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Sabbath Rest

Learning Module #4

INTRODUCTION

Welcome to this fourth learning module of a five-part series that invites you to explore the connections between climate change and food security through learning, prayer, action and giving. Over the year, we are following the seasons of agriculture, as well as the liturgical calendar. In this module we will explore Sabbath rest. 

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “sabbath” as “a day of religious observance and abstinence from work, kept by Jews from Friday evening to Saturday evening, and by most Christians on Sunday.” The dictionary also notes that the Hebrew roots of the word are from “šabat – to rest.” But as this learning module will explore, “sabbath” is also about rest for God, for the earth and for humankind. It is about recovery, regeneration, and renewal for God’s created order.

Below you will find resources for a session that can be carried out individually or as a group, with prayers, reflection, and information from a PWRDF volunteer and partners, questions for discussion, links for further learning and action, and an opportunity to support the ongoing work of PWRDF partners engaged in work at the intersection of creation care and food security.

Should you have any questions about the content or would like further information, please contact Suzanne Rumsey, [email protected].

GROUP TIP: In preparation for your session, send a message to participants, asking them to bring a symbol/image/story of a personal experience of what “sabbath” means to them. They will be invited to share those with the group. As well, ask them to have a pen and paper handy in order to do some journaling during the session.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

OPENING PRAYER, INTRODUCTIONS AND SHARING SYMBOLS

  • LEARN about climate change and food security from our volunteers and partners
  • REFLECT on how scripture speaks to the issues of climate change and food security
  • ACT in small and large ways to address climate change and food security issues
  • GIVE to support the vital work of PWRDF partners who are addressing climate change and food security

CLOSING PRAYER


Opening Prayer

Blessing and rest, delight in everything
Sustained by your strong love and richly blest,
This is the gift you give, the day you bring
Blessing and rest.
This is indeed the ‘gladness of the best’,
From first lines in the east where linnets sing,
To where the last light lingers in the west,
You lift the cares to which I used to cling,
As you yourself descend to be my guest
And show me how to find in everything
Blessing and rest.

This prayer, in the form of a roundel poem, was written by the Rev. Malcolm Guite, British priest and poet, as the seventh of his series of roundels for the seven days recounted in the first chapter of Genesis. Learn more here.

Listen to Malcolm Guite recite this prayer.

Group Tip: Introductions and Sharing of Symbols
Following the Opening Prayer, invite each participant to introduce themselves and to share their symbol/image/story of “sabbath.” If your session is taking place online, invite participants to hold up their symbol so that others can see it. If your session is in person, invite participants to place those symbols on a “Sabbath table” at the centre of the circle.

LEARN

  • Read “What Sabbath Means to Me,“ by the Rev. Canon Cathy Campbell (and reflect for a moment after each of the questions Cathy poses. Have pen and paper ready for journalling.)
  • Read the article about PWRDF partner ECLOF supporting women farmers in Colombia
  • View the video “ECLOF Kenya Model Dairy Farms” on PWRDF’s YouTube channel
  • Reflect on the questions for discussion that follow. You may also find some of your own questions or observations emerge as you read and watch. Discuss those too!

What Sabbath Means to Me

Click to view Cathy’s reflection, or read below.

By the Rev. Canon Cathy Campbell

There is such an intricate layering of the rhythms of life. From our heart beats and breath, to the tides and the moon’s waxing and waning, to the seasons created by our annual circuit around the sun. And of course, there are the less defined seasons of our life. Each living creature has its unique rhythm. Together the community of life creates the most wondrous song. Do we move individually and as a human community in sync with this song?

The days of the week pattern our original creation story. And at the end of the sixth day, we hear:

God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good… Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that God had done, and God rested on the seventh day from all the work that God had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that God had done in creation. [Genesis 1: 31a, 2:1-3]

And so the pattern of work and rest is built into the rhythm of creation at the beginning of time by God. And it is woven into the life of the community of faith:

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work [Exodus 20:8-10a]

And over time that patterning of time became more layered with Sabbath years and then Jubilee years every seven-by-seven years. But in our relentlessly fast, interconnected, 24/7 world, how can we retain any sense of this rhythm established at the heart of life?

I know that sometimes I have the faith and hope necessary to rest in a God-filled Sabbath moment. Yet sometimes my anxiety or desire to get something done gets the better of me. How can we rest in our restless, crisis-filled moment? Our earth and our health require, indeed they are crying out for us to take a break – to honour the Sabbath, to stop, to rest, to give time for recovery and renewal – for the earth and for our own souls and bodies. To do that responsibly – knowing all our collective pressing needs and crises, we must have a deep faith and sturdy hope that all is held in God’s love.

Wendell Berry, a contemporary theologian and Kentucky farmer, invites us into the heart of the mystery of the Sabbath moment: 

The Rev'd Cathy Campbell
The Rev’d Cathy Campbell

Whatever is foreseen in joy
Must be lived out from day to day.
Vision held open in the dark
By our ten thousand days of work.
Harvest will fill the barn; for that
The hand must ache, the face must sweat.

And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace. That we may reap,
Great work is done while we’re asleep.

When we work well, a Sabbath mood
Rests on our day, and finds it good.

Our work is one small part of the great work of creation. Is our work in harmony with God’s ‘great work?’

We have many, many stories of the personal and ecological costs of our patterns of overconsumption, overuse, overwork. Yet we also have stories of the healing power of a Sabbath rest for the human body and spirit, and for the land itself – think of the stories of the resilience of birds, fish, whales, forests and the soil itself returning to life when we stop overconsuming, polluting and working. In addition to healing and recovery, importantly, it is in our Sabbath moments that we can attend and tune our hearts to the great rhythms of creation and its Maker – to all that is more than us. It is in our Sabbath pauses that we discern our limits, still our longings and say enough is enough. Is this not what it is to make the Sabbath holy?

The Rev. Canon Cathy Campbell is a former academic and retired Anglican priest with a strong commitment to social justice, sustainable development, and food security. She has written extensively about poverty, hunger and nutrition, and is actively involved in Anglican Grow Hope, a PWRDF Diocese of Rupert’s Land initiative with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

Questions for Journaling and Discussion

[Click here for a slide graphic of the questions to show on Zoom]

In her reflection, Cathy describes how Sabbath rest is not only about pausing from our 24/7 lives in order to reconnect with the rhythms “established at the heart of life,” but also to stop in our over consuming, spending, working in order that both we and the earth might rest. She offers four questions for reflection:

  1. Do we move individually and as a human community in sync with this song [of the community of life]?
  2. In our relentlessly fast, interconnected, 24/7 world, how can we retain any sense of this rhythm established at the heart of life?
  3. Is our work in harmony with God’s ‘great work?’
  4. It is in our Sabbath moments that we can attend and tune our hearts to the great rhythms of creation and its Maker… that we discern our limits, still our longings and say enough is enough. Is this not what it is to make our Sabbath holy?

Take out your pen and paper – and/or invite the group to do so. Spend five or ten minutes individually and in silence, journaling in response to one or more of these questions. If you are a group, share key words and phrases with one another.


Partner Perspective

ECLOF (Ecumenical Church Loan Fund) International, a not-for-profit foundation based in Switzerland, is the hub of a network of socially driven microfinance institutions that provide financial and non-financial services to micro entrepreneurs and smallholder farmers, thereby promoting human dignity and enabling self-sustainability. The ECLOF network consists of the global hub in Geneva and 12 independently governed and operated microfinance institutions (ECLOF members). In recent years PWRDF has partnered with ECLOF Kenya and ECLOF Colombia.

In Colombia PWRDF has partnered with ECLOF in its Empowering Small-Scale Farmers and Micro Entrepreneurs project that supports small-scale farmers through best agricultural practices to engage in organic farming, and through financial literacy training that enables those farmers to better manage loans or credits they are granted.

Read together Chicken farming provides opportunities for women in Colombia

ECLOF Kenya provides loans, access to micro insurance for health and agriculture, and non-financial services and training to more than 40,000 poor and low-income entrepreneurs and farmers in Kenya, most of them women. The Capacity Building on Climate Smart Agriculture Dairy Farming project , supported by PWRDF, is building demonstration farms through local cooperative societies and exposing farmers to best dairy farming practices through an exchange program where they learn about climate smart fodder, silage making and constructing climate smart cow sheds.

Questions for reflection

[Click here for a slide graphic of the questions to show on Zoom]

The stories from our partners describe in concrete ways what Sabbath rest means through the lens of sustainable farming that cares for the land, for the animals, and for humankind. With Cathy’s reflection and our partners’ stories in mind, consider alone or discuss in a group the following questions:

  1. What is one new thing you learned about Sabbath from Cathy, ECLOF Colombia and and ECLOF Kenya that you didn’t already know?
  2. What are some of the ways we are called to Sabbath rest by Cathy and by our partners in Colombia and Kenya as they act to address food security and climate change?
  3. Sabbath is both a time to rest and to hope. What are the instances of rest and hope you read and heard in the reflection and stories? And what are the challenges to that rest and hope?

REFLECT

Read together or in turn, one or more of the following scripture passages. Reading all four will help give the group the sense of the centrality of the Sabbath throughout the biblical narrative. Following the reading(s), discuss the suggested reflection questions or others that the group might have.

A Reading from the Book of Genesis 1:1, 2:2-2:3

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth…

Thus, the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that God had done, and God rested on the seventh day from all the work that God had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that God had done in creation.

A reading from the Book of Leviticus 25:1-5

The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying: Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving you, the land shall observe a sabbath for the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in their yield; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of complete rest for the land, a sabbath for the Lord: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap the aftergrowth of your harvest or gather the grapes of your unpruned vine: it shall be a year of complete rest for the land.

A Reading from the Book of Isaiah 58:6-8a, 13-14

Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of injustice,
    to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
    and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
    and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing shall spring up quickly…

If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,
    from pursuing your own interests on my holy day;
if you call the sabbath a delight
    and the holy day of the Lord honourable;
if you honour it, not going your own ways,
    serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs;
then you shall take delight in the Lord,
    and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 2:23-28

One sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

For Reflection

[Click here for a slide graphic of the question to show on Zoom]

As the readings indicate, the sabbath is important first for God. The American theologian, Walter Brueggemann writes, “As you know, the creation ends in Sabbath. God is so overrun with fruitfulness that God says, ‘I’ve got to take a break from all this. I’ve got to get out of the office.’” [1] As we read in Leviticus, it is also important for the land, something that farmers throughout human history have known. And in Isaiah we learn that true Sabbath observance is rooted in acts of justice. In Mark and then in all three of the Synoptic gospels (an indication of the story’s importance), Jesus argues that the sabbath is important for humankind. Sabbath rest then, is for God, for the land, for justice and for humankind. With that in mind, reflect individually or in a group on the following questions, or on others that have emerged for you from the readings:

  1. If the authors of the biblical texts were writing today, what imagery might they use to call us to Sabbath rest?
  2. What challenges would they pose about Sabbath rest to us, we who are caregivers of one another, of the land, and of God’s created order, in this time of climate change and for many, food insecurity?
  3. Can you think of one or more modern “prophets” who are speaking about these issues? What are they saying?
[1] Walter Brueggemann, “The Liturgy of Abundance and the Myth of Scarcity,” Deep Memory and Exuberant Hope: Contested Truth in a Post-Christian World, ed. Patrick D. Miller (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009) 69-75.


ACT

How might we create space in our lives that enables, as Wendell Berry writes, a “Sabbath mood” to “rest on our day?” And as Cathy Campbell asks, how might we “retain any sense of [the] rhythm established at the heart of life?” The following suggested activities offer opportunities for rest and rhythm, for recovery and renewal. All of them can be done regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in your area, most are inter-generational, and a number of them can be done while gathered in person or online.

But before anything…

Stop – Take a few moments to attend to what is happening in the world around you and the world inside you. Close your eyes and breathe deeply in and out, in and out. Listen for sounds and for silence. Breathe in and out and in and out…

And now, in the Sabbath time before you…

Pray – Prayer can be a time for centering and for enabling rest and restoration. It takes many forms and there are a huge variety of print and online resources. Praying with PWRDF meets every second Thursday at 1:00 p.m. Eastern with reflections available on PWRDF’s YouTube channel. Together we pray for the world and for one another, hear a reflection from a partner, and share music and fellowship.

Meditate – Consider taking the time to meditate. PWRDF has two resources for guided meditations.

Journal – When you stop and attend to your interior and exterior worlds, and when you pray, it can be helpful to write down what is surfacing as a way of recording what you have attended to and what needs further prayer and attention.

Write a Poem – For over four decades, Wendell Berry has walked his farmland in rural Kentucky and written “Sabbath poems.” For inspiration to write your own Sabbath poem and for a glimpse into Berry’s poetry collection “This Day – Collected and New Sabbath Poems,” join poet Malcolm Guite on a 15-minute exploration of Berry’s work. Share your poems with one another if you are doing this as a group activity or with a family member or friend if you are writing alone.

Colour – Be you a child or a child at heart, colouring offers a tactile, creative and rhythmic way to still your mind. And PWRDF has colouring pages! They are available to download, print and colour here.

Take a Tech Fast – You are probably reading this resource on a computer or other device. And when was the last time you looked at your cell phone? Consider taking a day – or even just half-a-day – to power your tech devices down. This is a good way to open up space and time for Sabbath rest, and to do that first activity again: Stop.

Make a Sabbath Playlist – Think about the kind of music that helps you to centre yourself and rest. PWRDF has put together a YouTube playlist of some of the music featured in Praying with PWRDF since April 2020. It covers a wide variety of genres and artists.

Visit Family and Friends – Is there someone(s) in your life you haven’t visited in a long time? While COVID restrictions may make that difficult right now, a visit can take the form of a phone call, Zoom call, a (socially distanced) chat on the front porch, etc. However you connect, take the opportunity to tell them about Sabbath rest – and that you care about and love them.

Share a Meal – Do you have a favourite recipe to share with an elderly relative, or someone you know who is food insecure? Prepare a meal and take it to them.

Walk – The woods, be they in a ravine in a big city or along a quiet lake, can be a place of Sabbath rest. Walk through your nearest woods and see if you can identify six things that are resting. If there is a labyrinth in your neighbourhood, consider walking it as you pray or meditate. Wherever and however your walk might take place…

Stop (once again) and take the path less travelled. And don’t forget to breathe.

You may try one or several of these or you might have other activities that help you enter into Sabbath. You are invited to use this Google form to share your idea(s). Once you submit your Sabbath suggestion, you will be able to read other people’s suggestions.


Digging Deeper (beyond this learning module)

What are the stories of “Sabbath” in your community where people are attending to God, to the land, to justice and to one another; where resiliency and the inner strength of community is being nurtured and built up? Search those out if you don’t know and consider how you might become involved.

Don’t know where to begin looking? Here are a few “land” examples that Cathy Campbell offers from her home in Winnipeg:

Here and there in southern Manitoba, small parcels of land have been left “fallow.” In this case, they have been left (or restored) to original prairie grassland.

  • In Winnipeg, the city has a 13-hectare tall grass prairie preserve and nature park called The Living Prairie Museum. Set aside in 1968, the preserve is home to more than 150 different grass and wildflower species and an array of prairie wildlife. Prior to European settlement, tall grass prairie covered more than 1 million square kilometres in central North America, stretching from Texas to southern Manitoba. Today, this habitat is all but gone – only 1 percent of the original tall grass prairie remains. The Living Prairie Museum is one of the few remaining fragments of this once vast ecosystem.
  • The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has its Manitoba Tall Grass Prairie Preserve. Not only is the land protected from over-use, it also creates the opportunity to study and conserve rare species. The NCC highlights the example of the Poweshiek skipperling, a small, brown and orange winged butterfly, no bigger than a loonie. The insect is so small that it is often overlooked. But in Manitoba, the NCC is paying close attention to this species and its plight in order to ensure its survival.
  • The University of Manitoba’s Glenlea Research Station nurtures 30-year-old restored prairie grassland plots. These plots serve as benchmarks for ecological indicators so researchers can understand more deeply the effects of different agricultural systems particularly in terms of soil health. (In 2017, the final gathering of PWRDF’s Sharing Bread Learning Exchange in collaboration with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, visited the Glenlea Research Station.)

Stepping beyond typical uses of land, these remnants of original prairie grassland create park spaces for enjoyment by a variety of animals including us; they create opportunities for species conservation and also an opportunity for people to connect with the land to develop a deeper understanding of soil health and what’s at stake in our other uses of the land.

In addition to these examples of tall grass prairie ecosystems, there are examples of wetlands, streams and waterways that have been preserved or restored. You likely know of or can find examples in your own places and contexts. 

But digging deeper could also mean creating conditions for rest for more of us. Sabbath should not be a luxury product that only some can afford. What would Sabbath rest be for a homeless person, or a single parent with a minimum wage job, or for those who are not working – say seniors living in assisted or extended living situations? As Rachel Held Evans wrote: “all Sabbath is rest, but not all rest is Sabbath.” What makes rest, Sabbath; makes rest, a meaningful, holy time? There are so many ways to explore both what creates Sabbath rest and what makes it almost impossible.

Advocacy actions (online activities)

PWRDF is an active member of both the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (CFGB) and the For the Love of Creation campaign (FLC).

CFGB Harvest of Letters

CFGB continues to encourage people of faith to write letters to the Canadian government regarding food security and climate change. Here is a link to CFGB’s Harvest of Letters campaign:

For the Love of Creation campaign

The FLC campaign is a national, faith-based initiative of 35 faith communities and organizations that have come together under a unified banner to mobilize education, theological reflection, action and advocacy for climate justice. To learn more about the campaign and how you can become involved, click here.


GIVE

ECLOF Colombia and ECLOF Kenya, along with other PWRDF partners are confronting climate change as they work to ensure food security for the communities they serve. In Sabbath gratitude for their work and witness towards another possible world, we invite you to support their work. To make a donation go to pwrdf.org/give-today and click on the Climate Action button. You can also call Donor Relations Officer, Mike Ziemerink, at 416-822-9083 or leave a message toll free at 1-(866) 308-7973.

PWRDF also accepts cheques, which can be mailed to 80 Hayden St. Toronto, ON. M4Y 3G2. Please indicate “Climate Action” in the memo line to designate to this program.

Have a birthday or anniversary coming up? There are many ways to raise funds for PWRDF’s Climate Action work. If you are interested in learning more or setting up a personalized crowd-funding page, please email Mike Ziemerink.


CLOSING PRAYER

GROUP TIP: Gather around your symbols of Sabbath, or if online, hold them up as you say together the closing prayer. This prayer can be said antiphonally with a leader assigned as “One” and your group divided into Voices 1 and Voices 2.

Voices 1: For your Word made known in the breaking of bread;

Voices 2: For the companionship of the Stranger;

All: For the One who meets us in the gap between an ending and a beginning, opening the past to understanding and the future to new directions; we give thanks and pray: Come, Lord Jesus.

Voices 1: For your promise of restoration and healing, justice and peace, challenging us to live boldly into question marks of our times;

Voices 2:  For the sharp spotlight your promised judgment casts on the tangled issues of our day;

All: For the light of your presence coming toward us in love, we give thanks and pray: Come, Lord Jesus.

One: Let us bring all of who we are to You,

Voices 1: Open the treasures of our history to us, heal the fissures of our memory; teach us to trust the truth to set us free and the power of love to reconcile.

One: Help us to live in the present with all its ambiguity and tension,

Voices 2: Without rushing into a future of our own making, or accepting a future of someone else’s design.

One: Free us from the tyranny of clocks and calendars, pagers and telephones,

Voices 1: To meet you in the here and now; to hear your voice and the beat of your heart, to keep the Sabbath holy and to order our work to your purposes.

One: Ready us for the day of your coming.

Voices 2: Teach us to read the signs of the times, the recipes of the banquet; enroll us in the school of kairos,* instruct us in the tempo of your walk.

One: For all time is yours:

Voices 1: You are the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega, yet as present as our breath;

Voices 2:  You are our heart’s desire and home; in You all creation finds rest, completion, and replenishment

Voices 1: We wait for you; We hold the present open for your redemption;

Voices 2: We trust in the justice and mercy of your judgment, in your plan for the fullness of time revealed in the Word;

Voices 1: Song of the Universe, Rhythm of Life, and Pregnant Interruption;

Voices 2: Host of the Banquet, Bread of Life, Kitchen Fire;

All:  Hallowed be your Name,
All praise and glory is Yours,
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.
Amen.

Station 13 Litany: “Your Kingdom Come” in Stations of the Banquet – Faith Foundations for Food Justice by Cathy C. Campbell, 2003.

*kairos (Greek) – a propitious moment for decision or action.