This post is a discussion of Cynthia Agnell’s Summit presentation, “Enough Already! Keeping the Sabbath in the 21st Century,” in relation to some of the conceptual elements presented by Daniel Pink in A Whole New Mind.
Mrs. Agnell looked at the big picture in regard to Sabbath in several ways.
First, she asked why we were there. She would not be able to connect with us if she did not know what our motivation was. Most of the attendees were adults looking to improve their own practice of Sabbath, but there were about five students whose teacher had chosen that as one of the presentations they could attend.
Second, she looked at both the Jewish and the Christian experience/expectation of Sabbath. The Jews were to practice Sabbath as a nation so that there was a cultural expectation of Sabbath, which, while not making it perfect, would make it easier. Christians, while not commanded to practice the Sabbath, have traditionally made an effort to engage with God and each other on Sundays.
Third, she looked at the American historical perspective of experiencing Sabbath. Up until about fifty years ago, the practice of Sabbath was widely kept in this nation. She engaged the audience by asking what they thought ended this habit of Sabbath for the United States as a whole.
Fourth, she talked about what keeping the Sabbath looks like and how it can be done in the modern age.
Mrs. Agnell touched on empathy, in her discussion of how since May her life has turned a bit topsy turvy and her habit of Sabbath keeping has suffered as a result. She gave specific details, like moving all the furniture in her house from the first level to upstairs to work on the floors. She also connected and made people laugh by saying that she and her husband had two fights as a result. One, this says that they don’t often fight. Two, it says that the situation was incredibly stressful. Then she explained that both fights, on two different days, were about switch plates! Her point was that tiny little insignificant issues get blown out of proportion when we don’t practice Sabbath. All of us can relate to stress overcoming us.
Mrs. Agnell told the story of this year in her life. She told of retiring from her full-time position, but getting to keep the parts of her job that she liked and being able to do those from her home. She told of her son’s engagement announcement and her other son’s increasing family, through his wife’s pregnancy. She went on to tell of how replacing really old carpet became an entire house remodel, including gutting the kitchen, and how that run-away train impacted her life negatively in several ways.
The meaning aspect came through in her discussion of how to keep the Sabbath. Her recommendations were to worship, give thanks, celebrate, reflect, and spend time in general with God. However, she also said that keeping the Sabbath means changing our patterns, giving up our normal rush of accomplishments, and slowing down.
What that means for me is that: A Sabbath rest for a mind set on teaching college students all week long might include teaching a two-year-old class at church, as long as the class was prepared before Sunday. A Sabbath rest for an English teacher could include reading, as long as it was not something for work; so Sabbath could include reading the newest David Weber novel in the Safehold series.
Mrs. Agnell used Isaiah 58:13-14 to explain the importance of keeping the Sabbath. She both introduced her talk with these verses and ended her talk with them, using them to pray a blessing over those of us in the audience.
The meaning of the Sabbath is to grow closer to God and to each other. God is invested in us resting in him and taking the time to rest from the life chores we have had set before us or have committed to.
13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the LORD’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
14 then you will find your joy in the LORD,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.