Thursday, March 22, 2007

    Sabbath Rest

    I am currently leading an adult Lenten study on the Christian spiritual practice of Sabbath, utilizing the text Receiving the Day: Christian Spiritual Practices for Opening the Gift of Time by Dorothy Bass. The text focuses on the often distorted way we perceive time in our culture and the way God's time is described in scripture. In particular, we've explored the understanding of Sabbath found in Exodus 20: 8-11 and Deuteronomy 5: 12-15. One passage looks at sabbath as a way to remember God's deliverance of the Israelites. The other evokes celebration of God's pattern of creation. Both speak of justice for the oppressed, the slave, the creature.

    What a great study the discipline of Sabbath would be for young people. Few would argue with the fact that our teenagers today are over-scheduled and over-planned. Our youth have bought into the cultural value that success and worth is determined by our productivity, achievement and level of activity. Many of my youth show up to Sunday night activities and just plop down on a couch, exhausted. More than once I've been asked, "Can we just do nothing tonight? I'm tired." Is it any wonder then that sometimes church and youth group become just one more source of stress in their busy schedules?

    I suspect many of our teens would really benefit from some guidance in developing Sabbath as a spiritual practice. In her text, Dorothy Bass suggests several concrete ways to practice Sabbath, each of which would make a great study with youth. They are:
    • A rest from commerce. What might be the benefit or encouraging our youth to take time off from buying, consuming, or even window-shopping?
    • A rest from worry. Imagine inviting our youth to take a 24-hour period in which they give themselves permission to set aside their worries about grades, dating, work, and the future. Such a sabbath rest might allow space for youth to focus outwardly on the needs of the world around them.
    • A rest for creation. Instead of always expecting creation to produce things for our use, youth could take time out to allow the earth to rest. Further, they could be encouraged to participate in activities that foster appreciation of God's creation: a walk in the park, planting flowers or a tree, picking up trash.
    • A rest from work. How I would love to encourage this sort of sabbath with my teens that skip worship in order to get in an extra shift at work or who leave youth group early to go do homework!
    • Worship. Dorothy Bass writes "Joyful worship that restores us to communion with the risen Christ and our fellow members of the body, the church, is an essential part of a Christian sabbath." (p.70).

    One more practice I would add: A rest from the Internet. Blogger Rachel talks about her experience with taking a sabbath from the internet here. She offers some great insights into the benefits of this practice for anyone - youth or adults.

    If you're hungry for other good resources on integrating spiritual practices into youth ministry, I highly recommend these texts:

    Way to Live: Christian Practices for Teens (written by teens and adults.)
    Soul-Tending: Life-forming Practices for Older Youth and Young Adults
    Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus (by Marc Yaconelli)

    And these websites:


    Rachel Rev said...

    I have had this book on my shelf for a while now and haven't done much more than skim it. You inspired me to take it off the shelf and give it a thorough read. Thanks.

    (oh, and how cool that you linked to my blog! I just subscribed to yours yesterday, and I am enjoying it)

    Randy Kuss said...

    great resource along with Wayne Muller's "Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in Our Busy Lives"

    Benjer said...

    Thank you for covering this topic. I have found Sabbath to be a necessary spiritual practice, especially while ministering and attending seminary full-time. I have not, I don't think, ever encouraged youth to do the same. Thanks for the resources!

    Sabramedia said...

    I agree with you on the Sabbath discipline for youth. I have been keeping the Sabbath and it has been a real blessing for me and my new family. I haven't read the book yet, but there are some cool free audio resources over at amazing facts about the Sabbath. I think your readers would enjoy listening. Insightful!

    Anonymous said...

    Your blog is a great read. I keep stumbling upon it. We must be on the same wavelength in our youth ministry thoughts.

    Sabbath is so... difficult. Yesterday I was blogging on this very topic and I realized that I, and probably many others, wrongly assume that rest is a natural state to easily live in. But I'm starting to suspect that that is not the case at all. Maybe that's why it's a command from God.

    I think it's kind of weird that the Lord of the Universe said, "Rest" and we have such a problem with it.

    I'm at the beginning of a journey to embrace Sabbath. Any advice about integrating Sabbath would be appreciated.

    Keep up the awesome content.

    Brian said...

    zach, thanks for posting and sharing the link to your post. I think we all need to share more around this topic.