Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Sabbath Rest

When I was a little girl Sunday's were a very different day. With my Dad being a lay speaker and my sister and I being musical, fifty out of fifty-two weeks a year would find us ministering in a different church. We were often invited out for lunch by kind families in the church we were visiting and then we'd come home to a Sabbath rest.

Sunday afternoon's were quiet and held restrictions. We couldn't go out and play. Careful preparation was always given so that there would be no need to run to the corner store for necessities such as milk or bread. Back in those days, the option of 'shopping' never existed as Malls were closed on Sundays. Saturday night my Dad always made sure his car was filled with gas so a detour to the station wasn't required. My sister and I would most often change into our housecoats and spend the afternoon in our bedrooms quietly looking through the Sears catalogue or reading while our parents rested. Around 4pm, we would get up and ready as my older sister and her family would join us for dinner and then we'd all head off to church in the evening together. The odd time I felt the weight of the 'can'ts' with the restrictions my parents imposed, but most often I loved that Sunday's were special. They were different days, set apart.

Our reading today reminds us in Exodus 31:12-17 to be careful to keep the Lord's Sabbath. Verse 14 says, "You must keep the Sabbath day, for it is a holy day for you." I know I may tread on a few toes when I ask this next question, but other than attending church on Sunday, how do you keep His day holy? Is church attendance the only thing that sets it apart? Today Sabbath's are treated more like Saturday's with church thrown into the mix. One more thing 'to do' on a day commanded for rest.

Now, before I'm slammed for "living under the law" or accused of judging, hear me out. I realize that the New Testament does not reiterate the teaching on keeping the Sabbath, however the principles of rest are in both the Old and New Testament (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor.16:2). I also know and believe that God wants us resting in Him every day. However, for me, I also have found that having a day set apart as a personal spiritual discipline has strengthened my devotion to God and been a witness to others. I'm not convinced of this because of tradition, but by personal conviction. Nor will I ever speak negatively or condemn anyone who chooses to take part in activities on the Sabbath that I choose to refrain from doing, not because the freedom isn't there, but because I desire something to be different one day of the week. God lays a special claim on the Sabbath as holy. This was the first time anything was declared holy.

My focus is no longer that of a child. I don't see the 'can'ts' any longer. I see opportunity. Matthew 12:12 calls us to "do good on the Sabbath". I am freed to serve God. I am freed to practice mercy. I am freed to meet human need.

I rest, not necessarily from activity for John 5 reminds us that "My Father is always working...", but rest of achievement. Rest from routine to receive. A rest from restlessness.

Sabbath is a gift. I don't want to demean the first thing God called 'holy'. The Sabbath helps me reaffirm and readjust my affections. It helps to answer the question: Is my greatest pleasure God? It fills up my depleted soul. It reminds me of my dependency on God and reaffirms my identity in Christ. It's an opportunity to give witness to a world in denial. I have time to listen to what God is saying to me. This gift of time for the purpose of contemplation allows God to perform His work in me.

I pray I will never ignore the value of a Sabbath rest and that I will always see it as God sees it - a holy day.

The Sabbath is a day for worship. Worship eclipses the Sabbath. The most meaningful thing I can do on the Sabbath is give God my heart.

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Nicole said...

Thanks for the reminder. It seems as if God has been showing me through different people and such that keeping His sabbath just might be a good idea. Thanks for your contribution to this.

In His Love,

Marilyn in Mississippi said...

I was just talking to my husband about this last week. I know that is something that is missing in my life. It seems like I am more tired and exhausted on Sundays than any other day of the week! We leave home early in the morning because: 1]we live a long way from the church and 2]hubby drives the church van. And we get home late because of the same two reasons. I do wonder sometimes if we should look for a church closer to home but haven't had the go-ahead from God yet.

You inspire me Joy!


Renee Swope said...

I laid on our living room floor on Sunday afternoon, in front of a little heater because I was cold...and much to my shock I FELL ASLEEP! What a sweet sabbath rest it was!!

Praying for your daddy's surgery and recovery. You are such a wonderful daughter!!!

Thankful said...

Beautiful Joy and I agree with you...and not as "can't" but freedom in a precious opportunity to set the day apart...
Love ya

lisasmith said...

Seeking him in a sabbath rest and finding him renews the soul.

lisasmith said...

just read Renee's comment and I'll be praying for your dad. :)