Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the foreigner who is within your gates. For the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then He rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy. Exodus 20:8-11 HCSB
Sometimes your body demands that you rest. I had a busy day today with home-type chores since the school year starts this week. I got up around 6 (Saturday!), changed the oil in my truck, washed the cars, made waffles for the back-to-school party in the girls’ dorm, helped a friend move a refrigerator, mowed the yard and some other miscellaneous chores. I probably didn’t mention that it was 90+ degrees with New Orleans humidity, but that I had to start early since it rains every afternoon in August. I had a sandwich for lunch when I came in around 2pm and when I sat in my recliner, my body shut down and I fell asleep.
I wonder if that is what Sabbath is supposed to be, or at least if that was God letting me know what Sabbath was supposed to feel like. I had a couple of moments of consciousness in my nap that felt wonderful. I didn’t HAVE to get up (except later on to write this post). It was raining just a little. I felt an incredible sense of having the work done and so now I could rest. What would it be like if occasionally, my body and spirit just shut down in order to appreciate and rest in the Presence of God?
The idea behind the Sabbath was in the creation. God worked for six days and then He rested. The emphasis is on rest. The Jewish people take this very seriously–some would say too seriously. When I went to Israel in 2012, I stayed in a hotel with a Sabbath Elevator. Such elevators are common in Israel. Instead of having to break the Sabbath to push buttons, the elevator stops on every floor automatically.
These laws strike me as strange and they as they extend the 4th commandment beyond reason. I do not believe that the Jewish laws of Sabbath apply to Christians. John MacArthur does an excellent job of explaining why we as Christians to not observe the Sabbath as the Jewish people do. (http://www.gty.org/Resources/Questions/QA135).
But there is still that rest thing. Our Sunday in not Sabbath on a different day, but it is a time when believers remember the resurrection, which occurred on the first day of the week. According to MacArthur, “Every day to the believer is one of Sabbath rest, since we have ceased from our spiritual labor and are resting in the salvation of the Lord (Hebrews 4:9-11).” The Christian idea of Sabbath
But do ministers really rest? Do we who carry keys and church-issued cell phones really even recognize Sunday as anything but a work day? While I might think that the “no pushing buttons on the Sabbath” requirement is excessive, what about if I didn’t push any buttons on my many electronic things to push me towards rest, recharge–disconnect from the grid to reconnect with God.
And what if Sabbath doesn’t happen on Sunday? If the emphasis is not on the legalistic observance of rules (was the Sabbath made for man or man made for the Sabbath), I want to go back to the original plan of working for six days and resting on the seventh. The benefit is in the rest and reconnect.
Let me call you out to a “Sabbath Challenge” that does not involve ice or buckets (Google, “ice bucket challenge” if you have no idea what I am talking about). I challenge you to look at next month’s calendar and pick a day where you can have a half day Sabbath. Guard 4 hours of time (in a few months, you might try a whole day). Get your thermos of coffee, your Bible, your music, your journal and go. Go to a place where you can disconnect from the grid and reconnect with your Creator. Spend time in personal worship. Reaffirm what it means to be called as a minister. Restate goals or come up with new ones. Just sit. Your place may be in the woods or in your study or on the bank of a river. Write down what God tells you.
Tell people who need to know where to find you and then leave the cell phone in the car. I believe that a youth minister can worship and Sabbath on Sunday. I also believe that many Sundays are wire to wire work days that involve you helping other people connect. Your Sabbath may have to be on a different day, but it is needed. Let me know if you accept the Sabbath Challenge.