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Sabbath Sunday

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath…" ~ Mark 2:27

Years ago, in a previous role, I arrived at a building with about 7 minutes to spare before my next meeting…as I hopped out of the car I noticed that the sun was streaming into the carpark right where I had parked. I felt like I had been running on fumes for a while and I literally lay down on the ground in the sun for a few minutes to recharge before venturing inside. Once in the office of the man I was meeting with, I looked out the window and realised that my ‘carpark bed’ was in full view of his desk and he’d probably witnessed my mini nap! I never asked him, but I’ve often wondered what he thought?!

I was exhausted, and although a few moments in the sun was good, there’s a difference between ‘time off’ and a ‘restful break’…between a ‘day off’ and a ‘biblical sabbath’.

Our culture is not good at resting, nor is it conducive to slowness, stillness, silence, and contemplation…we’re often looking for ways to effectively rest (downloading white-noise apps, trying different forms of meditation, reading books, attending courses) or to find more balance in life. We know we need to slow down, rest, and find balance…we just don’t know how.

Time off can replenish energy, and make us more effective the other 6 days, but as the famous theologian Eugene Peterson says 'a day off is a bastard sabbath’…they’re not the same thing, and they don’t achieve the same thing.

Why are we having a ‘Sabbath Sunday’ this coming weekend? A few reasons:

  • Because it’s counter-cultural…and so as we learn to follow Jesus’ counter-cultural ways, every so often as a community we pause to rest, and model it to one another.

  • To remember that sabbath isn’t just about ‘resting from work’, but also ‘working from our rest’.

  • To remind ourselves that being followers of Jesus, and even being the church, isn’t all about Sunday gatherings…it’s ok to miss one!

  • To reset our perspectives, breaking our addiction to achievement, and silencing the lies that our worth is only found in what we produce.

  • But even more than those reasons, because for most of us, we’ve considered Sabbath as something of an ‘optional extra’ or for those who are ‘particularly stretched and stressed’ or something ‘old fashioned but not conducive with modern life’…rather than it being absolutely essential to discipleship and learning the ways of Jesus.

So this coming Sunday, there won’t be a Sunday service so that we can model to each other this essential practice of sabbath keeping.

Here are 4 countercultural practices borrowed from Peter Scazzero which I’d commend to you as we together develop a biblical framework for Sabbath, and one that hopefully fits your particular life situation, temperament, calling, and personality:

STOP - it’s literally built into the meaning of the Hebrew word Sabbath. We stop on Sabbaths because God is on the throne, and He’s the one making sure the world won’t fall apart if we stop. Stopping on Sabbaths is one of the ways we apply Ps 46:10 to “be still and know that (He) is God”

REST - Genesis says that God rested after his work, and we are to do the same. So, what do we do in place of that time? The answer is simply: whatever is restful, whatever delights and replenishes you…maybe napping, hitting the gym, surfing, going for long walks, reading a book, watching a good movie, going out for dinner.

DELIGHT - After God finished his work of creation, he delighted over it and proclaimed that “It was very good”. That Hebrew phrase communicates a sense of joy, completion, wonder, and play…does that describe you at rest?! Sabbath is a chance to slow down, and to enjoy and delight in creation and its gifts.

CONTEMPLATE - When God is speaking to Moses about the Sabbath in Ex 31 He says that it is to be “holy to the Lord”. Reflecting, pondering, contemplating the love of God is THE central focus of sabbaths.

If you’ve never intentionally tried to Sabbath, try this Sunday…we’re not gathering together, so it’s a chance to do just that, to try.

Maybe you’ve tried before but it didn’t become habit…start again this Sunday, it will do your soul good.



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