The Sabbath and Jubilee Traditions
Exodus 20:8-11 (Lent 3 Year B)
Deuteronomy 5:12-15 (Epiphany 9, Year B; Proper 4, Year B)
One of the most important themes of the Hebrew Scriptures is our
biblical family's liberation from bondage in Egypt and the responsibility of the
rest of their descendants to work for justice and liberation for others in
light of it. One of the key expressions of that principle is Sabbath, so
our first weekly Bible study starts there.
The Hebrew Scriptures give two reasons for celebrating the Sabbath
and they are both found in the “remember the Sabbath” provisions of the two
versions of the Ten Commandments, known also as the “Decalogue.” The first
centers Sabbath in the creation story. There, Sabbath is understood as an
integral part of the creation process and of the covenant that God made with humanity. God
does not create without rest, and humans cannot be without it. So,
according to this version of its origins, to celebrate Sabbath and honor
creation, we must rest. For one day (or week, or year, see Leviticus 25) we are
liberated from the bonds of work.
The second understanding of the origins of Sabbath centers it in
the act of liberation itself, initially from bondage in Egypt. Here,
God frees us and liberates us from slavery and the way we commemorate Sabbath
is by remembering that liberation and honoring the acts of liberation for
others. Sabbath in the second understanding is a time for wearing Amnesty
International Wrist Bands and writing letters to Colombia
demanding the release of journalists and union organizers, or writing to the U.S. government demanding the release of
children held in Guantanamo
Bay. According to the Ten
Commandments, the Sabbath is a liberation event. It is more than just visiting
the mall, watching the game, or worshiping in church. Resting from work and
honoring liberation is actually
- What would a Sabbath that honored the
creation look like in our society if it was practiced?
- Similarly, what would a Sabbath that honored
liberation of those in bondage look like today? What should we do to keep that kind of Sabbath?
- What would life be like if all of the schools
of the US
were required to have the Ten Commandments in their classrooms, and all of the
students, their parents, their teachers, their principals, and their school
boards were required to obey them?