What is so important about the Sabbath?
When we hear “Sabbath” we immediately think of another name for Sunday, right? There is a deep history of honoring a Sabbath, based on the story of creation and the idea that God wants us to allow ourselves time to refresh and renew. A Sabbath day is not a “day off”, though it has some similarity to that idea. It is defined as a day of religious observance and abstinence from work – two equally important parts to hold in balance.
Read: Genesis 2:1-3: Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 2 And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
Exodus 20:8-11: Remember the sabbath day, and keep 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; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11 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.
The Jewish tradition, that holds sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday as the Sabbath, have very strict rules as to what can and cannot be done on that day. It comes from that tradition into the Christian tradition that no work is to be done; worship of the Lord and time spent with family had been the focus of the early Christians. Being in community, or taking the time to allow ourselves rest is still the heart of the day, but we get crowded in by businesses that no longer allow one specific day to be work free.
Question: So how do we honor the Sabbath? Do we spend time in worship? In prayer? Recouping? With our family and friends, enjoying sports or other hobbies?
Do you feel somehow guilty about taking the day? Does it feel like you are “Taking time for yourself” instead of taking time for God? How’s your relationship with God? Could focusing on that relationship one day a week help to improve it?
Exercise: Pick one day of the week to try out this notion of Sabbath – it may be Sunday, but it may be another day of the week. Start small. Pick a hour, either at the beginning or end, to give yourself access to the sacred space in the presence of God. Think about what God meant by blessing the day and making it sacred. Would it be possible, after Lent, to continue to mark that day in a different way, so that it feels like it’s a Sabbath?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, you care for all those who worship and praise you. Help us to embrace the blessed gift of the Sabbath, and use it for both time with you and time for our own enjoyment. Thank you for giving us this space to come to know and love you even more. Amen.