Did you ever use Sunday for resting, or for what I like to call sabbathing? I know, it’s radical, and somehow it sounds wimpy – to rest instead of work. Sounds crazy. Most of my life I spent the sabbath (or the sabbath replacement – Sunday) working like a dog because I was the pastor. Based on years of tradition I thought that I, as a Christian, was obliged to do so. And when not pastoring I felt constrained to do some form of labor on Sunday for “God’s sake.” But what if we started doing something totally radical: using Sunday to do the 4th Commandment.
I know you could question my motives, “Mark, you’re older now and are seeing things differently because you need a little more down time.” Or you could point out that my week is more physically demanding than in recent years. But I’m not saying we all need a shorter work week. Nor do most of us need a better excuse for being idly self-adsorbed. I’m saying that God’s idea of resting a day is a pretty good idea. Oh wait, it isn’t an idea, it is a commandment. A commandment many religious leaders absolve us of cause we’re not Jewish. In God’s week resting is doing something, it’s ceasing to labor for our own successes and celebrating about the Creator and his creation.
Taking a whole day to do what? Well, to savor what God did or is doing. Get a kick out of Creation. The possibilities of a day spent for this are endless. Think about it, spending a day enjoying what you love about God’s universe.
It’s worship. I mean what kind of person would give a whole day to sabbathing away from the personal profit treadmill? Answer: a worshiper. Isaiah’s admonition is a serious one but the outcomes are all positive: “If you watch your step on the Sabbath and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage, If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy, God’s holy day as a celebration, If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’making money, running here and there— Then you’ll be free to enjoy God! Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all. (Is 58:13-14). Yeah, it should be a God thing. A day on the golf course may not be an act of worship for some of us. And, yes, the idea has been perversely used and abused, how many people in religious bondage fear hell because they missed church. Oi! Jesus’ attitude towards the religious bondage crowd was unambiguous enough (eg. Luke 13). In Genesis 2 the language is about rest and refreshing. Did God get jazzed just admiring the world? What did He see and think as he rested before his finished creation? Biblical examples of sabbathing involved people and feasting, celebrating and enjoying – what some of us would define as partying.
For some, church and sabbath are synonyms. And for some church is the perfect place for sabbathing. I can’t say that it is for me. Maybe it’s because church is so focused on church success themes, and its own needs and traditions and dreams. Work. Or maybe it’s me, maybe I come preloaded with a church-business mindset, or is it the hectic part of getting myself and kids – etc. there on time? Surrendering the day to sabbathing changes it. Worship, fellowship, sharing can all become exciting, real, personal things done for no other reason than celebrating God and his very cool creation.
What if we stepped out of the same old business-as-usual and spent the day finding new ways to enjoy the finished creation and its Creator. What am I saying? I’m just saying that the 4th Commandment, like the other nine, is a good thing and as a worshiper you will be much enriched by giving it its place in your life. Maybe you should step out of the rat race, the Christian rat race as well, and rest on the day of rest, enjoy the creation just for the joy of it.