Remembering to Remember the Sabbath

When the Israelites were on the way to the land of promise, God gave them Ten Commandments which would guide their life together. You can find the story of their journey from slaves in Egypt to the land of promise in the Biblical book of Exodus. I suspect that one of the least kept of the ten, is to “Remember the *Sabbath Day and keep in Holy.”  This commandment is the only commandment that starts with the word “Remember.”  (See Exodus 20) I wonder if it was because God knew we would be tempted to believe that Sabbath rest was unimportant.

Imagine how radical it was to ask people living on the edge to take a day off . . . to actually rest and pause in their busy lives . . . to spend time with their creator God. The Israelites were told not only that it was OK to take a break from their work, but that God commanded a day of rest. The day would be a day to reflect on life and one’s relationship with God. It created by, its very existence, time for family and friends.

There have been times when people have turned Sabbath rest into legalism, where the least activity brought offense and broke a rule. But, that was never God’s intention for the Sabbath. When Jesus was questioned one day about his actions on a Sabbath, he said to those who complained, “The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)

God’s intention has always been that Sabbath rest would be an opportunity for us to take a break from life as usual, to allow ourselves time for something else. We would find in Sabbath rest opportunity  to ponder things of eternity and the things of God. It would allow us to renew our body, souls and spirits . . . it would offer space to heal our  wounds and for our souls to be restored.

Wayne Muller in his book “Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives,” writes “If we forget to rest we will work too hard and forget our more tender mercies, forget those we love, forget our children and our natural wonder. God says: “Please don’t. It is a waste of a tremendous gift I have given you. If you knew the value of your life, you would not waste a single breath. So I give you this commandment: Remember to rest. This is not a life-style suggestion, but a commandment – – – remember to play and bless and eat with those you love, and take comfort, easy and long, in this gift of sacred rest.”

*Traditionally, the Sabbath was thought of as the Seventh Day of the week (or Saturday by our calendar). Christians began to worship on Sunday as they remembered that Christ was raised to life on the first day of the week.

Sabbath Time

Us northerners do look forward to our summers. In three short months we pack a years worth of visiting, celebrations, camping, fishing, cookouts, softball, t-ball, swimming lessons and assorted activities, deemed unsuitable for the other months of a Minnesota year. We look forward to moments of rest and relaxation . . . time to be re-created within. We need these moments. We were not created to work nonstop. Early in our relationship with God, we learned that Sabbath – one day in seven set aside for God was essential, not only to worship and honor God, but for ourselves.

The season of Retirement has become a season of Sabbath for me. I’ve found myself being drawn back, more fully into my relationship with God. I’ve known others who have found that Sabbath time in an illness or in recovery from surgery . . . moments when space and time allow for one to turn our hearts and to tune our spirits to God’s presence.

The rhythm’s of life demand that we pull back, take stock of our lives before we race to the next place. In a world where the noise of social media, text messages, cell phones and e-mails break into our silence, we need place and time set aside to commune with our creator. We are most whole when we are in touch and touched by God. In our quiet moments, we make room for God to speak to our hearts and feed our souls. The still small voice of God is most clear, when we let go of the noise and make time for God.

One of my favorite new hymns of the church is based on Psalm 42:1. Martin Nystrom’s “As the deer” captures my soul’s need for being in relationship with God. With the words . . “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you . . . You alone are my strength, my shield . . . you alone are my heart’s desire and I long to worship you.”