Keep the Sabbath Holy

Life Worship Notes—February 13, 2104 

“Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work…For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.” Exodus 20:8-11

The sabbath is to be a day of rest. Setting aside one day per week for rest goes back to the creation story (Genesis 1:2-3). Following six days of creation work, God rested. Recognizing the sabbath as a day of rest was the source of much tension between Jesus and the religious authorities of his day. Many Gospel stories tell of Jesus healing people on the sabbath, only to be accused of violating the fourth commandment to keep the sabbath holy. For example, John 5:1-18 tells of Jesus healing a man who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When the Jewish leaders criticize Jesus for “working” on the sabbath, he responds, “My Father is still working, and I also am working.” Of course, that comment drew twice the ire, because Jesus not only confessed to working on the sabbath, but also referred to God as his Father, a statement of perceived blasphemy.

If the sabbath was truly intended to be a day of no work, as the religious leaders seemed to believe, then I am guilty of violating this commandment on a weekly basis. I believe Jesus’ words, about he and his Father working on the sabbath, confirm this day of rest was never intended to become a day of nothing. God continues doing the God-things that sustain life in the cosmos. Jesus clearly felt justified in working to meet the needs presented to him on the sabbath. Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus points out the hypocrisy of his accusers by noting they would rescue a sheep that fell into a well on the sabbath. It simply makes no sense to turn the sabbath into a day to avoid doing needful activities.

Perhaps, the intent of setting aside one day per week as a day of “rest” is not unlike setting aside the last hours of the day as a time for sleep. Our bodies must have rest to function properly, and our lives need a break from their normal routines for renewal and recharging. When I was a child, Sundays were family days. We would play family games, eat meals together, and attend church together. Sundays were a break from the weekday routines of school and work. We function best when we break from our routines, at least occasionally, allowing us to attack them with renewed vigor and enthusiasm in the new week. To make something holy is to set it apart and treat it differently, with reverent commitment. The fourth commandment calls us to dedicate regular time for renewal and reflection, if not on Sunday, then on one day.

Come home to church this Sunday. Claim your sabbath and make it holy.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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