Christianity 201

August 26, 2018

Sabbath: We Rest and We Worship (Part Two)

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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NIV.Gen.2.2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Yesterday and today we’re running an excerpt from an earlier book by John Mark Comer whose more recent book God Has a Name we’ve featured here before. This one is Garden City: Work, Rest and the Art of Being Human (Zondervan, 2015). John Mark is the pastor of Bridgetown Church, in Portland Oregon.

I Am Not a Machine (excerpt, part two)

…It’s a day for rest, and it’s a day for worship.

When I Sabbath, I run everything through this grid — is this rest? Is this worship? If the answer to both questions is yes, then I delight in it; if the answer is no, then I hold off until the next day.

Because the Sabbath is not the same thing as a day off.

Make sure you get the difference.

On a day off you don’t work for your employer, but you still work. You grocery shop, go to the bank, mow the lawn, work on the remodel project, chip away at that sci-fi novel you’re writing . . .

On the Sabbath, you rest, and you worship. That’s it.

That’s why Moses was teaching the Israelites to get ready for the Sabbath. To bake and boil and gear up for the day of rest.

Think of the Sabbath like a weekly holiday. You don’t just wake up on Christmas morning and think, What should we do today? No, you get ready for it. The same is true for Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July or your birthday or anniversary — you plan and prep and shop and look forward to it for days at a time. In my family, we Sabbath from Friday at sundown through Saturday, so Friday afternoons are always a flurry of activity. We clean the house and finish the to-do list and stop by the market and plan out the day ahead, and then finally, it comes.

Blessed and holy.

Here’s what I’m saying: there is a rhythm to this world. For six days we rule and subdue and work and draw out and labor and bleed and wrestle and fight with the ground. But then we take a step back, and for twenty-four hours, we sabbath, we enjoy the fruit of our labor, we delight in God and his world, we celebrate life, we rest, and we worship.

The Creator God is inviting us to join him in this rhythm, this interplay of work and rest. And when we don’t accept his invitation, we reap the consequences. Fatigue. Burnout. Anxiety. Depression. Busyness. Starved relationships. Worn-down

immune systems. Low energy levels. Anger. Tension. Confusion. Emptiness. These are the signs of a life without rest.

Maybe that’s why later the Sabbath is commanded. When Israel is at the base of Mount Sinai, God comes down on top of the mountain in a cloud of fire and smoke and lightning. And then with a voice like a California earthquake, God speaks the Ten Commandments over his people. His vision for human-ness is shrunk down to ten commands — so few a child can count them on their fingers.

And guess what the longest, most in-depth command is?

The Sabbath. It gets more real estate than any of the others.

God starts off by saying, “Remember the Sabbath day.”

So the Sabbath is something that’s easy to forget. It’s easy to get sucked into this 24/7, go-go-go, hamster wheel that we call the modern world. We’re to remember the Sabbath.

How? By “keeping it holy.”

So the Sabbath is holy, but it’s also something we have to keep holy. It’s easy to profane, to desecrate. It’s easy for it to just become another day in the rat race. Another day to fall into the pattern — work, buy, sell, repeat. We’re to keep it holy — to guard it, watch over it, treat it like a delicate flower in a New York subway.

If you’re thinking, Why should I go to all this trouble? God ends his longest commandment with the answer, “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

So, for God, his Sabbath commandment is grounded in the creation story itself.

Lots of people argue that we’re “free” from the Sabbath because it was a part of the Torah, or Law. As if it was a legalistic rule we were stuck with until Jesus. What a tragic misunderstanding.

It is true that we’re no longer under the Torah, and it’s also true that the Sabbath is the only one of the Ten Commandments not repeated in the New Testament.  But even so, the Sabbath still stands as wisdom.

There isn’t a command in the New Testament to eat food or drink water or sleep eight hours a night. That’s just wisdom, how the Creator set up the human body and the world itself.

You can skip the Sabbath — it’s not sin. It’s just stupid. You can eat concrete — it’s not sin. It’s just dumb.

You can stay awake for days at a time like Josh Lyman in The West Wing. Go ahead. God’s not mad at you. But if you do that long enough, you’ll die.

At one point, Moses calls the Sabbath a gift. That’s exactly what it is.

I cringe when I hear people argue about whether or not we have to keep the Sabbath, and if so, on what day. Some say Saturday like the Jews, others say Sunday because of Jesus’ resurrection, others think any day is fine. But all this arguing is an exercise in missing the point. The point is that there is a way the Creator set the creation up to thrive. A way that God set you up to thrive. And when we Sabbath, we tap into God’s rhythm for human flourishing.

Technically, the Sabbath is from twenty minutes before sundown on Friday evening to Saturday late afternoon (the Jewish day is measured from sunset to sunset). But most followers of Jesus Sabbath on Sunday, as it’s the day of Messiah’s resurrection, as well as the day we come together for worship. For me Sunday is a workday. And it’s exhausting. I’m up early, gearing up for a marathon day. My last teaching is at eight p.m.! So by the time I get home around eleven o’clock, I’m crawling along the floor.

Not literally. That was a metaphor.

So we follow the tradition of Friday night to Saturday late afternoon, but only because it works for our life. I don’t think what day you take is important. Genesis doesn’t say Friday or Saturday; it just says the seventh. And the writer Paul said, “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.” I guess people have been arguing about this for a while. For us, Friday night to Saturday just works great.

And for us, the Sabbath is by far the highlight of the week. My two youngest children, Moses and Sunday, are both five, so they honestly have no clue how to tell time. Tomorrow and three days from now and next week all blend into one. So every morning they ask me, Is it Sabbath? with a big, hopeful, childlike grin. Jude is nine and pretty snappy with his new watch, so he counts down all week long. Three days until Sabbath. Two days left. Tomorrow! Which comes as no surprise. In Genesis, Sabbath is the climax of the seven-day cycle. It’s on day seven, not three or four. It’s not a pause so we can recoup and then “get back to work.” If anything, it’s the other way around. It’s the end goal, what the entire week is moving toward. The climax is an entire day set aside to worship.

Just like work, when it’s done right, is an act of worship, the same is true with rest. You can rest as an act of worship to God.

You can even rest to the glory of God. When you enjoy the world as God intended — with a cup of coffee, a nap in a hammock, a good meal, time with friends, it glorifies God — it calls attention to the Creator’s presence and beauty all around us. And when you do all that in a spirit of gratitude, letting the goodness of your world and life conjure up an awareness of God and a love for him, then rest becomes worship.

Even though the Sabbath is about imitation of the God who works and then rests, it’s also a day to remember that we’re not God. We take a day off, and the world gets along just fine without us.

We’re not as important as we think.

The Sabbath is a day to embrace this reality, to let it sink in, to own it, to celebrate it. To celebrate our weakness, our mortality, our limits. To celebrate our God of strength and immortality and limitless power. To rest with him and to rest in him.

That’s why Sabbath is an expression of faith. Faith that there is a Creator and he’s good. We are his creation. This is his world. We live under his roof, drink his water, eat his food, breathe his oxygen. So on the Sabbath, we don’t just take a day off from work; we take a day off from toil. We give him all our fear and anxiety and stress and worry. We let go. We stop ruling and subduing, and we just be. We “remember” our place in the universe. So that we never forget . . .

There is a God, and I’m not him.

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