Sabbath as Resistance: 1st Edition, Kindle Edition
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Reading this book reminds me once again how relevant Sabbath keeping is for our world. On and on, we hear of an always-on, 24x7, and constant availability of anything to keep us running, working, and coveting. In Sabbath keeping, we have this ancient practice to discipline ourselves, to help us acknowledge that we are not super-people. We are not robots who can work non-stop. We need to rest regularly. We need to take a break frequently. We need to keep the Sabbath religiously, simply because we do not create ourselves. God has created us and it is best to follow the "manufacturer's manual."
Brueggemann has written a concise book about keeping Sabbath, and this is clearly written for laypeople. More could have been written about how technology and the digital addiction can be addressed. Our current era has a problem of a new kind of idolatry. The Internet, the smartphone, the digital waves around us, all threaten to overwhelm us more and more. How do we resist such temptations? What are the ways in which we can practise Sabbath keeping in an Internet era? Is there anything the Christian community can practise together to resist these wireless intrusions? Maybe, Brueggemann is already aware of the many resources and literature out there that have spoken on such topics. That said, at least, he could have pointed readers to resources that he know about. If I have any critique, I would say that this book is way too brief for a topic that can be expanded upon more.
I highly recommend this book for two reasons. First, it is staunchly biblical and sees Sabbath keeping with a big picture perspective. Instead of letting just a few verses lock the author in, the author is able to allow biblical theology to guide the reading and understanding of the Sabbath. Second, we all need it. We are in a modern quicksand of anxiety, restlessness, and impatience. By keeping a regular Sabbath, we will learn to be more sane, and more importantly, to guide our next generation to do the same. The modern ideology of busyness and non-stop work only leads us toward idolatry of activities, achievements, and acquisitions. Sabbath keeping helps us resist that.
Rating: 5 stars of 5.
This book is provided to me courtesy of Westminster John Knox Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.
Over time God has challenged my perspective on the Sabbath. This book along with a couple others such as Emotionally Healthy Leadership and Henri Nouwen’s work have changed how I view this to be more of a set 24-hour work stoppage. Even with this knowledge it is tough to follow consistently. If you are like me and struggle to find how the 4th commandment fits in to our culture today than this is a book I would recommend to you as well!
IT IS RESISTANCE BECAUSE IT IS A VISIBLE INSISTENCE THAT OUR LIVES ARE NOT DEFINED BY THE PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION OF COMMODITY GOODS.
IT IS ALTERNATIVE.
I think the most important thing Walter Brueggemann does, in his informative and entertaining style, is to do in our day what the prophets he knows so well in Old Testament days did: he calls us to faithfulness. Just like the people in those days, we don't want to hear that message, and we don't have time for it anyway. The prophets like Amos and Micah were rejected and ignored because they were not professionals. Nowadays, people who don't want to hear the message make the opposite charge. He's an academic, so what does he know? And the guy quotes Karl Marx and Abraham Heschel! That's enough right there to show he's some kind of subversive. Ignore him, and here's a cable deal with hundreds more channels to occupy your time. Including, of course, lots of shopping channels....
Brueggemann has written this book not for other academics or even for college or seminary students but for faithful Christians who need to be reminded, or maybe learn for the first time, why the day of rest is so important to us as individuals and as communities and as church. Many of us grew up with a very legalistic approach to the Sabbath in our hearts as well as on our law books, although the days of blue laws are now long gone even in the deepest parts of the Bible Belt. He calls us to look at Sabbath as a “positive practice of faith,” and teaches us that “restfulness and not restlessness is at the center of life.” In addition, he teaches us that one of the important things about the Ten Commandments is that it stresses neighborliness along with worship of the one true God. And what links those two things? Quite literally, the Sabbath.
According to Brueggemann, God called the Hebrews in Egypt, and calls us today, to question the system's constant stress on production and consumption, and to do things differently.
And as the work stoppage permits a wanting of anxiety, so energy is redeployed
to the neighborhood. The odd insistence of the God of Sinai is to counter the
“anxious productivity” with “committed neighborliness.” The latter practice
does not produce so much, but it creates an environment of security and dignity
that redefines the human project.
Walter Brueggemann may be an Old Testament scholar, but he is an ordained Christian minister as well. While there is lots of great material here from throughout the Old Testament, in chapter six he brings in the New Testament as well, and to great effect.
Ever wonder just what Jesus meant when he said that his burden was easy, and his yoke light? Read this book, and you'll have perhaps a new way of thinking about that passage!
If you've read much of Walter Brueggemann's work before, you will see some familiar themes here. One of those is about the relationship between God and God's people, i.e., covenant. Another is the concern shown in the Old Testament for what he calls the “triad of vulnerability,” that is, widows, orphans, and strangers (immigrants.) Yes, he does question a lot about the way our society and economy work in the United States, and he is openly critical of some of it. And again, some people need to be reminded, and others may never have heard this, but its nonetheless true:
...the God of Sinai who gives the Ten Commandments is never simply a “religious
figure” but is always preoccupied with and attentive to socioeconomic policy.
Walter Brueggemann does not in this book tell us what we should do or not do on the Sabbath. But he does help us to understand what the Bible says about that issue, in both testaments. This is a short book, and as always with him, a good read.
This is a book every Christian could benefit from reading. And even better, they should read it with others and discuss it.