08 Oct Enough Time?
The fourth of the Ten Commandments is: “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” The commandment goes on to say, “Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.” (Exodus 20:8-10a)
What, oh what, are we to do with this commandment in our fast-paced modern lives? With each of the other commandments we may not be able to keep them, but we do recognize that it would be good if we could. We’d be better off without so much lying and if there was respect for authority and if greed wasn’t so pervasive. But, when we get to the fourth commandment, there is a wall of resistance. Keep the Sabbath? Why? It’s outdated, out of touch with the reality of our lives. Nobody keeps the Sabbath anymore because we don’t have time. Isn’t that, almost to a person, our gut reaction?
We have this reaction despite two very telling truths: first, the fact that God gave us this commandment, right alongside “don’t murder” and “have no gods beside me”, tells us something about the seriousness with which God views Sabbath keeping. It is a seriousness that we may not understand, but rather than rejecting it out of hand as irrelevant, perhaps we could begin to explore its profound significance.
Second, we are almost universally weary. The lifestyle of the West places so much value on work and activity that fatigue and burnout are accepted as normal. Who’s not tired? Who’s not overworked? Who’s not overwhelmed with all there is to do? It’s gotten so bad that we’re suspicious of people who aren’t running themselves in to the ground, but more than that, we’re often smug. The new measure of superiority is how outrageously packed your calendar is, and that’s as true for children as it is for adults. We’re creating addicts to busyness.
From the beginning God ordained a day of rest. God worked, then rested, and God invites us to follow that same rhythm. The Sabbath is a gift. It is a day that is to be markedly different from the other six days of the week. It is a day set aside for worship, rest and mercy. On the Sabbath we transact our spiritual business, trading in the currency of heaven, rather than the ordinary commerce that punctuates the rest of our week.
Sadly, and to our detriment, we have bought in to the lie that it’s okay to ignore the Sabbath because we are simply too busy. But, busyness is not our real problem—it’s control. Our constant striving exposes a belief that everything is up to us, that we can’t stop (or even slow down) because our lives depend on our efforts, our achievements. Observing the Sabbath confronts that false belief head on. Sabbath keeping is an act of trust. To keep the Sabbath is to trust that our lives will not fall apart without our frantic efforts, that God will provide what we need and that for one day each week God will keep the world spinning without our help.
After Sunday’s sermon, we had an honest and enthusiastic conversation in Sermon Talk Back about Sabbath-keeping. We discovered that we couldn’t talk about the Sabbath without also talking about things like simplicity, relationships, technology, unexamined attitudes, and how hard it is to change. We agreed that we won’t become Sabbath-keeping superstars overnight (or maybe ever.) But, we also agreed that real rest, renewing worship and restorative mercy are more than lofty-sounding goals. They are necessary for our flourishing as human beings. That’s the irony: we settle for so much less than what God wants to give us when we push ourselves so relentlessly. We decided we want to do it God’s way—we want to become more intentional about Sabbath observance, and we’re going to share our successes and failures with one another. I invite you to experiment with Sabbath-keeping as well, and let us know how you’re doing. Even baby steps can make a huge difference in our lives.
Yours for the Kingdom,