“If there is no Sabbath- no regular and commanded not-working, not-talking — we soon become totally absorbed in what we are doing and saying, and God’s work is either forgotten or marginalized. When we work we are most god-like, which means that it is in our work that it is easier to develop god-pretensions. Un-sabbathed, our work becomes the entire context in which we define our lives. We lose God-consciousness, God-awareness, sightings of resurrection. We lose the capacity to sing “this is my Father’s world” and end up chirping little self-centered ditties about what we are doing and feeling.”
“The purpose of Sabbath is not to eliminate the working days or to divest them of their proper tasks, but rather to obtain for them precisely the light from above which they lack.”
-- Karl Barth
Confession: I am horrible at keeping a Sabbath. It is probably the most hypocritical area of my life. In fact, I would guess if you asked most pastors on scale from 1-10 how important it is to keep a regular Sabbath they would say 8-10. But if you looked at how good pastors are at actually keeping a Sabbath it would tell a much different story.
Lebanon Mennonite purposely gives me Friday off to rest, reflect, to take time to pray, to engage God’s world and creation, and be reminded that I am not God. But normally I fail to take the day. I take calls, respond to texts, work on finishing the youth study, go visit someone. It is probably less about the expectation that I be working, and more to do with fact that like many of you I have a hard time taking a rest. There is always work to be done! Why would I spend a day avoiding technology, turning off the TV, avoiding commerce, when clearly the world needs me to be working?
When we take a Sabbath we can begin to see that it is God that sustains the world, not our human efforts. But often times when we are given time off we expect other people to be at work so we don’t have to be. But biblically we see the opposite:
Remember the Sabbath day and treat it as holy. Six days you may work and do all your tasks, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. Do not do any work on it—not you, your sons or daughters, your male or female servants, your animals, or the immigrant who is living with you. Because the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in
them in six days, but rested on the seventh day. That is why the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)
When God commands we take a Sabbath rest it is not just a rest for ourselves but for everybody, even the animals. I don’t know if this means we shouldn’t shop or go out to eat on Sunday, it does mean it is something we should think twice about. Learning about how the Jews approached this helped me appreciate how this balances out. If you look at the week as 6 days with a day of rest you would begin to spend three days preparing for that day of rest. Getting your shopping done, getting your chores and homework done, and then resting. Taking a good rest. After the rest you would have 3 days to reflect on that day of rest. To think about the connections you made, the stories you told, the activities you took part in, and to remember the time you spent connecting with God.
Sabbath keeping holds the possibly of reminding us we are not God, changing how we view time, opening the door for God to come into our lives and week, and allowing us to rest in the knowledge of the one is making mercies new every morning.