Written for March 16, 2016
From Exodus 20: “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.”
It’s not so very long ago that whole communities in the United States stopped to rest on Sundays. Stores were closed, most people attended church, and families lived close enough to get together for Sunday dinner. It was rare to find anyone even doing yardwork on a Sunday. For most people, those days are long gone. These days, setting aside an entire day, Sunday or otherwise, for rest and restoration is a rarity.
What does it mean to keep Sabbath when the world doesn’t stop with you? How do we unplug from the never-ending list of things we must do, should do, and want to do? How do we take a rest, when being busy is a sign of being important in our culture?
God gave the gift of the Sabbath in the 10 Commandments, along with other really important instructions like “don’t murder” and “don’t commit adultery”. Most people realize that life has gotten off-track if they have taken someone else’s life or if they’ve broken their marriage vows. Yet how many of us have opened our email, done our laundry and dishes and grocery shopping, mowed our lawn, fixed our car, or been to a sports practice on what should be a day of rest and thought nothing of it? Instead of remembering the Sabbath day and keeping it holy, we forget the Sabbath day, and make it like any other day.
What has this produced? Are we a happier or healthier people?
Taking time for the Sabbath may indeed yield some tangible benefits. It also produces something that cannot be measured: trust in God and a renewed sense of God’s promise for us. When we practice Sabbath keeping, we hear God’s voice saying, “You are mine, and you are my beloved one. You are so much more than what you have done or failed to do, what you have earned or lost. I give you a day of rest, a day of enjoyment, a day to spend with me, with my creation, with my beloved people.”
Taking Sabbath means admitting that we are replaceable- that someone else can fill our shoes. It means someone else will take the title of hardest worker or player who never misses a practice or the friend who never misses a gathering. It means having the courage to stick out because you are different.
As God’s people, we are called to be different, to march to the beat of God’s drum as we journey along together. We are called to confess our limitations and rely on God’s grace. And we are called to quiet our lives so that God’s still small voice might claim our attention once more.