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Sabbath is act of resistance and act of devotion

As with most folks who have a sabbatical (a gift I truly recognize is too rare), I went into this time with a few lists: a list of some of those books I wanted to read; a list of some of those things I hoped to write; a list of those things I wanted to do.

Conference Minister Comments by Mike Denton


It’s obvious

we’re doing

more than

we were

created to do.

I did some of that and you’ll be hearing more about it in the coming months.

In the back of my mind, I also carried with me a Huffington Post article I read a few years ago titled, “Three-Day Week Could Be Best for Workers Over 40, Study Suggests.” 

The article is best summed up in these three points:

• “...workers over 40 perform better if they only work a three-day week.”

• “...working for more than 25 hours a week resulted in fatigue and stress for most middle-aged participants.”

• “Experts suggest that people in middle and older age should work part-time if they want to maintain a healthy brain.”

I couldn’t find the citation in time for this piece, but last year I read a couple reports on a related study that found similarities between overworked brains and brains that have suffered a traumatic brain injury. (Please email it to me at if you happen to be familiar with it.)

We might think we’re doing as much as we can but it’s becoming obvious we’re doing more than we were created for.

During the first three weeks of my sabbatical time, the emotional and spiritual impact of these articles really began to settle in.

As I began to rest, and my own unsustainable work habits became clearer,  it got all wrapped up in a general sense of clarity about the un-sustainability of so much more, including our use of natural resources, our decreasing social connections, the commodification of relaxation, the increase in productivity enhancement products, increasing depression and anxiety, the decline in religious affiliation, etc., etc., etc.

Most forms of oppression are rooted in some exploiting the resources and productivity of others in order to receive all the benefits from the resources and productivity of others.

In his 2014 book, Sabbath as Resistance, Walter Brueggemann wrote this:

 “Thus I have come to think that the fourth commandment on Sabbath is the most difficult and most urgent of the commandments in our society, because it summons us to intent and conduct that defies the most elemental requirements of a commodity-propelled society that specializes in control and entertainment, bread and circuses … along with anxiety and violence.”

I appreciate this idea of Sabbath as resistance and believe it to be true.

However, as people of faith I wonder if we have to be careful with it and see Sabbath keeping not just as another thing to do but as an act of devotion, stewardship and gratitude that is, in and of itself, a gift from God that we’ve strangely made the decision to disguise as a nearly unattainable requirement.

I recognize it’s not as simple as that in practice.

We’ve made it more endlessly more complicated and created systems than value mammon over humans.

I recognize that, in that light, saying “No” can only seem like an act of resistance but what if we could also deeply accept it as an act of devotion, instead?

What if saying “No” was part of a prayer of devotion, stewardship and gratitude for the lives we have been given?


Pacific NW United Church News copyright © Fall 2019




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