Continuing with the series on Holy Currencies, the book that the Transition Team is exploring and discussing as part of our continued work of this Intentionally Interim Ministry time. It’s written by Eric Law, an Episcopal priest.
We are accustomed to think of ‘currency’ as money. He redefines currency in this way: The word currency comes from the Medieval Latin word currentia which literally means “a flowing,” and from the Latin word currere which means “to run or flow.” It was John Locke in 1699 who first used the word currency to refer to circulation of money. Since then, the word currency in the English language has been used most often as referring to money.” (P. 10/11)
As he explored and researched sustainable ministries, he found over and over that there were other currencies in place. He called these the Cycle of Blessings:
• The currency of gracious leadership
• The currency of relationship
• The currency of truth
• The currency of wellness
• The currency of money
• The currency of time and place
The ‘wellness’ industry worldwide is HUGE! According to the Global Wellness Institute (https://globalwellnessinstitute.org), and who knew there was such a thing!
• The global wellness economy was a $4.5 trillion market in 2018.
• The industry grew by 6.4 percent annually from 2015–2017, from a $3.7 trillion to a $4.2 trillion market, nearly twice as fast as global economic growth (3.6 percent annually, based on IMF data).
• Wellness expenditures ($4.2 trillion) are more than half as large as total global health expenditures ($7.3 trillion, based on WHO data).
• The wellness industry represents 5.3 percent of global economic output.
• Among the 10 wellness markets analyzed, revenue growth leaders from 2015–2017 (per annum) were the spa industry (9.8 percent), wellness tourism (6.5 percent) and wellness real estate (6.4 percent).
Key sectors include:
A couple of key things jumped out at me: nowhere is participating in a religious community listed and all of this requires us to spend money.
Now, don’t misunderstand me, I like my hair and nail sessions as much as the next person, but spending time and money on those doesn’t really contribute to my wellness. They might make me feel better temporarily, but the best hair cut and manicure in the world are not going to contribute to my long term wellness.
Eric Law contends that Sabbath is the key to wellness. It is breaking the pattern of work and consumption. Let’s listen, to ancient words from the book of Deuteronomy, written to a people who had been enslaved in Egypt, but who were now free. These words are part of what is known as The Ten Commandments;
Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work.
But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you.
Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.
The Ten Commandments were given as a covenant… an agreement as to how they would live in community. Words of wellness for that time and words of wellness for our time.
This pandemic forced us to stop the endless cycle of work and consumption. For some, whose employment was affected, this was not welcome. For others, whose employment became more challenging, this was not welcome. For others, with school age children AND work, the challenge of being present to both work and children was overwhelming. For others too, the quick response of government to those affected financially was a relief… but it also brought into sharp relief the inadequacy of our social support system. For some though, despite the isolation and physical distancing, it was an opportunity to get off the hamster wheel. To have something of a sabbath. An opportunity for rest and renewal. We heard reports of the very earth being renewed… less pollution… more birds and wildlife were sighted.
Imagine a world where it was impossible to shop or work on the Sabbath day… Imagine a world in which the Sabbath day was a time for family and relaxation… Some of you may remember those days… the days when our culture supported our Christian beliefs. But we all know those days are no more. Do some of you lament their passing? Are some of you relieved that they are gone? Do some of you long for one day out of the week that has rest and renewal at its core? While I have no desire to go back to a time in which those things were regulated by our governments, I do long for a day that is set aside from work and shopping, from producing or consuming. A day set aside just to be.
The Jewish practice of Sabbath has its roots in the story of creation, where on the 7th day God rested… not because creation was finished, but because rest and renewal were part of the rhythm of creation. It is also rooted in the Exodus story of liberation for slavery in Egypt… for slaves cannot stop working… but free people can.
Diana Butler Bass, defines Sabbath as the absence of work and commerce and worry. (Grounded)
How many of you feel enslaved by your ‘to do’ lists? And then of course, there are those who are enslaved by too little work and must take any and all poorly paid jobs to make ends meet.
Some of you know that as a teenager I worked as a maid for an Orthodox Jewish family. From Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown, there was no work or commerce done. No cooking, no dishes, no homework, no phones, nothing was allowed to interrupt the sanctity of the Sabbath. What food would be consumed was prepared ahead of time, dishes waited until after sundown on Saturday. It wasn’t a time that was constrained by a long list of thou shall nots. It was a time that was set apart from the demands of daily life. Sabbath was a time to connect with God… and with family.
Now, I have to tell you, that at that time, I thought it was weird. Very weird. But now… imagine a day in which you free to just be… to spend time in worshipping and nurturing your family relationships and resting and playing, making love. Sounds delightful doesn’t it?
Let me ask you this… would you expect your car to keep running without a break? What about your household things like a furnace? Why then do we expect our bodies and souls to go on without rest and renewal.
Wellness is achieved when we live in harmony with creation and each other. Sabbath is part of the covenant with God and community.
We have a draft ‘Behavioural Covenant’ that members of the executive and Transition Team worked on last winter. ecognizing that in times of transition, tension and anxiety can manifest themselves. That is normal and to be expected. So we wanted some ‘rules to live by.’ An agreed way of being with each other. There were copies that were made available in late February, early March, with the idea that there would be opportunities for discussion and adaptation.
This is what we are striving for:
1. Promise to value each other as gifts from God and will work to live and work in respectful relationships.
2. Promise to maintain a relationship of confidentiality in matters of personal and professional matters.
3. Promise to respect and honour all ministers, staff members and lay leaders.
4. Will seek to communicate clearly and completely.
5. Will offer opinions with charity and humility.
6. Will make positive investments in each other’s lives.
7. Will seek to discover what is best for Stairs as a whole, not what may be best for one or a small group in the church.
8. Will accept disagreement, conflict and evaluation as normal and natural. In this regard we will seek to deal constructively with disagreements or conflicts by utilizing one or all of the following: (Matthew18: 15-17)
• Going directly to the person with whom there is disagreement
• Having an agreed third party meet with the conflicted persons
• Agree to meet with an assigned committee to resolve the disagreement
9. Promise to Love, Care and Pray for each other.
Sounds like a recipe for wellness to me!
Part of the Currency of Wellness is also taking a sabbath from leadership positions. We all know that there are times when we’ve hung on too long to something. Whether through our own need to be needed or someone else’s need imposed upon us. This has happened to me and I know that when I had outlived my love for a particular ministry or role, I no longer find joy and meaning in my work. Suddenly, instead of flowing with a current I feel as if I am flailing about and not really effective or joyful. Sabbath for leaders allows other leadership to arise.
Jesus continues that message of being in covenantal relationships. Let’s listen, as he proclaims in the synagogue, words from Isaiah, it is recorded in Luke 4: 16b-21:
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him.
He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus didn’t come so that we can have eternal work.
Jesus came so that all of us can have life!
A life with a rhythm of work and worship and renewal.
Jesus came so that all of us can be released from the bonds of thinking it’s all up to us.
Jesus came to set us free.
Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity, amen.
Deuteronomy 5: 12-15
Luke 4: 16b-21
July 5, 2020 – SMUC