from a bed or wheelchair with friends in the room is a close simulacrum.

    I think it’s important to remember that just as technological change modifies or eliminates old opportunities for community, new ones are opened, whether that’s for play or worship or other activities.

  • Eric

    Thanks Richard! One question: When you suggest to take a bath with your spouse, you mean two separate baths right?…like in the Cialis commercials? :-)


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