Thanksgiving Hacks – Rest (Sabbath)

Radio Devos 4.pngThis is the radio devotional for Friday, November 29, 2019. Thank you to KCNI for inviting the Custer County Ministerial Association to record devotions. 

Are there any leftovers in the fridge?

This week has been a busy one for many of us: preparing for Thanksgiving Day gatherings and all that this entails. Now that the feasting is finished, what are you doing today? Are you hitting the pavement for Black Friday’s door-buster sales on a pre-Christmas shopping spree? Are you already back to work or chores, and racing to catch up on work after taking some time off? Are you off doing something else, with yesterday’s acts of thanksgiving already firmly behind you?

Regardless of what you’re doing today, here’s the last of our devotions to help us live this week with joy, thanksgiving, and peace.

To start, let’s breathe: God, let we who have breath praise you. Amen (Ps 150:6).

At the risk of giving us each one more thing to do in our already busy lives, today I offer you an idea: can you, today, do nothing, can you rest in a day without an agenda?

Yesterday, Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann invited us to think about the act of thanksgiving as an act of “returning the world to God” (One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp, 39). This idea captivates me. “What does it mean to return the world to God?” I wonder. After all, the world and all that is in it is already God’s, right? Yet, when I think about all the busyness of my life – about family, work, community, and other duties – I realize that I often approach it all as though they’re things I have to do. They’re my responsibility. I go about life with this sort of assumption that if things are going to get done, then it’s up to me to do them. Do you feel this way too?

I wonder if taking all this responsibility to work, create, and care is actually a way I horde the things of life and creation. When I approach life like this, I wonder if I’m actually squeezing God out of the equation, out of life, and out of God’s work and ways in the world. Could it be then, that I need find ways to, as Schmemann says, return the world to God?

Yes, I think returning the world to God might be exactly what I, and perhaps we, need today, especially if the worries, cares, and weight of the world are already bearing down upon our shoulders. In addition to thanksgiving, the Jewish concept of Sabbath-keeping strikes me as the perfect prescription for returning the world to God.

In the Ten Commandments God gives to the people of Israel, God charges the people of God to “keep [or remember] the Sabbath day and treat it as holy” (Exodus 20:8; Deuteronomy 5:12). As Jewish tradition evolved, the people developed many rules and practices designed to help them keep and remember the Sabbath, the seventh day, holy and set apart. But, primarily, the point was to do as little work as possible, so that the day could be filled with the other stuff of life: family time, fellowship, thanksgiving, and worship.

There’s no reason to be legalistic about this doing nothing, but, to the best of your ability, and as far as your responsibilities allow, can you set aside some part, or all, of this day to rest in God’s presence? Can you let yourself do nothing, in order to spiritually return the world to God? After all, as Psalm 24 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” May we find rest in God today, entrusting our lives and all the world to God’s care.

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