Ex 31:16 “The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant.”(NIV)
Creator God, you give us every good and perfect gift. We celebrate the equinox so easily, the turning of the world and change of seasons, the seedtime and the harvest; our unique place in the solar system giving us truths that would not be easily discovered on other planets. We enjoy so much of this beauty – forgive us that we ignore your many other gifts.
You gave us the Sabbath to observe as a day of rest and to celebrate it for future generations, a good and perfect gift that we don’t see as such. The burden we place on future generations is to work, continuously, with no space for the holy. We think “the work ethic” means we must work all 168 hours of a week; we think we must take our e-devices everywhere, even on holiday, even in the bath, for fear that we are weighed in the balance and found wanting by our employers. When we are self-employed it becomes even worse, unable to take time for ourselves and our family just in case we miss out on a contract, the perfect job. Lord, who is my neighbour; when will we love ourselves that we can love our neighbour? Will it be when we take a Sabbath’s rest to keep it holy and learn to love ourselves?
And then, we see the news of the war of words between nations, especially between the US and North Korea, and cry “give it a rest”. When we hear that, against Israeli canvassing, Interpol has voted to admit the State of Palestine to membership, along with the Solomon Islands – Lord, who is my neighbour; when will we love ourselves that we can love our neighbour? Will it be when we take a Sabbath’s rest and regain a more objective perspective?
Even within nations there is no rest: The Iraqis refusing to even discuss Monday’s referendum about Kurdish independence; the Spanish arresting all those officials who would run the coming referendum, disrupting any idea of Catalan independence. Lord, who is my neighbour; when will we love ourselves that we can love our neighbor? Will it be when we celebrate our diversity as your people on earth?
We see the recurring devastation of Caribbean islands by storms, and the country of Mexico by earthquakes, and know there can be no rest until water, food and shelter are provided and the lost are found. As people flee the eruptions of Mount Agung on Bali, and Monaro on Vanuatu, Lord, who is my neighbour; when will we love ourselves that we can love our neighbour? Will it be when we learn to share the labour and give each other respite care?
We fail to recognise that freedom of speech means other ethnicities within our own country can use it. When we see the ethnic cleansing and displacement of such as the Rohingya, then, Lord, who is my neighbour; when will we love ourselves that we can love our neighbour? Will it be when we recognise the rights of other ethnicities?
When the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts announces 6 new member countries – Syria, Aruba, Azerbaijan and the State of Palestine as full members and Albania and Niger as associate members – and recognizes Arabic as another official language – then we celebrate, these are our neighbours. We see women in Saudi Arabia are finally allowed to drive, then we celebrate; when all refugees are finally resettled from Australia’s Manus Island Processing Center in Papua, New Guinea, then we can know these are our neighbours; when the great green wall across sub-Saharan Africa finally brings drought relief to the countries around Lake Chad, then all these are our neighbours and for future generations we can celebrate.
“… to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant … “ These are not your hopeful thoughts or wishful comments, Lord, these are your commands – that we learn to live together in covenant with you and our neighbour. May it be so.