Many view a host of things from Scripture as antiquated, outdated, irrelevant or down-right silly. The notion of a Sabbath, I am sure, falls into that category. As a society, we have walked far away from this idea of a Sabbath, a day’s rest, a day set aside for holy purposes and for family.
Sabbath – Sunday as day of religious worship; Sunday observed by most Christians as the day of worship and rest from work. Saturday as day of religious worship; Saturday observed as a day of religious worship and rest from work in Judaism and some Christian denominations. (Bing Dictionary)
As a kid growing up in the 70s, I remember, even then, life being different. On Sunday most stores and businesses were actually closed. I am sure many can remember the family heading off to church on Sunday morning. Following church our family - parents and grandmothers - gathering for the Sunday dinner where we found ourselves sitting around the table together – talking. On many Sundays, we would then pile into the family station wagon (remember those) and take part in some type of family adventure, ride or afternoon trip. The Sabbath was a day that was set apart for Holy purposes and for family purposes.
My Dad was a laborer working in a chemical/scientific supply company doing maintenance. He worked long hours and, in addition to that, he was a professional organist on the side which took him out many evenings to play for Masonic lodges. He worked long hours and he worked hard. Friday evening was set aside for food shopping – as a family. Saturday was a day to accomplish much around the house leaving Sunday for….God and family.
There seemed to be a balance or rhythm to our family life. The schedule, while busy especially for Dad, seemed to make sense. Somehow, we as a people, as a society, survived with most stores closed on Sunday (and even most holidays, imagine that). The family knew that any other business besides food shopping on Friday evenings had to take place on Saturday. I do not remember any emergencies for garden supplies, linens, toiletries and the like on Sunday. I do not remember any shopping crises, though the shopping scenario is really not where I am hoping to head here. The reality is that movie theaters, mini golf courses, the New England Aquarium and other fun locations were open for family fun on Sundays which certainly pokes at the argument at least a little.
So the question is posed, “Why bother brining this topic up at all?” My entire life, career, and ministry is spent with people. I sit in on meetings with them. They are in and out of the office all the time. I work along-side many of them. I bump into people on Main Street, at Super Stop & Shop, at the mini golf course, dropping my daughter off to school….the list goes on. I spend a great deal of time with people. I am a people person, defining myself as relationally driven. A common theme I hear in many conversations is stress.
How did we become so stressed, anxious, hurried and frayed? We have come to live with a sense of
urgency that is simply unhealthy. We have somehow bought into the lie that tells us, “the busier you are, the more successful or important you are.” We want our children to be well rounded so we encourage them to engage in so many activities that they have precious little time to breath and play.
“Unhealthy” you ask? How many of you have sleeping issues? Appetite issues? How many of you have noticed
stomach issues on the rise? A nagging fatigue that will not go away? How many of you feel as though it has grown a little more difficult to simply be happy? Have you noticed how many of us take some form of medication for stress and anxiety symptoms? Depression? Look back at my growing up years I cannot recall ever hearing people talk about such things. Let’s connect the dots.
Since my formative years growing up in suburban Boston the concept of a Sabbath rest has slowly faded. The blue laws were lifted and everything is open all the time. School events and activities have crept into the Sabbath(s) rest. Sports have helped to obliterate the day. Many groups and organizations – many working toward worthy causes have come to use the Sabbath, particularly the Sabbath morning to sponsor fund raisers and the like. The church, the keepers of the Sabbath have remained largely quiet at the loss of this commandment so the fault rests with us as well. We have not worked to protect this time, we have not stood up “keeping this day holy” and the results are profound.
Can a “day off”, a Sabbath rest cure all the ills of our world? No! Can the reality of a Sabbath help? Yes!
This Commandment is the fourth of ten. The first four deal primarily with our relationship with God, the following six deal primarily with our relationships with others. This fourth Commandment, which is one of the only ones with an depth description, stands as a hinge pin between God and others. By slowing down, giving time to God I find myself being more grateful, directed, hope filled and joyous. By taking this time to refresh, reflect and rest I also find myself at my best for my family and my friends. I am a type-A, driven work-a-holic person. I need to keep myself in check with this. When I do not take appropriate time for God, family and self, my attitude crashes, my patience diminishes, my outlook grows gloomy, my health is impacted, my sleep grows restless and my family suffers for it.
Contrary to what we believe we were not created to be on the go all the time. We were not created to refuse
to stop. I often hear “Dave you need an extra day in the week” or “I need more hours in the day.” No I say! We would fill and clutter that time as well. What we need to do is make better use of the time we have been given and cherish it, for it is a gift.
I know many will disagree, but we are living in a way that does not resonate with the natural order of things. The creator Himself chose to rest and decided to make one of His top Ten Commandments a command to slow down and do little or even nothing. This command speaks to me of His love for us, of His desire for us to learn how to enjoy and savor this life and the people around us. His desire is for you and me to shut it down from time to time to do the things that re-energize us and the things that bring pleasure to us, so we can then bring pleasure to him.
Disagree if you will but something has happened to us as a people. Our busyness, our sense of self-importance, our harried nature and the sense of urgency with which we live has not made us better.