It's one of the 10 Commandments that Christians often skip over. Or at least try and interpret in a way that fits with their particular lifestyle."Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy." (Deuteronomy 5:12). Life restricting Sabbath observances of past generations, and legalistic rules that forbade everything from shopping to playing games on Sundays, have pushed society in the totally opposite direction.
We are a busy people. For many people, Sunday is now just another day. And far from being restful, a multitude of activities are stuffed into it. Shopping. Sports. Eating Out. Visiting the Family. Or for many... working in occupations that service all of the above. There was a time when on a list of “To-Do” things, attending church would be at the top of the list. Now it's often considered an optional extra, and somewhere near the bottom of folks priorities.
There's a passage in the gospel of Mark, where Jesus is criticized for allowing His disciples to eat, as they pass through a field. Their dreadful sin is that they expend energy in work by plucking corn. Didn't they know that work was forbidden on the Sabbath? It's followed by another passage, in which Jesus heals a person during the Sabbath worship service. This proves equally unacceptable to the legalists! (Mark 2:23-3:6)
In the middle of it all Jesus explains "The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). In the context of the two passages, this appears to mean that Sabbath observance was never meant to be a limiting or legalistic practice, but was rather an invitation to participate in something that would bring joy, rest and healing … something which would center people in the love of God.
If we are people of faith, we sell both ourselves and our faith communities short, when we refuse to take up God's invitation to be Sabbath centered followers. We sell ourselves short, because in this workaholic world, we need to take time to breathe the Spirit. We are stressed beyond belief. Because of that, our relationships can be at breaking point. We rush from one thing to the next without ever questioning the value in it all. We are driven people who sometimes really need to get out of the driving seat and let Jesus take the wheel.
We do a disservice to our faith communities when we leave a lot of the things we could (and maybe feel we should) be doing, in the hands of other, already overburdened, folk. Volunteer burnout is a reality in so many faith communities. In some instances, one way it could be avoided, was if everybody took a little of the weight, instead of placing it all on the shoulders of a few.
We cannot return to a day when Sunday was what it used to be. And for many of us, there is no wish to go down that particular road. Yet our spirits and our souls are desperate for nourishment, rest and healing. Often that tension is manifested in our bodies! Jesus explained “The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath.”
Considering “Sabbath” as an invitation to embrace a lifestyle, that has time for renewal and regeneration, time for putting aside routines that are literally killing us, and time to reconnect with what really matters... might encourage us to see afresh that verse in Deuteronomy.
Last week was Trinity Sunday. Our message from that day can be found here. This coming week at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we are embarking on a series of sermons titled “Mark My Words” which are based upon the first few chapters of the second Gospel. Come celebrate Sabbath with us if you are in the area. In not, then find a way to observe a Sabbath in any way that best nurtures your spirit!
For some music the choir of “Christ for the Nations” sing “Renew MyLife, Lord Jesus.”
The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.