Business As Unusual

Very recently I was listening to a leader’s fascinating podcast series to his faith community, about restoring the principle and the power of taking a planned and carefully prescribed break.

This was originally practised by the Jews. Every week, every year and every generation.

It is not a lifestyle we have generally respected or desired, as over the last fifty years, our 24/7 connected and shrinking world of ever increasing opportunities shouts for more and more of our fragmented attention.

Sabbath stands for a principle of spirit, soul and bodily health and a balanced rhythm of life.

The Ancient Hebrews called this restful periodic practice their weekly Sabbath; their seasonal holidays were regular festivals and one whole year of rest in every 50 years, their Jubilee Year. At Jubilee, the land was allowed to lie fallow and its herds spared every demand. Everyone regrouped, refocussed and refreshed themself for the next episode in life. Bonded servants were given a contractual get out clause when their contracts could be renewed or cancelled – whatever the slave chose for themselves. And all debts were cancelled. All market value of real estate was always defined by the proportion of years of the fifty year term remaining until Jubilee.

Let me underline the implications. Jewish real estate value devalued in the run up to Jubilee. The present owner of any purchased land knew they would be obliged to return it to its original owner in that year. Therefore, all estate was assessed in terms of the number of harvests remaining within the time frame. Following the Jubilee, the land was reclaimed. Its value increased to full capacity, having respected and recalibrated againt this standard of refreshment.

What does this say?

That we all need a reset button.

We need to eat, sleep, pray, rest, recreate periodically, as does the land, the sea and the atmosphere. (You only need to consider the recent changes in the colour of the Adriatic as Italy observed its national lockdown to see how much nature loves a rest).

Think about this time as a Jubilee gift. Of being given back a fully calibrated resource of imagination, family, new appreciation of silence, birdlife, simple food and necessities (I won’t mention it!)

Sabbath warns us about the deterioration of our capacity to be fruitful over time without the regular rythm of rest.

Was it really as long ago as 9/11 when we all stopped and hugged our parents or children extra-tightly? Should it take tragedy to make us still our souls? If tragedy can achieve all this, how much more could thoughtfully scheduled creative restorative time to play enrich our lives? They say that the happiest people in life are those that spend money to gain time, not those who spend time to gain money.

We are going to have a taste of just that kind of happiness.

How long a period of time has it been since your Jubilee?

Yet for some of us, this is not our Jubilee.

The tightening grip of the COVID-19 pandemic has such an intrusive societal impact on every corner of the globe and every pillar of society. We can all think of someone whose wedding plan is compromised, a couple whose fertility treatment is withdrawn or an over-dependence on retail therapy thoroughly exposed. Whilst there may be devastating consequences and broken hearts, there will be restorative opportuniities for us to exercise compassion, generosity and patience.

Some are serving their hearts out and for that I am in awe. May there be energy in abundance now for you. I hope we will remember and honour you when you need to rest later. Whatever this crisis means for you, be encouraged, tap into a new pace of decision-making, embrace the power of compromise and discover that necessity really is the mother of invention.

I was so humbled last night, to join with local neighbours in solidarity and appreciation, whilst there was national footage screened into every home, of this outburst of doorstep clapping. Such a solemn and joyful moment of praise and thanks was captured for our NHS workers who have been thrown into a risky maelstrom of contingency planning and personal sacrifice with very personal and potentially long-term impacts.

Even with the chaos and discomfort of this change on the domestic front right up to the governmental COBRA responses, I feel moved to be alive at this time of explosive creativity, humour and grit.

I think we are currently having our Jubilee, our generational Sabbath.

It has been forced upon us, its very uncomfortable and yet liberating.

It will fully replenish the value of this most valuable real estate, our very hearts with love.

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