I read this book, a birthday present from my son Michael, while flying to Cleveland for the Common Global Ministries Fall 2017 meetings. Why not get closer to God while a citizen of the City in the Sky, part of the one million people in flight at any given moment in time? Walter Brueggemann is one of my favorite theologians, an elder statesman of the United Church of Christ. In under 100 pages, he insightfully lays out the case for Sabbath observance as a revolutionary act, an act of resistance against the 24/7/365, BUY NOW culture of ceaseless activity and endless greed in which we live in 21st century America.
Brueggemann is a noted Hebrew Scriptures scholar. His analysis of the socio-economic realities surrounding the commandment to cease work on the seventh day reveals the depth and breadth of his knowledge of the ancient Hebrew texts. He makes a compelling case that the fourth commandment (Sabbath rest) is tied directly to the following six commandments, especially the tenth commandment, which prohibits coveting anything belonging to one's neighbor. We rest from labor associated with amassing wealth so that we might be good neighbors in community. We take time to remember that we are God's holy people--people who do not murder or steal or lie or cheat on our marriages; people who do not covet our neighbors' goods.
Brueggemann also ties Sabbath rest to the Gospels and the Epistles. He is nothing if not thorough in his research and exposition of the way the theme of Sabbath observance is woven into Christian practice. He distinguishes authentic Sabbath keeping from the negative, rule bound version common in the American church in the past three centuries. It is not about refraining from dancing or playing cards. It is about life-affirming forms of resistance, including resistance to anxiety, coercion, exclusivism, and multitasking. Each item of resistance listed is a chapter in this book. According to Brueggemann, we resist making more bricks for Pharaoh's pyramids so that we can build community with our neighbors in ways that feed our souls. I particularly appreciated the analogy he makes between the royal pyramids of Egypt and the current socio-economic hierarchy in which the 99% work to support the lifestyles of the wealthiest 1%. It occurred to me that there is a pyramid on the U.S. dollar bill. It was not put there as a symbol of unending greed, but it can serve as such.
I highly recommend Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now.
Rev. Jean Doane