While I’ve been fascinated and have been teaching spiritual disciplines and prayer a lot in the past few years, opportunities to talk about such things have stepped up exponentially in the past year. After leading my youth group in California through Celebration of Discipline, upon moving to Texas I have found myself preaching about prayer a number of times, teaching a class to adults on spiritual disciplines on an ongoing basis, and now, this weekend, I’ll be the guest speakers for second youth group retreat centered on the idea of Sabbath rest (which is connected, in my understanding, to prayer and disciplines).
Here’s the basic breakdown to the four-part series on Sabbath-rest that I’ll be presenting this weekend at a retreat center outside of San Antonio:
BASIC IDEA: We want/need to begin thinking about not only the importance of keeping Sabbath in our weekly routine (that’s hard enough), but how to think of living a “Sabbath-filled LIFE.”
For the high and middle school-aged (as well as many adults), who long to just “be themselves,” comfortable in their own skin, while also finding a way to live that has purpose, by a faith that is theirs… I think that a “Sabbath-filled life” can lead us towards these things.
Such a life would be rife with four things (the four talks):
1) TRUST…. ultimately, we are called to rest, b/c in the end, the world (i.e., God) doesn’t depend on us. We are ultimately called to SURRENDER, when we rest…. not just watching football. We are called to “let go” of the illusion that we have ultimate control over our entire lives.
2) WONDER…. “slowing down” in a lifestyle of Sabbath-living also results in us stopping to SEE GOD…. in our day, when entertainment and distraction are available to us at the drop of a hat, are we losing that ability to be captivated by God?
3) RHYTHM/PRACTICE…. Such a life doesn’t come naturally. We don’t naturally seek God. It’s something we have to continue to come back to…. but there is great JOY and FREEDOM in this (contrary to our conception of prayers and church, etc., as rote, forced activities.)
4) CELEBRATION…. When we submit to God (b/c we CHOOSE to, not b/c our parents force us to), we find ourselves FREE. Free to be ourselves; free to live w/o shame, free to hope for the future, free to know God deeper today. This is worth celebrating (and we’re free to celebrate, b/c we don’t take ourselves so seriously anymore!)
I try to further tie all of this together by using stories of the Israelites back in their “desert-wandering” days— fresh out of Egypt; without focus or a clear path forward, or a solid identity as a people, how are they to live?
* God gives them the Sabbath and teaches them about TRUST by forcing them to wait on Him to provide enough manna and to preserve it, so that they will have enough to rest from collecting manna for a whole day. (Exodus 16)
* God meets Moses and the people at Sinai to confront them with His power and to make promises with them; they react not with WONDER but with fear (Exodus 19)
* God gives them the law as a means to live as a people… but also gives them prayers and sacrifices as daily/weekly/seasonal activities as rituals that help them PRACTICE the presence of God among them (Leviticus 1-7; Deuteronomy 6)
* God also gives them seasonal festivals as part of their community-rhythm— most notably the three pilgrimage festivals, and the 50-year blowout known as Jubilee (Leviticus 25)
While I’ve been doing this a bunch lately, I also feel grossly inadequate— b/c I’m FAR from being a spiritual guru. I have quite the messy prayer life. But I still love teaching this stuff, b/c it’s given me new focus and hope, and it has been well-received (almost like it is CRAVED) by the people I’ve presented it to thus far.