On this Sabbath, I have been trying to discern something to say about the Ferguson/Michael Brown/Darrin Wilson situation. And especially what to say in the context of the meaning of Sabbath. A complicated matter! I assure you! But here it is.
Scholar Walter Breuggemann reminds readers in Sabbath as Resistance that the ten commandments (Decalogue) and the exodus in general (fleeing from Egypt/slavery) happens in direct contrast to Egypt. Then as the Israelites wander through the desert, they are called to rest even before the Decalogue is given. They are told to gather twice as much food on the sixth day so that they will also be satisfied on the seventh day as the seventh day is to be a day of holiness.
Holiness comes from the Greek word hagios which means sacred, healing, wholeness, health, and happiness. That is a lot to pack into one word!
Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
Now, I am sure you are asking, "What does that have to do with Ferguson, et al?" I have an answer! We (societal we) have trapped African Americans in the United States in Egypt. They, and others who are similarly economically and politically disadvantaged, are trapped in a system that demands that they produce more and more simply to survive.
Let's remember what the deal in Egypt was all about...
Pharoah wants grain, therefore Pharoah must store grain. To store grain, he needs storage facilities. There aren't enough storage facilities, therefore, he needs workers that don't demand a lot of things like equal pay, medical care or days off. Pharoah then uses the Israelites as cheap labor to built his facilities.
Then an agitator enters the mix: In comes Moses
Moses comes on the scene, occupying and demanding freedom for God's people. Pharoah doesn't like that at all! He demands more bricks be made! And then, not only more bricks, but that the Israelites have to find their own supplies (straw) in order to make the same amount of bricks.
Sounds like the form of hyper capitalism that is loose today.
In Seattle, minimum wage workers have to work 80 hours per week in order to afford a two bedroom apartment. They must work more and more in order to simply survive-making brick after brick. Working 80 hours a week does not allow for Sabbath nor does it allow for Jubilee (Sabbath on steroids! But that is for another day).
Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy. 9 Six days you may work and do all your tasks, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. Do not do any work on it—not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your animals, or the immigrant who is living with you. 11 Because the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them in six days, but rested on the seventh day. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
We (societal we again) do not allow the possibility for people to exit the anxiety producing system of Pharoah (hyper capitalism). The voiceless are trapped in relentless production systems that produce pain. And if they are not producing properly, then they are punished and incarcerated.
“Riot is the language of the voiceless.” - Martin Luther King
It is past time for us to claim Sabbath as a practice for ourselves. Sabbath will lead to freedom from anxiety for ourselves, our families, those who work for us, and those who are here from other countries - even our critters! Sabbath is transformational.
What if we claimed the promise of what holiness is? What if we made a day that is focused on the sacred? healing? wholeness? health? happiness? What if our lives pointed towards holiness always? For ourselves and for our expectations of others? What if we created economic and political systems that did the same (Jubilee)?
That would truly be heaven.