Sabbath: Redefined

During my senior year of college I started making a routine of having a Sabbath. Every Sunday I would most likely go to church and then spend the day doing things I loved. I made sure to complete my homework earlier in the week, so I didn’t have any come Sunday; I would set aside any work that needed to get done and every to-do list that had things to be checked off, and I would enjoy my day, my Sabbath.

Some days were filled with naps or coffee dates, other days were set aside for adventures – whether with a friend or by myself. Those days were wonderful! And as I have continued learning more about the Sabbath, the more I crave it and carve precious time into my schedule for it. Over the past couple years I’ve experienced the fruit from learning about and celebrating the Sabbath.

Let’s stop and define Sabbath, redefine it in our hearts and minds, because I feel like it’s either seen as a super religously word or seems irrelevant in our culture today.

Ruth Haley Barton, in her book titled, Sacred Rhythms, defines Sabbath as “a sanctuary in time.” She goes on to say that, “Sabbath keeping is more than just taking a day of rest; it is a way of ordering one’s life around a pattern of working six days and then resting on the seventh. It is a way of arranging our life to honor the rhythm of things – work and rest, fruitfulness and dormancy, giving and receiving, being and doing, activism and surrender.”

Sabbath rest goes far beyond resting, napping, and not doing anything. It’s a type of rest that was created so many years ago by a God who is Love, by the Creator of all things. He created Sabbath for our good, so we are able to flourish and thrive as his people, for each other and to further his creation.

In his book, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives, Wayne Muller draws his readers to the beginning of the Bible, Genesis 1. In the very beginning of Scripture we read, observe and can learn from the ways God, using Muller’s words, took a step back from creating the universe. After God created light and separated it from darkness, he took a step back; after God created the sea and dry land, he took a step back; after God created the sun and moon and animals of the air and waters, he took a step back. After he created every one of these things, God took a step back and declared that it was good. And after he created the first human being, he again took a step back and saw that it was very good, he marveled at his creation.

Muller goes on to say that, “’Sabbath rest’ invites us to step back, and to see that it is good.

Sabbath is an invitation. A sweet invitation satisfying a deep longing for rest. God commands his people to keep the Sabbath; he says in Exodus 20:8-11, “Remember the Sabbath day, to 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 … For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Jesus redefines the Sabbath in the Gospels when he heals, walks, eats and declares that “[He] is lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8). And Hebrews 4:9-10 reinstates the promise of true rest for God’s people in saying that “whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.”

We see the Sabbath commanded, we see it redefined and the encouragement to keep it holy throughout all of Scripture. It was created to satisfy a longing to stop, pause, remember, and rest. What a beautiful invitation!

I’ll leave you with more words from Barton, because she says it so beautifully: “The point of sabbath is to honor our need for a sane rhythm of work and rest. It is to honor the body’s need for rest, the spirit’s need for replenishment and the soul’s need to delight itself in God for God’s own sake. It begins with a willingness to acknowledge the limits of our humanness and take steps to live more graciously within the order of things.”

Happy Sabbath, my dear friends.

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