Sabbath, Proper 4B

Concept of the Sabbath dates from the earliest times in the history of God’s people. Genesis 2 tells us that: God rested, blessed the 7th day and allowed it, and so the idea was born that if God needed a rest certainly human beings do, and so by the time of Moses it became encoded in the ten commandments: remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. After that, the lawyers got a hold of it.

The Pharisees in their honest attempt to figure out each and everything that might be considered work in every circumstance on the Sabbath, actually missed the purpose of the day of rest in providing for the overall well-being of humanity.

When they complained to Jesus about the disciples taking grain to feed the poor, He rightly told them that the Sabbath was not an end in and of itself but is meant to be a blessing. Sabbath is made for our benefit.

So what does the concept of a day of rest, Sabbath, mean for us today? How does it apply?

Seems to me that in today’s American society we’ve got the opposite problem of the Pharisees. We need to figure out how not to be so perpetually wound-up in work, things to do that we never get any rest. If we ever want to know the degree to which we are enslaved by the passion of always being on the go& doing things, all we have to do is to observe the difficulty we have in maintaining a Sabbath rhythm. We live in a time in which everything is timed- I have so much time to do this, I have to finish this and do that. Even Sunday or whatever our time of rest is becomes a day to finish up all the work we haven’t been able to complete-so in fact we become perpetually wound up.

Keeping the Sabbath-reminds us that our worth as human beings does not come from work, what we do, rather life is a gift. The Sabbath reminds us that our true identity and value come not from what we do but who God is, and what God has done for us.

A time set aside just to be a time for giving thanks to God for creation, relationship, country, to worship, to praise; Sabbath reminds us that we are not in charge of our lives. Sabbath reminds us that we are dependent.

It’s a day to enter into eternity; meant to be a day of delight, a day of gladness, doing things we delight in. For me it’s taking a nap and watching a baseball game. For my wife it’s working in the garden.

Marva Dawn, “A great benefit of Sabbath keeping is that we can learn to let God take care of us-not by becoming passive and lazy but in the freedom of at least for one day a week giving up our feeble attempts to be God in our own lives. Celebrating a holy day and living in God’s rhythm for six days of work and one of rest is the best way to learn the sense of our call the way in which God’s kingdom reclaims us, revitalizes us, and renews us, so that God’s love can be manifested in and through us. Before we live out our call as the baptized, we need to be captured afresh by grace, carried by it and cared for.

Sabbath-keeping today is counter cultural- it involves some intentionality and discipline without it becoming a rigid obligation. In today’s world a flexible response is called for to be sure, however Jesus’ words that a Sabbath is meant to be a blessing meant for our well-being are as true today as when they were originally spoken.