Greetings in the name of The Lord, April was a busy month. Easter Sunday was filled with joy and saw the addition of six new members to our congregation as well as two baptisms. And things on the horizon over the next few months do not appear to show any signs of slowing down. I love it! In a culture of overstuffed schedules (like mine and yours), it is often difficult to slow down and be mindful of the reason we come together each week to honor the Sabbath. It is a time to find rest and renewal in an increasingly overwhelming week. Our worship time is a time to stop, freeze, and connect with God.
Work. Children. Dinner. An hour at the gym. The cell phone that rings as you pull into your driveway. It makes carving out a day of rest seem like a foreign idea and a difficult one to accomplish at that. But it is hardly an original concept.
The Sabbath day goes all the way back to the Book of Exodus. It is, in fact, the fourth of the Ten Commandments, coming right after the commandment to not take the Lord’s name in vain and just ahead of the one about honoring thy father and thy mother. “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy,” it says.
The Sabbath was not invented to lure everyone to church one day a week to get their money. It is one of God’s eternal principles. In the story of Genesis, God made the world and took the seventh day to rest. God took the seventh day to rest to set a divine example. (The Sabbath) is an eternal principle that was practiced long before it was carved into stone on Mount Sinai. It is a Christian practice to give Sunday, the first day of the week, back to God. It was probably easier to embrace and practice several decades ago when America was a simpler culture, but it became a harder principle to practice as technology made working longer and later not merely possible but even expected. It has become absurdly easy to allow deadlines and obligations to dictate every minute of every day — to the point that taking time off to worship, to pray or to meditate can seem a waste of time.
Spending 60 to 70 minutes in the presence of God is critical but that brief respite is only the beginning of recapturing a true sense of rest. Simply going to worship is not going to satisfy that hunger for renewal since the rest of the week can easily overwhelm that hour.
One Pastor challenged his congregation with a sermon titled, “An Invitation of Revolution.” Make time to rest, he told them, knowing that many of their lives were as full, if not fuller, than his own. In a column in the church’s newsletter, he re-enforced the idea…. “I do know that we will never really begin to change things without taking some major steps”, and so he told them how to reap for themselves some much-needed downtime by exhorting his flock to do no chores on Sundays. “If mowing the lawn is work, don’t do it,” he explained. “If working in your garden is something that brings you joy, then maybe that is something that should be allowed.”
One Jewish Rabbi agrees. If you want to honor the Sabbath, he says, then you must define — in your own terms — what work means to you.
So, what does it take to reconnect with the Sabbath? Discipline! It takes some discipline; if one doesn’t do it regularly, one forgets about it. If we lose that discipline, we lose the spirit of the Sabbath.
It seems to be very good for thought as well as a delicacy for the soul….Especially as we enter the season of summer when, on one hand, our schedules seem lighter with vacations, it is those same vacations away from home that may draw our attention even further from the Church….out of town, out of mind. Whatever discipline we settle on, let us ultimately heed the words of the writer of Hebrews when considering our priorities.
And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:25
In the Loving service of Christ,