My friend Michael used to direct Sunday School programs for youth. For many years he worked on Sunday mornings. Then his ministry changed and he was no longer required to be on the church campus on Sunday mornings. So he and his family slept in.
Lazy, right? Actually no. Michael’s family wasn’t being lazy. They were being restful. Because on Saturday they cleaned the house, prepared their Sunday food, and made their Sunday plans. Then on Sunday they had quality family time: they practiced hospitality, and avoided tasks they did throughout the week. In the evening they attended worship together on Sunday night, and heard God’s Word.
When I first heard of this, for just a second I wasn’t happy for Michael. I was jealous! It seemed like he was experiencing real Sabbath, something I, as a pastor and priest, was missing. Then I was convicted of my feelings. Whose fault was it that I wasn’t getting rest and restoration week by week? It was my own, and no one else’s, for not keeping the Sabbath.
In EXODUS 20:8 God Almighty says REMEMBER THE SABBATH DAY AND KEEP IT HOLY. Of all the Ten Commandments, this is the only one that uses the word ‘keep.’ The word ‘keep’ can mean ‘to hold onto’ or ‘retain’ in a passive way, like when we keep a note someone sent us. It can also mean to care for something requiring a lot of attention, like keeping a marriage vow.
Many Israelites were shepherds. They ‘kept’ flocks of sheep and goats by giving them protection, food, shelter, sheering, and so on. So when God commanded the Israelites to “keep the Sabbath holy,” they instinctively knew it would require real thought and effort on their part.
Are you keeping the Sabbath holy? Most of us could give it some more thought and effort.
In the United States, we used to have help from “blue laws” that restricted shopping and activities on Sundays. With most of those gone, it’s up to individuals and families to keep God’s command to keep holy the Sabbath.
Jesus didn’t do away with God’s commands, He fulfilled them. He healed on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6, Luke 13:10-17, John 5:1-18). He taught Israel (and us) that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-27).
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:9). We are still commanded to keep the Sabbath, not with a legalistic mindset, but with a loving and healing purpose. It is still God’s law, and it is for our own good and restoration.
Today, more and more people work on Saturday night or Sunday morning, making Sunday morning worship a challenge to attend. Grandparents often go out of town to visit grandchildren. Families are caught up in Sunday sports (topic for another day). How can the Church help?
One little way is by offering different worship times. Starting on Sept. 11, there will be a new service at St. Mark’s called SUNDAY NIGHT LIGHT – at 6pm. This is a freer form of worship. It’s one way we can help people keep the Sabbath holy.
Need a little help? Join us on Sunday nights!
Meanwhile, we will continue to celebrate the Holy Eucharist in Word and Sacrament Sunday mornings at 10am.