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Keeping the Sabbath
pastor corner

Rev. Dr. Devin Strong

Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church

I have been doing some reading about Sabbath in preparation for a sermon series later this summer, and I have learned our Jewish brothers and sisters have a far more developed understanding of Sabbath than Christians do. Of course, for both Jews and Christians, the notion of Sabbath rest comes from the third (or fourth by the Jewish counting) Commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.”

Christians interpret God’s word here as suggesting we should probably go to church on Sundays, but for Jews, it is much, much more. Practicing Jews are called to do no work from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday. More than that, Sabbath is a time to disconnect from worldly ways, to rest, live simply, and put their lives in deep conversation with God. Jesus-followers could learn a great deal from our Old Testament cousins.

For one thing, you and I need to get better at resting. Most of us are addicted to work and busyness. For some, it’s an economic issue. To maintain the lifestyle we have become accustomed to, many hourly workers feel compelled to work as many hours as possible or (like my daughter) get a second job to make ends meet. Salaried workers often feel pushed to stay late to prove their value and keep their jobs.

Beyond paid work, most of us do not see rest as a legitimate activity, so we fill our “off time” with life chores and running the kids here and there. We exhaust ourselves to prove we are enough.

For another, we can learn true Sabbath is more than rest. It is active, intentional resistance to the ways of the world.

Our culture tries to tell us life is about stuff—wanting stuff, paying for stuff, and maintaining stuff. The practice of Sabbath teaches us abundant life is not about acquisition. It is found in peace and relationships, both relationships with one another and an abiding relationship with our Creator. During Sabbath, Jews don’t just refrain from work, they try not to discuss, watch, or read about worldly things like politics or business. Sabbath is the regular pulling away from worldly values and grounding ourselves in a more godly way of being in the world.

Finally, it would be helpful for us to learn Sabbath is a matter of justice. For Jews, it is not just wealthy or comfortable folks who are called to observe the Sabbath, but everybody—rich, poor, native, immigrant, even animals. For 24 hours each week, the world pauses and resets. Everybody has a chance to remember who and whose they are. You and I can hardly imagine not being able to buy anything on Sundays or run through the drive-thru at midnight, and certainly, if we do go out and enjoy some entertainment on our day off, we expect others to be there to wait on us. If we don’t think about rest for ourselves, we think about it for others even less.

Especially as we begin the summer season, I invite you to ponder God’s command to remember the Sabbath day and what it could mean for you, in actual concrete practices, to live a more God-centered life. Watch for my four-part sermon series on the Four R’s of Re-Creation beginning Sunday July 28. God rested. We can, too!

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