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A Letter from Pastor Anita: Finding Rest

Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
Exodus 20:8

Sabbath keeping has gone the way of the past.  Some of you can remember when there were “blue laws” that limited commerce on Sunday.  Some of you can remember when Sunday was the day people went to church and then gathered in homes to enjoy each other’s company.  Some of you can remember when shopping, youth sports, and work were left for the other six days of the week.  But those are memories of a by-gone era that have faded into obscurity for most of us.  Our current COVID reality has offered us a moment to taste what a Sabbath rest might look like.  Shopping is not an easy nor a desirable pastime for most of us these days.  Youth sports have been cancelled as well as all our beloved professional games.  But for many of us, work has pressed into all those free spaces with Zoom meetings and email that never stop.  We live today in a 24/7 world that does not respect the call to a Sabbath rest.  Even retirement is not very retiring for many.

Thus the reason why God put the call to claim a Sabbath rest in what I refer to as the “Big 10.” Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy is commandment #4, sandwiched between the command- Do not take the Lord’s name in vain, and Honor your father and mother.  In today’s culture, we are not very good at keeping those commandments either!  I wish I had a dollar for every time a person told me they are a “good person” because they keep the 10 commandments.  But when I ask them to name the 10 commandments, they are often stumped. One dollar for each of those conversations and I would be a wealthy woman! I could write a long treatise on how poorly our society honors any of the “Big 10”, but today, I want to stay focused on #4- Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.

The concept of Sabbath rest comes from the very beginning of God’s Word- Genesis 1.  We find God busy speaking creation into being.  The Hebrew in the poetic description of creation, describes a cadence of God’s artistic work.  And God said, “Let there be… And there was…”  Light and darkness; water and land and sky; planets, moons and stars; vegetation, animals, fish and birds; and then the Imago Dei- humanity created in the image of God.  And after each act of creation, God looks over his artwork and declares: “It is good.”  The writer of Genesis describes the act of creating the universe in just one chapter; but when you begin to consider all the detail and expanse of creation, one chapter offers just a glimpse of the infinite.  When God brushes the last stroke on his masterpiece, he looks over all that he has done and declares: “It is very good.”  

The declaration- “It is very good” is more than just an evaluation of the work product, it is the assertion of completeness.  God’s work is complete.  All that had been “formless and empty” (v.2) is now formed and filled with life.  God is done creating.  God “rests” not because God is tired, but because God is satisfied with the creation.  I wonder as I write this: when was the last time I was ‘satisfied’ with my work… when was the last time I thought I was done and could just sit and survey the work… when was the last time I completed the list without adding more to the to-do list along the way?  I talked with a Senior the other day who was sharing with me her “I wish I had…” list.  She wasn’t yearning for things, she was grieving the experiences and accomplishments that she had not done.  There is often a natural dis-satisfaction with our work ingrained in our being.  And that dis-satisfaction drives us to want more, to do more, to demand more.  When was the last time we were truly satisfied even with God’s answers to our prayerful demands?

Sabbath rest is often seen as the call to stop long enough to catch our breath.  We all need that pause to allow our minds and bodies to be refreshed.  The Hebrew word Sabbath comes from the verb sabat which means to stop, to cease.  The day of the week does not matter as much as the actual act of stopping.  This COVID reality that we thought would be a sprint has now become a marathon, so we need to find out rest stops along the way.  But the command of God to keep the Sabbath holy is so much more than just a vacation from work.  On the first Sabbath, God looked over his work and declared it was complete and good.  Often when I answer the call to stop in some kind of Sabbath pause, my mind is still aware of all that waits to be done- emails to answer, sermons to write, people to visit, programs to plan.  I struggle to enjoy the pause because of the pressure to do more.  And I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not alone in that struggle.  Yet while the demands and expectations of this world drive us to do more, God commands us to keep Sabbath.  Keeping the Sabbath is actually an act of trust that God is Sovereign, that God has things well in hand.  Keeping Sabbath is an acknowledgment that we are not the ones who can save the world.  Keeping the Sabbath allows us to pause long enough to look, not at our work, but at what God is doing in the world and see that His work is good.

I invite you to join me this week in finding Sabbath rest.
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1 Comment

melvina wolff - July 18th, 2020 at 10:20am

Anita's message takes me back to my teenage years when Sunday wasn't always a day of rest but it was a day of Worship and Christian Fellowship. My Sundays were: up early to get to Sunday School on time; then after Sunday School we went to the Worship Service in the Sanctuary. After that my family would go to a favorite Restaurant for lunch. Then we went home for a few hours of play. During the War I walked a mile in the afternoon to choir practice, then supper before CE a youth Bible study, then Church when we sang as a choir what we had practiced in the afternoon and heard another Sermon. As I sit in a bedroom where I am quarantined because I tested positive for COV19 I have plenty of time to think about living for years in a fast paced world where for some Church is necessary but then we go back to our very secular world and maybe forget what the last week's Sermon was all about. As those of us who grew up with that day of stopping, resting, away from the secular world and remembering God rested the seventh day and we should keep it Holy I wonder if that way of life could change the way we view our world today that is in so much turmoil.