On Sabbath-rest

From the sermon this week:
Sabbath is the stranger you’ve always known. It’s the place of homecoming you’ve rarely or never visited, but which you’ve been missing forever. It’s been asleep in you all this time, waiting for the right kiss to wake it.

Life is meant to be much different- fuller, richer, deeper, slower – from what it is.

-The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan

The concept of Sabbath was talked about in church Saturday, and then became a topic of conversation during our late-night conversation with friends. Questions have been spinning in my head.

What is the spirit of the day that God set up for us?
I don't want to be legalistic about a system set up for our freedom and benefit. Is the 'right' answer "No activities outside the home"? "No activities that aren't family-oriented"? "No cooking"? No "idle talk"? Or, rather than defining the day by what NOT to do, could we try to define the spirit of the day- "Rest, and do not work. Do good, and not evil." Jesus said "It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." If It Is Good to cook, or go shopping, or spend 'idle' time with friends, or take a nap or take a walk or even 'work' to help a neighbor with yardwork or to serve a meal to the needy- I see all of this as keeping with the spirit of the Sabbath.

Does 'Sabbath' mean 'Sunday'?

I say absolutely not. Many pastors and church staff I know take their 'sabbath' on Monday, because they work all weekend. This is totally appropriate. We go to church on Saturday. There's nothing wrong with this, either. The Hebrew word for Saturday is Shabbat (I remember that from my senior-year-of-high-school Hebrew class!), and Christians break the historic tradition by celebrating the Sabbath on Sundays (because Sunday is the day Christ rose from the dead). There's nothing wrong with this, either. Again, the spirit rather than the letter of the law is what is important.

God created us to need rest. What can we do to better serve those who don't have a Sabbath, because they are forced to work every day to make ends meet?

This is a question Josh came up with during the service Saturday. What can we do for them? How can we provide rest to those who are weary from struggling every day, often with more than one job, to make ends meet? Josh just finished a book given to us by my dad, Nickel and Dimed, and during a recent series at church, we watched episodes of a documentary 30 Days -- both are works about well-educated people making it a goal to get low-paying jobs and then trying to live on the wages for a month in various parts of the country. Both the writer and the documentary-maker found through personal experience that getting by on an hourly rate paid by restaurants, retail, and the service sector was practically impossible, even when working every day and working more than one job. God designed us for Rest. We crave it because we were made for it. How can we give Rest to everyone?

How can my home be a Haven, a Sabbath-rest for my family and guests?
I love the quote shared in the sermon. It is true, our hearts yearn for the peace that the idea of a Sabbath offers us. I want my home to be a haven and rest for those who come through it and live in it. I struggle with this- does this mean my bed must always be made, my shelves dusted, my drinking glasses matching, and my centerpiece on my table seasonably-appropriate? Or, rather, is a restful Haven a place free of turmoil and full of welcome, regardless of whether the living room is well-decorated?

The rules aren't the point.
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. - Colossians 2:8, 16-17

The point isn't what we eat or drink, what we do or don't do, during the Shabbat that God has instituted- the point is to bring glory to Christ. I need to not feel judged by others who make different Sabbath-rest choices than mine. I need to not judge others who make different choices. I need to not get caught up in tradition as the 'right way', but rather need to get back to the Basics- which is Christ.

These are just a culmination of my thoughts, not right answers. What are your thoughts? How do you celebrate the Sabbath?


Becca said...

I have always felt that the lighting and colors make a home a haven. More importantly, a spirit of worship (living our lives to honor God) really seems to make a home soothing.

James Kubecki said...

Good post. You hit the nail on the head - the point is to bring glory to Christ.
As we "remember the Lord's day and keep it holy," it's so easy to forget that holy simply means set apart. Set apart for what? For rest.
"So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his." (Hebrews 4:9-10, ESV)
And you're right, also, it doesn't have to be Sunday, especially for pastors and other ministry staff. I was recently reading through some of the employee handbook for Bethlehem Baptist Church (Minneapolis - John Piper's church), and found that they require pastoral staff to take off 24 consecutive hours each week "to fulfill the Sabbath principle." In other words, get some rest.


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