This Week

Honoring Sabbath-It’s More Than Going to Church

ELEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

Isaiah 58:9b-14

Psalm 103:1-8

Hebrews 12:18-29

Luke 13:10-17

Prayer of the Day: O God, mighty and immortal, you know that as fragile creatures surrounded by great dangers, we cannot by ourselves stand upright. Give us strength of mind and body, so that even when we suffer because of human sin, we may rise victorious through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

“If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,
   from pursuing your own interests on my holy day;
if you call the sabbath a delight
   and the holy day of the Lord honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
   serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs;
then you shall take delight in the Lord,
   and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob,
   for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 58:13-14.

For most of us protestant Christians, honoring the Sabbath is nearly synonymous with going to church on Sunday. Some protestant churches continue to prohibit work on Sunday in honor of the Sabbath. Strictly speaking, however, the Sabbath is not about worship. It is about rest. Rest from labor for everyone, from princes at the pinnacle of society to the lowliest servant. According to the Hebrew Scriptures, animals were also to be given rest from work on the Sabbath. The land itself was to receive a year of sabbath from cultivation every seven years. In essence, the Sabbath is a labor law designed to protect humans, animals and the earth itself from ruthless exploitation.  

The command to rest was the first one God gave us when, at the completion of creation after six days, God rested. I saw recently a clever poster featuring a photograph of the earth from outerspace and this verse from Genesis: “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 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.” Genesis 2:1-2. Underneath were the words, “So, tell me again about how busy you are and how you just can’t afford to take a break from all your important work.” A rabbi under whom I studied Hebrew while in college told us that “God commanded us to rest because he knew that, left to ourselves, we never would.”

Work is a good gift of God and a blessing-or at least it is supposed to be. But work has a way of getting out of hand and taking over the rest of life. Read more