Sabbath is Sacred

Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female servant, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

~ Exodus 20:8-11

 

Among most Christians, the concept of Sabbath has been lost. It is seen as a relic of the past, for we read in the Gospels that Jesus came into conflict with the religious leaders of his day over what the Sabbath meant. In the early days of the church, while Jewish Christians still gathered with other Jews on Saturday in synagogues, they also gathered with Gentile Christians on Sunday morning, before heading into work, and Sunday became associated more with Christian worship. Later, when the Roman Empire adopted Christianity, to appease pagans the Christian Sabbath was moved to Sunday. Even in the 19th century, there were laws against working on Sunday in the United States, and most restaurants and businesses were closed until recent years. While Sunday is still associated with Christian worship, the practice of not working on the Sabbath has faded into the past.

 

However, I believe we Christians have misunderstood the concept of Sabbath. Our Jewish neighbors gather for Shabbat dinners on Friday night and sing to welcome in the Sabbath as a gift from God. Though the practice varies among Jews, the concept is the same: the Sabbath is a blessing from God to us, and we ought to enjoy it. A day to refrain from work and remember that God is our Creator. A day of rest and renewal, to spend with family and relax. The actual practice of Sabbath among our Jewish neighbors is not legalistic, but joyous.

 

Paul writes of the early church in Rome, made up of Jewish and Gentile believers: “Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God” (Romans 14:5-6).

 

It is not so much which day we choose to be our Sabbath or if we work on that day—we know that some people do have to work on Sundays, and we thank God for our emergency professionals and first responders who do! Nonetheless, we all need to take time and rest. God has known since the beginning of creation that rest is necessary for life. We know that fields need time to rest in between plantings. That fallow time is necessary, otherwise the soil is deprived of nutrients and eventually nothing will be able to grow. We need regular days of renewal.

 

May you find some Sabbath rest this summer with family and friends. Even if it is only a few hours, practice turning your phone to silent, maybe sitting outside if it’s not too hot. Enjoy a good meal. Read a book or take a walk or listen to music. Find a way to rest and remember that you are also a gift from God. Your very being is holy and good, and practicing Sabbath is a spiritual practice that brings joy to God our Creator, because it honors God’s intention for us to be fully alive in Christ.

 

With you on the journey of faith,

 

Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell

Executive Minister

 

P.S. Registration will be opening soon for our Annual Gathering, “God’s Dominion is from Generation to Generation” October 13-15, 2023 at Green Lake Conference Center! Visit https://www.abcofwi.org/annual-gatherings/ to see the schedule and more! Youth and Young Adults are especially encouraged to join us!

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