Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work – you, your son or your daughter, your male or female servant, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it. Exodus 20:8-11
In a Bible study group I belong to, we have just completed our study of Exodus. It lasted for over a year, with some time off when the pandemic first hit. We may not be swift, but we have a good time and we learn from one another as we go. One thing that has struck me is how many times keeping sabbath in Exodus…and throughout both the Old Testament and the New. The early Christian church moved our time for rest and worship from Saturday (literally the seventh day) to Sunday, the first day of the week. Therefore, every Sunday is a “little Easter.” Or so it should be.
It seems to me that we 2021 Americans are just not very good at Sabbath keeping. We generally measure our value by how busy we are, how much we accomplish. And often that includes doing some work of some kind of Sundays. When I was a child, that was not hard to do, because in those ancient times, in my Southern small town, there was literally nothing to do on Sundays after church except visit friends and family. But times have changed. Not everyone is Christian.
And so why should we observe sabbath? I truly admire my Jewish neighbors who so scrupulously observe Saturday from Friday evening until Saturday evening. Their careful observance reminds them (and their neighbors) who they are. They are special, set apart by God to retreat from the everyday world. It ought to do the same for us. A day set aside for rest and worship shows the world that we are not like everyone else. We recognize that if even God rested on the seventh day, we should do it as well. We should take that time to remember who we are, whose we are, and to ponder the wonder of belonging to a God who cares so much for us that God wants us to have time to rest from the world and depend upon God for one day each week. It is a time to read the Scriptures and to pray; to give thanks and to praise. Jesus took time for sabbath, to be still and quiet. To listen to God.
Christians need to stop from the hectic pace of modern life, take stock of who we are, and learn to rely on others and especially upon the Lord. I have heard the covid pandemic called an enforced sabbath. It is not. Far from relieving stress it often brings more. So it is all the more important that when we are under stress – be it from illness, loss of income, trying to work while supervising children at home, being lonely, missing friends – we take a day to rest in the Lord, and trust that God can get by without our help for 24 hours. Lent is an excellent time to begin the practice of observing a holy sabbath every week. It might just become a habit.
O sabbath rest by Galilee, O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with thee the silence of eternity,
Interpreted by love. (UMH358)
Pastor Rachel Moser