A Tribe Called Rest: A New and Surprising OS for 21st Century Mission
As Christians, our lives often mirror our frenetic culture. We are so busy scrambling to do God’s work that we end up missing opportunities. What if we rediscovered Sabbath as a hallmark of our identity—and one of the most potent counter-cultural forces in our world today? Jeremy Bryan of Christ Redeemer Milwaukee suggests that resting as a way, not a day, could energize mission and engage our culture.
by Jeremy Bryan
When Abraham received the holy guests to his tent in Genesis 18, he was at rest: “Again the Lord appeared to him in the plain of Mamre, as he sat in his tent door about the heat of the day.”
He sat. He was chill. Had he a smartphone, he may have missed the moment, but he was ready when the guests arrived.
This was a missional event. In order for God’s promise of blessing to the nations—to our neighbors—to be born in us, we need to pause, to rest, to sabbath.
It was during this visit that the Lord reminded both Abraham and Sarah that their story was just beginning, that a baby was coming. “A little late for that,” Sarah thought, and chuckled (how crazy is it that the child would be named “laughter”!?).
If we want mission to emanate from our lives like a good laugh, we have to start in sabbath. Not as a day, but as a way. We are sabbath-born beings. Our orbit is not of this world. The sabbath sun is our center. Our new, but ancient, Operating System (OS) is to Orbit Sabbath.
The Book of Common Prayer includes Isaiah 30:15 during noonday devotions: “In returning and rest you will be saved. In quietness and trust is your strength.” This posture is the hidden pivot of our pilgrimage.
Can we sit, like Abraham, in the middle of the day, in all our rhythms of work and prayer, family life and fun, anxiety and pain, rested and ready to receive one another as holy guests? To truly believe that mission is waiting to be born in us, in the form of family—biological and spiritual? In the form of surprise arrivals? In the openings between home and neighborhood, office and others?
Biblical rest isn’t an escape or a day-off to binge watch our favorite show, as fun and necessary as that may sometimes be. It’s a way to reframe mission and activate vision. As we learn to orbit the life of God in and around us, we slow down and make space. We realize how at work He already is. “Repent, and relax. How does that sound?”
“My presence will go before you and I will give you rest,” the Lord says (Exodus 33:14). We are a pilgrim people, A Tribe Called Rest, a moveable sabbath feast, with his presence as our paradigm, our potential, our pursuit. To engage mission in our time we must remember Abraham and Sarah—“the rock from which we’re cut”—and see the long pilgrimage of promise as the way forward, then and now, and that resting along the way makes hopeful openings to healthy homes, flourishing spirits, and a neighborly presence of readiness to serve.
And we remember Christ declaring Jubilee—Sabbath squared, basically—when he read from Isaiah 61 and finished by inaugurating “the year of the Lord’s favor” (scroll drop). Jesus is our fulfilled, embodied sabbath, initiating “the new Jubilee—the time in which God’s liberating purposes [come] at last to intersect with human life, generating a permanent state of Jubilee (N.T. Wright).” He unleashed a revolution of healing and restoration that is still turning the world upside down, flipping the script on tragedy, making wrongs right.
So go forth and rest. Find the openings, the pocket sabbaths in your life (coffee times, games, school drop-offs, parties, meals, liturgies, and yes, even meetings) and sit down. Be present to the promise of God to you. Be present to the people God has placed in your path. See what healing words and prayers emerge as you hold that space, what rich fare you will have to set before your neighbors as an offering of love. Host the holy guests that arrive at your table—strangers, angels, whomever—with the best stuff of your house.
- Is it easy—or difficult—for you to rest? Why?
- What would it look like for you to rest as a way, not a day?
- Have you seen mission emanate from Sabbath, as with Abraham and his guests?
Jeremy Bryan is a teaching pastor, a kid’s musician, and a writer based in Milwaukee, WI. He has won many awards, including an Independent Publisher’s Award and a Parent’s Choice Gold Award for his writing with kid’s hip-hop group The Figureheads. He holds a Masters Degree in Liberal Studies from UW-Milwaukee and his thesis was published in the book Hip-Hop(e): The Cultural Practice and Critical Pedagogy of International Hip-Hop (Adolescent Cultures, School, and Society) which won the 2014 AESA (American Educational Studies Association) Critics Choice Award.