By the Rev. Cara Scriven | Tacoma District Superintendent
I am an unapologetic nerd of the sci-fi variety. One of my favorite series to watch is Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. For those of you who aren’t fans, I promise that I have a point in sharing the following. 🙂
I recently began watching the series over again and was struck by the 12th episode of season one, titled “Battle Lines.” In this episode, Kai Opaka, the spiritual leader of the Bajorans, makes an unexpected trip to the station. Captain Sisko agrees, a bit reluctantly, to take the Kai through the wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant. The plan was to immediately turn around once they arrived but the Kai convinces Sisko to follow a distress signal.
The signal comes from a network of satellites. One of the malfunctioning satellites attacks their small spaceship as they approach the planet causing it to crash. Unfortunately, Kai Opaka does not survive this ordeal. While the crew is mourning this loss, a group of people called the Ennis arrive.
The Ennis explain that they are at war with the Nol-Ennis who are likely to attack any minute. Captain Sisko, Doctor Bashir, and Major Kira follow the Ennis to their cave. The attack occurs just as predicted and many are killed. Soon afterwards, the Kia appears miraculously in the cave while many other Ennis also begin to return to life. We later learn that the Ennis and Nol-Ennis were sent to the planet as punishment for centuries of conflict and, because of nanotechnology, are cursed to war with one another for all of eternity. Sisko tries to broker a ceasefire but, anger, vengeance, and hatred between these two groups ultimately keeps them from making any changes.
In watching this episode, I was struck by how similar we are to the Ennis and the Nol-Ennis. As individuals and institutions, we easily get caught in repeating the same cycles over and over again. We see this in people who are angry and have allowed this anger to color their world fueling more rage. We also can recognize this in institutions like the church where regardless of the outcome, we prefer the continuance of what we know over the opportunity to change course for the better.
- Where can we find relief from the strong emotions that sometimes overwhelm us?
- How can we find freedom to change when we seem to be cursed by our own reluctance?
Since returning from vacation, I’ve been considering what it might look like to add rest and renewal into my weekly life. In other words, what might it mean for me to have a real Sabbath every week?
I’m looking forward to reading Sabbath as Resistance by Walter Brueggemann, in part because of quotes like this from his book: “…Sabbath is a school for our desires, an expose and critique of the false desires that focus on idolatry and greed that have immense power for us. When we do not pause for Sabbath, these false desires take power over us. But Sabbath is the chance for self-embrace of our true identity.” (pg 88)
What if Brueggemann is right that Sabbath is key in helping us to break free from our desires that hold such immense power over us? If the Ennis and Nol-Ennis were to have taken a Sabbath from their fighting, I wonder if they would have realized the foolishness of their acts and changed course?
But enough about imaginary sci-fi creations, what if we (in all our non-fiction glory) tried to seriously practice Sabbath and opened ourselves up to whatever might happen?
To take a Sabbath would mean doing no work—not only related to your job, but also laundry, grocery shopping, and all other major activity. Just attempting to do this would be difficult and requires a taking a risk. But what might we gain if sat down and read a leisure book, spent time enjoying our coffee, and/or watched the clouds roll by.
The solution to some of the challenges we face in our personal and corporate lives may be closer than we think. Unfortunately, as we have seen with the fictional Ennis, so may be our demise. May we find wisdom in the practice of Sabbath, and may its application free us from the things that bind, liberating us for all that truly matters.