I don’t know about you but when I think of the word Sabbath, my thoughts go to Sunday. Sunday for many is a day of rest – a time to relax, attend church or enjoy time with the family. My first memories of Sunday were a lot of time spent at the church building and a list of things I could not do like go to the corner store, make crafts, or ride my bike. Just so you know that was about 35 years ago! As I got older and times changed I was able to do those things and more!
CEASE & REST?
Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word Shabbat which means, “to cease.” Now that a good portion of my job happens on Sunday – I’ve had to rethink what Sunday or the Sabbath means. When do I cease from work? When do I rest? When do I spend time with family or friends? When do I do the things I like to do?
In recent years, I have had the opportunity to do a graduate course that taught me a lot about spiritual disciplines and the Sabbath is a discipline. The word discipline can be looked at negatively but when thinking of the Sabbath as a discipline it is a positive thing just like eating right or going to the gym. For many people making the Sabbath a discipline can be just as hard as making other things a discipline in your life like doing your homework, getting up early, training for sports or doing chores.
The Ten Commandments are found in Exodus 20  of the bible. One of them says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” Just before that in Exodus 16 , God reminded the Israelites (his people/children) to keep the Sabbath. They had saved from a life of slavery – hard work seven days a week so God wanted them to have a day for worship, prayer and leisure. Don’t you think this sounds like a good idea? It does to me! We need time to recoup and be refreshed in our soul!
While we might all agree that we need this ‘downtime’, there are a couple of areas in which disagreement tends to happen.
One of these areas is the whole idea of what’s appropriate. There have been some crazy regulations down through the years about what you should and shouldn’t do on the Sabbath. Stuff like turning on light switches, walking only short distances and not shaving were no-nos. In fact, Jesus was criticized for what He did on the Sabbath. The religious leaders of the day (called Pharisees) thought that Jesus should not be healing people on a day of rest and He should be stricter about his observance of the Sabbath.
Another area is about when the Sabbath actually is. Throughout the Bible, there has been disagreement as to whether the Sabbath is – sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, or is it Saturday or Sunday? Who knows? And I wonder if it really matters? During the time of Jesus, the Sabbath was celebrated on a Sunday because that is when Jesus was resurrected or came back from the dead. That is where we get our tradition and for most people Sunday is the day when they take their Sabbath.
Maybe you are thinking – I work on Sunday so does this mean I cannot observe the Sabbath? IMO, I don’t think it matters what day you take your Sabbath – just do it! For a time in my life, my Sabbath would be 24 hours from the time I was finished doing ministry on a Sunday so that might have been from 1:00 p.m. on Sunday to the same time on Monday. During that time I made sure I did nothing work related (unless there was an emergency) and I did the things I enjoyed doing – scrap booking, reading, walking, listening to music, sleeping, watching a movie, sharing time with friends and family and more! Recently I have started taking Monday all day as my Sabbath! I look forward to that day with anticipation! I read a book in one sitting a couple of weeks ago – that was a great day! While the Pharisees in the Bible made observing the Sabbath legalistic (about rules and do’s and don’ts), we don’t need to do that. However, I do think it is important that we cease from something that we would do on the other six days of the week.
PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE
Let me challenge you!
1. Find a time when you can take your Sabbath.
2. Choose something to cease from during that time – something that you do the other six days – watching TV, playing computer games, texting, playing sports, working, shopping, get your homework done on another day, etc.
3. Choose something constructive, restful and invigorating you would like to do – read a good book, spend time with your family or a friend, take a walk or a hike, spend time reading God’s Word and praying for others. Choose something that you may not get to do the other days of the week. If you choose Sunday as your Sabbath, then definitely attend worship at a church of your choice.
4. Enjoy your Sabbath!
I am pretty confident in saying that if you observe the Sabbath you will be refreshed! The Sabbath is a gift given to us by God! Celebrate the gift and have a great Sabbath!
:: by Darlene Burt of Pasadena, NF
I am from Corner Brook, NL – went to Booth College, was a youth worker and music teacher before becoming an Salvation Army pastor. I am slowly trying to complete a graduate degree and I love reading, scrapbooking and road trips!