First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Rev. Toby Jones, Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720
231-547-9122


Week One Sabbath Study Guide

Participants Handout – Week One – Sabbath Study

*Via Zoom-Tuesday mornings at 10:00 am (in place of regular bible study) or Wednesday evenings at 7:00 pm. Zoom invites are sent out via email. If you would like to join and did not receive an invite, please contact Toby at toby@chxucc.org or the church office at office@chxucc.org

Please Consider these Questions for Discussion:
 – What, if any, activities were prohibited in your childhood home on the Sabbath?
 –  Did your hometown have any “Blue laws?”
 –  What do your Sabbath Sundays look like today? What has changed?
 –  Which way of celebrating the Sabbath (childhood or current day) do you prefer
     and why?
 –  What evidence do you see in American society that we are lacking rest? Is there
            any evidence of this lack in your own life?

Please read through and reflect upon the following scripture passages:
 – Genesis 2:1-3
 – Exodus 20:8-11
 – Matthew 11:28-29

We would love it if the participants in this study kept a journal during our 4 weeks together. You can record your reactions and reflections from the key scripture passages each week. We will also provide questions each week for you to write about in your journal. Our hope is that such journaling would produce spiritual and practical growth in our daily living. Please jot down your thoughts on the following questions in advance.

 – What am I doing regularly that is in line with God’s Sabbath command?
 – What about my current Sabbath practice is NOT particularly restful, restorative,
      or in keeping with the Sabbath command and God’s good intention for it?

  • The following excerpts from Walter Brueggemann’s book on the next page will be read and discussed in class on Wednesday. Students are encouraged to read and highlight them in advance.

 1.           “But Sabbath is not only resistance. It is alternative. It is an alternative to the demanding, chattering, pervasive presence of advertising and its great liturgical claim of professional sports that devour all our “rest time.” The alternative on offer is the awareness and practice of the claim that we are situated on the receiving end of the gifts of God. To be so situated is a staggering option, because we are accustomed to being on the initiating end of all things. We neither expect nor even want a gift to be given, so inured are we to accomplishing and achieving and possessing. Thus I have come to think that the fourth commandment on sabbath is the most difficult and most urgent of the commandments in our society, because it summons us to intent and conduct that defies the most elemental requirements of a commodity-propelled society that specializes in control and entertainment, bread and circuses…along with anxiety and violence.

            I have taken as a theme for this little book a familiar phrase from the teachings of Jesus in Mathew 11: There he contrasts the “heavy yoke” (vv.29-30). That heavy yoke about which his listeners knew perhaps refers to the imposition of Rome and the demanding taxation of the empire, an endless tax to support military adventurism. It is equally possible that the yoke refers to the stringent requirements of established religion in which many could not qualify. Either way, empire of religion that colludes with empire, the requirements of acquiescent conduct were heavy. And Jesus, who resisted such a yoke, offered an alternative life of discipleship. Thus in our text, discipleship may concern the love of God and the love of neighbor, practices readily alternative to “making it” in the economic world of command performance.

            And now, in the utterance of Jesus and in the practice of Jesus and his community, gifts are given! The gifts that are given lie outside the domain of empire and its colluding symbol systems. By appealing to Jesus, I do not suggest Christian preemption of this defining Jewish observance. Rather Jesus fully understood and commended the practice of his Jewish inheritance, which invites to restfulness.

            This book is addressed exactly to those who are “weary and heavy laden,” made so by the insatiable requirements of our society- in its taxation for the sake of imperialism, in its social conformity that urges doing more and having more (now perniciously embodied in “teaching to test”), in its frightened intent that there should be no “free lunch” for anyone, in its assumption that there is a technological resolution of every human problem, in its pathologies of greed and control.”

 

2.            “Thus the Sabbath comment of Exodus 20:11 recalls that God rested on the seventh day of creation, an allusion to Genesis 2:1-4. That divine rest on the seventh day of created has made clear (a) that YHWH is not a workaholic, (b) that YHWH is not anxious about the full functioning of creation, and (c) that the well-being of creating does not depend on endless word. This performance and exhibit of divine rest thus characterize the God of creation, creation itself, and the creatures made in the image of the resting God. Creation is to be enacted and embraced without defining anxiety. Indeed, such divine rest serves to delegitimate and dismantle the endless restlessness sanctioned by the other gods and enacted by their adherents. That divine rest on the seventh day, moreover, is recalled in the commandment of Exodus 31:12-17, wherein God is “refreshed” on the seventh day. The God of Israel (and of creation) is no immovable, fixed object, but here is said to be depleted and by rest may recover to full sense of “self” (nephesh).”