I’ll admit that while I really felt this was an important post to write, I avoided it because in all honesty, it’s a challenge that I am still struggling to figure out in my own life. I come to this post with a disclaimer: This is more about conversation and questions about Sabbath than it is about prescribed answers. This is about my struggles with the Sabbath more than it is about my success with it. I also want to point to an inspirational post shared with me about Sabbath by Adam McLane of Youth Cartel. http://adammclane.com/2010/11/09/sabbath-breakers/
There have been a lot of things in my life that have led me to this current series on Soul Care. I recently took a course over January term called “Vocation, Work, & Faith” One section of the course was focused on Sabbath. We spent a Friday talking with an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi, we talked about various texts on the practice of holding a very traditional Sabbath Day, shared our own conversations about soul care as people heading into ministry, and concluded the day attending a Shabot service at a Reformed Jewish Congregation. The day is one that was highly thought-provoking, inspiring, and one that brought with it many questions. I had let much of those thoughts pass away from my attention, and then they were refreshed after spending time at the home of some Jewish friends over the Sabbath this past weekend.
I’ve received some powerful challenges and insights from Jewish brothers and sisters on this matter which have been challenging my faith that God can do mighty things if we trust God enough to give a day to rest and celebrate. The counter cultural example it sets for those around us can be mightily powerful. By a fairly literal observance of the Sabbath, it sets an example of what it means to live a life set apart for giving God glory. My friend shared with me the way that observing the Sabbath by Rabbinic law of the 39 categories of work that are to be rested from forces them to put the day into God’s hands, where they have to trust in God’s work, and not their own. They are also brought closer to their faith community. For most Orthodox Jews, driving is a “no-no” on the Sabbath, which means they must live within walking distance from the Synagogue. This means they are living close to other community members. Through reading and conversations, I was struck by the way that an entire week revolves around the Sabbath day, taking time in the days ahead to have everything completed and prepared before it arrives, and also taking time after the Sabbath passes to reflect on it. Now a question that arises for Jewish Rabbis and Christian Ministers alike is this: How do you observe the Sabbath if you are leading worship and teaching? The most common response is that any worship leading and teaching is so well prepared for ahead of time, that what takes place on the Sabbath is celebration and fellowship, not work. I was also struck by the moment of the Shabot service where the congregation turns around and the doors are kicked open to welcome the Sabbath as it enters into our lives as a bride enters a wedding. The joy and eager expectancy that is brought by the beginning of the Sabbath is brought to life in this powerful imagery.
Like I said, all of these experiences and conversations have challenged me to think about my own life and practices. There’s not a lot of the 4th Commandment going on in my house. There. I said it. There’s more than there used to be, as I’ve moved and started a new ministry position at a new church, the rhythm of life has changed from where I was. I have a lot of questions about what it means to be a Christian and what living out the Sabbath looks like. I’m certain that there is no clear-cut formula, and that for each person this will look differently. I am very convicted by the idea of working in such a way during the week that we don’t feel that we have to do work on the Sabbath so I can welcome it as a time of joy and expectancy rather than getting through it with worry about the work that didn’t get done. I know that Sabbath keeping needs to play a bigger, more distinct role in my own life.
What do YOU think? Pick a question and leave a comment! Share some Sabbath practices that have been meaningful in your home!
Yes, Jesus did transform how we understand the Sabbath, but does that give us the excuse to be vague with how we live out the 4th Commandment?
What is non-negotiable in Sabbath Keeping? What areas might there be flexibility?
As Christians, is the Sabbath still on Saturday, Sunday? Does it matter? Why or Why not?
What does keeping the Sabbath look like for ministry leaders? What would our Sunday ministries look like if we took a more literal approach?
In an economy where living expenses are so great, yet wages for most remain so low, is it fair to push this law upon those who have to work seven days a week just to get by?
What does it mean TO YOU to keep a day set apart as HOLY?
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 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. ~Exodus 20:8-11
Here’s this week’s Lenten Photo Collage to help reflect on the strange ways and places we can find the Holy in our Lives!