Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
….in six days the Lord made heaven and earth the sea and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day;
therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.
… a Sabbath rest still remains for the people of God; for those who enter God’s rest
also cease from their labors as God did from his.
There is a deep need today to rediscover the “gift” of Sabbath. For some the need for Sabbath emerges as a cry from within because we are so exhausted and we yearn for a time to simply rejoice with those closest to us, to play, to rest, to be still and to notice the goodness of God that surrounds us. For some the need for Sabbath arises from a need for quiet grief. The grief of recognizing that even though we are moving faster and faster in our lives, the only progress we seem to make is that of a greater emptiness. Even though we are receiving much from the culture that surrounds us, we come away still hungry, as hurried and as pressed as ever in our search for fulfillment.
The gift of Sabbath is a multi-layered gift. First, it is for our joy and our rest. The commandment to keep the Sabbath, according to John Calvin, reflects God’s genuine concern for God’s people. Calvin also says, “Work is good, but when we work all the time work becomes a curse not a blessing.” And so the Sabbath invites us to rest and take joy in what already is, even as God rested on the seventh day and rejoiced in all the goodness of creation.
Second, the Sabbath is a time for deepened communion with the Living God. Sabbath is a time for us to be shaped from within. John Calvin tells us, “On the Sabbath, we cease our work so God can do God’s work in us.” He also says, “Sabbath keeping is a way of living out our belief that we are not our own; that we belong to God.” From its beginning, Sabbath has declared that the Living God is the one source and aim of all our life, not possessions or the striving after them.
Sabbath is also for our life in community. Even though Sabbath blessings are often richly personal, the gift of Sabbath is not a private gift, nor has it ever been presented that way. At Sinai, Sabbath came to the entire community. It was for all ages, all stations of life and no one stood outside the call to rest in the presence of God. In Christianity, the Sabbath, or Lord’s Day, is both communal and Christ-focused. It summons the followers of Jesus to enter together into the presence of God whose grace is sufficient for all our human need.
In the Reformed tradition, from its earliest confessions to the present Directory for Worship of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), to live the gift of Sabbath is to engage in simple, time hallowing acts:
- Seek rest from daily occupation;
- Share with others in worship;
- Take time with God’s word;
- Engage in acts of compassion;
- Enjoy activities that refresh and renew the spirit.
During the summer months, while you are vacationing, it may be difficult to find somewhere to worship on the Sabbath. Instead of feeling guilty, consider vacation as a time to rest, spend a few minutes reading a favorite devotional, practice being kind to others, enjoy your family, restore your spirit, strengthen relationships with those you love and those you meet on your journeys. Recognize God at work in your life and the lives of others. Admire God’s magnificent creation.
I invite each of you find creative ways of keeping the Sabbath in the midst of summer vacations! The gift of Sabbath is truly glorious!
Your Servant in Christ,
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