Recently we gathered people together to explore the idea of ‘sabbath’ and why God instructed us so clearly about this practice. I have outlined here what we did in case any of you wanted to take this as a staring point and adapt it. Please bear in mind that we had around 30 people there including 12 kids. We are also committed to all-age involvement so get used to chaos.
1) We always start with hospitality – coffee, afternoon tea and conversation. Kids had the opportunity to either build Lego and blocks or else they could make a ‘Grass head’ which involves filling an old stocking with soil and grass seeds. This ball is then sat on a cup and decorated to resemble a character with eyes and nose etc. When watered and left in the sun, the grass grows to form the green hair of the character. See photo. (30mins)
2) We gathered everyone together in an outdoor space about the size of a full volleyball court. There were 6-7 trees in the yard and we had marked them each with a sign which represented an area that we spend our time: work, school, sport, internet, shopping, TV etc. Everyone was handed a cup of water and was told that some time during the game they needed to drink their water. We then proceeded to ask people to move in families and to run to each of the trees as the leader called them out. This lasted for 3-4 minutes with everyone frantically trying to move between work, school, Facebook etc. Every minute or so the leader would yell ‘REST’ and people had to stop and try and drink their water while they were huffing and puffing. There was barely enough time to make a start on the drink before the running started again.
The interesting fact in this simple activity is that it is really hard to drink a cup of water when you are huffing and puffing from running around. In fact you can only really drink when you have slowed down sufficiently.
The leader then called everyone together to debrief and to reflect on the fact that In ‘sabbathing’, God is calling us to rest and to drink from his living water (John 7). The tough reality is that it is really hard to drink in what God has for us if we only stop for short periods in between frantic running around. It just doesn’t work well like that.
Following in from the discussion, the leader spoke about the left side of our brain (primarily responsible for speech) being the part of our brain which we find difficult to quiet down. She led us through a simple 5 min meditation to help slow down the left side of our brains. This could be done every morning, for example. Each finger represents a different sense and we were invited to close our eyes and go through each one, silently thinking about everything that we could hear, then feel, then smell, then taste and lastly see. This simple exercise taught us a simple strategy for slowing down in order to better tune in to God.
3) After this we went indoors and sat around in a group and someone read a relevant poem.
4) then we heard from 2 people who shared for 5 minutes each about their own experience on sabbath and how they have tried to create times of rest in order to recharge and be renewed by God.
5) we then showed this clip which sets a lot of time lapse sunsets to Van Morrison’s song, “Whenever God Shine’s His Light On Me”
6) I then made the following remarks which led us through a time of communion.
“This afternoon we deliberately chose two different types of activities. One was Lego and one was making grass heads. One is a mechanical process and one is an organic one. One you are totally in control of what you produce and the other requires God to do his bit.
“One of the fundamental ideas behind the sabbath is for God to remind us that we are not machines but that we are human. We are alive and valuable to him. God created us to work, he knew that meaningful work would be good for us, but he also knew that if he didn’t build in a sabbath rest we would begin to think of ourselves as production machines instead of organic humans….
“The worst part is that when we fall for that lie we tend to take others down with us and begin to enslave them and abuse them to further our own production. Have a look at our world, we are suffering from a lack of real, replenishing rest. In the words of U2 “we are running just to stand still.” And one of the biggest reasons why I find it hard to rest is because deep down I don’t really trust that God is capable of sustaining me and the people around me and so I feel like I have to do his job for him in case he forgets me.
“Jesus was crystal clear that “the sabbath was made for man, man was not made for the sabbath”. A day of rest is a gift from God to help us learn to trust him and reorient ourselves in the world. I wonder if in this day and age, the most counter cultural thing that we as followers of Jesus could do is to rest, recharge and reorient ourselves into a trusting relationship with God.
“In a moment I am going to invite you to share in a time of communion, which is a simple practice to remind us of Jesus’ death and resurrection until he comes. As you do, I want to ask you to stop and consider the greatness of God and remind yourself again that he can handle your life, he can be trusted, he can sustain you and that you are a valuable son or daughter, not a machine to constantly produce results.”
7) we finished the day by singing “Indescribable” by Chris Tomlin and then prayed together.
I hope you find this helpful.