Good Friday and Sabbath

Lent is almost over. Good Friday is day 39 of 40. This has been an unusual Lent, with more lament and inconvenience than usual. 

As I have grown in faith I have come to realize that the death of Jesus has meaning on many different theological levels: being enthroned as true ruler of the world, exposing the scapegoat mechanism of the empire, providing atonement for sin, modeling the way of self-sacrifice, standing in solidarity with those who are unjustly punished, becoming the suffering servant. How does the death of Jesus resonate with you?

After spending some time with resources from the Bible Project, the interpretation that resonates with me this year is that of Sabbath rest. Perhaps the most famous reference to this idea is the the sign of Jonah: “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth” (Matt 12:40). Drawing on eschatological notions of a future Sabbath (mostly from the Psalms), some scholars have concluded that the Sabbath rest that Jesus experiences while his body is in the tomb is a prefiguring of a cosmic rest that all people will some day experience in Christ.

While for many people the pandemic is not a time of “rest,” it is a time of great inconvenience in which we must refrain from our routines and community activities. In this way our experiences reflect the  “inconveniences” of the Sabbath such as prohibitions against buying and selling. On a larger scale this time might reflect the intent of the year of Jubilee — a total socio-economic reset for the land and the people, which is presented as a super-Sabbath (Lev 25). Our current “rest” has only come because of a time of great “reset,” and one that reveals economic and racial injustice in our US context. 

But there is hope. The effort for a more just world in which all creation flourishes together is headed by Jesus, the one who starts by announcing the year of Jubilee (Luke 4:19) and is crowned the “Lord of the Sabbath.” In this paradoxical time of rest and inconvenience and lament Jesus has gone before us and is with us now as we walk our own “lonesome valley.” We sojourn with Jesus wondering what we can learn from suffering, how we can grow in faith and what we might do in service of God’s great acts of re-creation. 

How is this time of quarantine like an extended time of Sabbath? What have you learned about yourself by being inconvenienced? How can this time draw you closer to God? I invite you to meditate on Jesus’s invitation: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28).

– Mitchell Eithun

A Technology Sabbath: Towards redeeming our smartphones

It can be hard to take Sabbath rest amid the pressures of academia. This is at least partially because of how technology allows us to be available and able to work at almost any time, irrelevant of where we are. Yet, Sabbath is a gift from God: a reminder of God’s good gift of rest and how even our best efforts cannot save the world. So as we enter into Lent, I encourage you to take Sabbath weekly, including taking a break from our smart phones (i.e., not touching it for a time except to make pre-arranged calls to loved ones).

The point of putting our smartphones down for awhile is to become more aware of how we use our phones in life (and how often we use it). Actually putting it away prevents us from allowing it to distract us from the world around us. The following are some further suggestions to grow in awareness of how much time we spend on our phones, as well as suggestions for preventing our phones from interrupting our lives unnecessarily:

  • Put an app on your phone (like quality time) that tracks how often you pick up your phone and which apps you use most.
  • Keep your phone out of reach (or in a bag if it’s with you); at the least, don’t put it on the table near you (and perhaps don’t even have it with you).
  • Figure out which app you use too much and delete it.
  • Turn off all notifications on your phone (if not all the time, at least some of the time). Decide what times of what days you won’t look at email.
  • Do one thing before looking at your phone in the morning.
  • Put a picture of that which is important to you as background on your phone.
  • Rearrange the apps on your phone so that you’re reminded of what’s more important.
  • Before picking up your phone and using an app, think this through a. what is my goal in opening this app? b. how do I know when my goal is accomplished? These are also helpful questions for any technology uses.

All of the above suggestions are about trying to remind ourselves that our smartphones (and any technology we have) are tools. They are a gift that can make our lives a lot better, especially in terms of being connected to people we care about. At the same time, smartphones can be addictive, especially as we can use them as a means not to feel bored or to be present to the world around us. Paying more attention to them is one way of allowing them to be more of a positive tool than a bad habit.

Further resources