Keeping a Holy Sabbath
When I was a boy our family observed the Christian sabbath each and every Sunday in several ways. Most importantly we attended worship at our church in the morning. But it was not as simple as dragging ourselves out of bed and getting there. We dressed in our Sunday outfits, and my three brothers and I were expected to be on our best behavior. We participated in morning service that consisted of simple liturgy, hymns, prayers, and sermon. At specified times we observed the Lord’s Supper. Usually we also attended Sunday School. That evening we went back to church for the youth group meeting and the evening church service, which was more evangelistic in nature.
But it was more than just about worship. My mom always fixed a big family dinner for after church. It was the most delicious meal of the weak, and consisted of her best cooking. She served on our best tableware and we ate at the dining room table.
There were things we abstained from on Sunday. We didn’t go shopping unless absolutely necessary and didn’t go to movies. Sometimes on Sunday afternoon we would visit a relative, or one would come visit us. In the summertime this was a time for fun. Or we might go for an afternoon ride just to see the countryside, and maybe stop at an ice cream stand — this being an exception from the “do not shop” rule.
Understand that I’m not trying to set my family up as being an example of what sabbath observance should look like for a Christian. We live in a different secularized culture and the old ways will not necessarily work for us. And the observance of Sabbath isn’t to take on a new legalistic bent for followers of Jesus. In fact it is He who sanctifies and makes the Sabbath holy. Every Sunday, for the Christian, is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. This alone makes it holy, and a weekly day of remembrance. So for the Christian this might take different forms.
Sabbath, for the Christian, is a day of witness. It is a day to make holy. It is a day rooted in the creative activity of God, and thus made holy by the act of creation itself.
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. (Genesis 2:1-3 NRSV)
So when we observe Sabbath, we are recognizing once again its hallowedness and its goodness. We are recognizing that earth itself is holy, good, and sacred. One of the ways that we might keep the Sabbath would be to abstain from violence and all its indications. Our culture at the present time is saturated in violence, terror, killing, and war of all kinds. It saturates the media. We have been taught to see violence as a way of resolving problems, or at least of containing them. A generation of American children now have been born into war and are aware of no other form of existence. Since 11 September 2001we have let fear gain the upper hand, and now see an enemy wherever we look. Carrying a gun has become an acceptable way of life. We have terroristic type attacks in schools, the street, movie theaters, and the mall. We do not feel safe in our own homes.
If we as Christians would rest from violence and shut it out as much as possible on the Christian Sabbath, it would help restore the Creator to a rightful place and become a witness to the world. We could forswear violence in our own lives, our speech, thoughts, and our entertainment. We could pray for peace, for love of neighbor, and the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven.
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.