Thursday, July 23, 2009

Practices of the Christian Faith: Sabbath Keeping

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Exodus 20.8

A lot of the practices that we have discussed this year are pretty familiar to us, at least in theory. We know about prayer, communion, baptism and the others. We also are aware of the Sabbath, but our practice of may be a little sketchy.

The history of Sabbath keeping does not begin with the giving of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20. Although this is where the resting on one day is codified, the practice of it goes back much further. Remember the creation narrative in Genesis 1? God made all that is on six days. But on the seventh the work was complete and God rested. He set a precedent for all of us to follow for all time.

This is not to be seen as a strict legal requirement, however. Although it is the law, keeping the Sabbath is a command that is given for our own good. God made people in such a way that they need rest. Approximately one-third of each day is spent sleeping, resting so that our bodies can be prepared to serve God on a new day. Our souls also need rest. God’s plan was for people to rest their souls one day out of each week. The Sabbath was born not to give God our time and attention- although that is a good use of the Sabbath- the Sabbath was given so that our lives could be kept in balance. Our bodies and souls need rest and refreshment. God has always known that.

Let’s look at some common thoughts and misconceptions about Sabbath keeping.

  • The Sabbath is the day each week that I can catch up on my house and yard work. Although it may seem like this is the only time you can accomplish these things, that is not what the Sabbath is for. We should be focusing on rest, our relationship with God and spiritual renewal.
  • Sunday is not really the Sabbath. This is absolutely true. The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, Saturday. Seventh-Day Adventists, Jewish people and others have this right. We celebrate Sunday, however, because it is the day of the resurrection of Jesus. Every week when we gather for worship, we celebrate Easter.
  • You can only keep the “Sabbath” on Sunday. This is not true. God’s desire is that you keep the Sabbath, not that you observe a particular day slavishly. You may have a job that causes you to work on Sunday. If that is the case, you can observe the Sabbath on another day.
  • On Sundays I should stay detached from the world. Although we need to focus on Christ and our relationship with him, we must never ignore the needs of those around us.
  • I can’t come to church on Sunday because it is the only day I have to sleep in. This is a good excuse, but usually it is not very accurate. For most people who work at full-time jobs, can sleep later on Sunday than any other day, and still get to church in plenty of time for worship.

Here’s a challenge: Keep the Sabbath for one month. Worship. Pray. Rest. Relax. Get to know God again. You will not be sorry.

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