Tasmanian Baptist Pastors' Muster
Pastor's Muster, Tuesday Oct 20, 2020
Postponed from the usual July Pastors and Families Muster, the October one-day Muster was a day of connection and quiet reflection. In the afternoon, a robust workshop discussed the next steps of what it means to be a missional movement. The day ended with a relaxed evening dinner at a local bistro.
Pictured: attendees on the day
To begin, Jenna Blackwell, Leadership Development Coordinator (Youth and Young Adults), led a reflective session focussed on Finding Sabbath. At the outset, a "brain dump" was encouraged, to relieve every person's mind of all the background buzz and clutter. And with an encouragement to turn phones to flight mode, Jenna challenged us to assess the place of Sabbath in our lives.
We were led in a devotion from the first three chapters of Mark reflecting on Jesus' words: "'The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27 NLT) 1
"The celebration of Sabbath is an act of both resistance and alternative." Walter Brueggemann2
As preparation for the day, Mission Director Stephen Baxter had encouraged all attendees to consider the following . . .
God gave the new nation of Israel something so foreign and strange it needed legislation. These ex-slaves of Egypt moved from forced relentless 24/7 production, to reserving one day a week solely for rest. It was the opposite of everything they had experienced. It was God's gift to them.
However, the gift soon soured. Years later the prophets had much to say about their abuse of the Sabbath. Isaiah lists the Sabbath as one of the "worthless assemblies" God could no longer bear. Their Sabbaths, God said, "are a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening." 3
Not surprisingly, Jesus got into trouble over the Sabbath. Healing on that day brought him into conflict with the Pharisees.
His response was, "The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people," he declared, "and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!"3 In other words, "Get your priorities right!"
Growing up, Sunday was called Sabbath, and it was somewhat puritanical. No wonder many of us rejected that type of observance, just like Jesus objected to it.
Today, in our community, there is no day like a Sabbath. The forces of commerce, progress and
individualism drive an endless cycle of production and activity. Then along came COVID-19. A break was imposed. But did we Sabbath?
Walter Brueggemann suggests the critique of the prophets of Israel's assemblies is equally applicable to ours. "Worship," he suggests, that "does not lead to neighbourly compassion and justice cannot be faithful worship of YHWH." 4
As we come out of our imposed break, what is God saying to us? Even within our community people are questioning the values underpinning our way of life. Does the Sabbath offer a way ahead? What is God saying to us in this moment? What resistance and alternatives does Tasmania need now? Do we need a reset to our way of life?
"Sabbath keeping," writes, Nahum Ward-Lev, "is a subversive act in the midst of a culture that places supreme value on human production." 5
SOME SABBATH-DAY CONCLUSIONS
The importance of regaining a sense of Sabbath was not a great surprise. Many of our pastors had already been exploring the theme, either personally, or with their church. Rather than seeing an outdated, legalistic and unnecessary discipline, "Sabbath-keeping" is as critical in our day as much as it ever was.
Each of us was encouraged to revisit Sabbath, recognising that it will look quite different from one person to the next. The key point is that Sabbath should engender life, rather than take it away. Each of us should have the freedom to explore how God might lead to take a Sabbath rest.
GOD HAS MUCH IN STORE
The afternoon session focussed on workshopping an updated draft strategic plan which included re-visioning and re-imagining what Tasmanian Baptists might look like in the future. It was led by Leadership Development Coordinator Michael Henderson, and Stephen Baxter.
The proposed draft was well received but more discussion will take place, including with Council, before it will be presented to Assembly next May. We all left with a sense of hope as we anticipated the exciting and positive developments God has in store for us.
Please keep praying for wisdom and discernment for our leaders as they look to the future and anticipate how God may best use us as a movement.
By Jenny Baxter
Communications Manager, Tasmanian Baptists
Ex-officio attendee at the Tas Baptist Pastors' Muster
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1 Mark 2:27 NIV
2 Brueggemann, Walter. Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now (p. 23). Westminster John Knox Press.
3 Isaiah 1:13-15. See also Ezekiel 20:12-13 and Jeremiah 17:27
4 Brueggemann, Walter. Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now (p. 64). Westminster John Knox Press
5 Ward-Lev, Nahum. The Liberating Path of the Hebrew Prophets: Then and Now (p. 251). Orbis Books. Kindle Edition