Sabbath as Remembering


Matt Orth is an encourager par excellence. We both write. We both know what it is to wrestle with a sentence, refusing to let go without the blessing of a well-said word. Matt reaches out to make sure I’m writing, to see how the work is progressing, to encourage me to lean in and write. Solidarity matters. I’ve come to appreciate Matt’s winsome humor, thoughtful engagement and spirit of collaboration. It’s such a pleasure to welcome him to the Transit Lounge today to continue our conversation around Walter Brueggemann’s book, Sabbath as Resistance.


“Sabbath is not simply the pause that refreshes. It is the pause that transforms.” Walter B.

I confess my idea of Sabbath has not been a “pause that transforms.”

A pause that refreshes? Not very often. In fact, my Sabbaths more resemble a bad swimmer caught in a riptide, gulping up snatches of air in a desperate bid to stay alive.

Brueggemann transforms the idea of Sabbath itself by rooting it in the story of Exodus, teasing out its intended meaning and benefits through a series of “R” words.

By practicing Sabbath well… we receive God’s grace, we resist the culture of now, and we rest in a holy and human way. But the one that impacted me the most:

By practicing Sabbath well, we remember.

Sabbath is the weekly space created by God where I am invited to remember the true story of Exodus in my own life, that Pharaoh is dead, swallowed by walls of rushing water and I do not need to listen to the whispers of his lingering power…

I know this, but like Israel, I am so quick to forget. And when I forget, I not only fail to be transformed, but I conform again to the image of this world.

When I ignore the transforming remembrance of Sabbath…

Pharaoh invites me back to Egypt…

Wasn’t it better there?

The food was plentiful and the worries were few. Each day you knew exactly what was expected of you.

The gods there had quantifiable expectations, with carved faces you could see and recognize.

Come back to Egypt, you’re welcome there.

When I ignore the transforming remembrance of Sabbath…

Pharaoh chases me in the desert…

What are you doing wandering out here? What kind of God would lead you to this barren place?

When’s the last time you personally saw the pillar of fire? What about that pillar of cloud?

Don’t you just want to get out of here?

I can tell you’re thirsty. I’ve got some great brews back at the palace.

When I ignore the transforming remembrance of Sabbath…

Pharaoh sneaks in with me to the Promised Land…

Look at all these opportunities! Look at all these resources! Take what you can! Build up your platform! Don’t worry about anyone else! Trust me. I have a vision for you. Your legacy and impact will be immense. Just stick to my proven methods. This land is flowing with milk and honey and it is all yours.

But in Sabbath… Sabbath done well, we can remember, as Brueggemann reminds us:

“God is not a Pharaoh.”

I can remember each Sabbath…

No, those gods back in Egypt may look real but they are the gods that cannot see, speak, feel or walk. They are the gods that refuse me rest. I can remember that I serve Immanuel, God with us, who sees with human eyes, speaks in words of grace, feels each of my weaknesses, and walks among his people.

I can remember each Sabbath…

No, it would not have been better to die in Egypt. I would rather die free at the edge of the Red Sea than make one more brick for the empire of Pharaoh.

I can remember each Sabbath…

No, my worth is not measured by a stack of bricks, whether large or small, but by my full adoption as a child of the King.

I can remember each Sabbath…

No, my thirst will not be the end of me. I serve Jesus Christ, who brings streams of living water by his Spirit, even in the driest desert.

I can remember each Sabbath…

No, I just don’t want to get out of the desert. I want to enter into the Promised Land with my trust running deep. Christ has not forgotten me. I may wander in a wilderness, but he has already walked there triumphant.

I can remember each Sabbath…

No, I do not belong to Pharaoh any longer. I belong to Christ.

And the rule of Christ is not the rule of Pharaoh.

In the refreshing pause of Sabbath, I remember, and in remembering, I am transformed.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus Christ, Lord of the Promised Land.


View More: lives in rural NC with his wife, 2 daughters, a mother-in-law, and a hundred pygmy hedgehogs. He collects old pipes, used wigs & stories that make his friends laugh. You can find out more at

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One thought on “Sabbath as Remembering”

  1. Kelley Nikondeha
     ·  Reply

    Remembering is such a key verb in the OT – remembering who we are as image bearers, remembering the garden goodness we’ve come from, remembering the brickyards we’ve been delivered from and the story we’ve been invited into. Amnesia is so crippling! I love your connection between remembering and sabbath. When we remember rightly, we can rest well.

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