Disclaimer: I don’t I have a nostalgic bone in my body. I don’t look back to my childhood, or any other era, as idyllic. Every day, month, year, or decade of human existence had its problems and challenges. Humans have never been perfect.
Now. Onto today’s topic. Sabbath.
I try to keep Mondays as my Sabbath day. No, the Bible does not say that Monday is a Sabbath. Technically, the Bible doesn’t say that Sunday is a Sabbath day either. Saturday – the seventh day – is the commanded day to Sabbath. But, early in Christianity, the Sabbath was moved to Sunday, to commemorate Jesus’ day of resurrection.
On my Sabbath Mondays, I tend to rest. I’m exhausted after Sunday, which is why it really can’t be a Sabbath day for me. As a Pastor, Sunday is a work day.
On my Sabbath Mondays, I spend more time reading, writing, and praying. I intentionally move slower. Depending on the weather, I might work on my bonsai trees or go for a motorcycle ride. Some days I just read. Occasionally, I work on some tasks around the house. All in all, I tend to be un-productive, which is the idea of the Sabbath. Sometimes I have some work-related obligation on a Monday, like an evening meeting. But, I try to avoid those as much as possible.
It has taken me a while to realize that I need to Sabbath. For years, I lived at an unsustainable pace, and burned out over and over. My pattern was go-go-go-crash, go-go-go-crash. I practiced sick-Sabbaths, only taking time to rest and recover when I got too sick to do anything else. That really was sick.
I just can’t do that any more, and shouldn’t have done it to begin with. I still go-go-go – for six days. But, now, I fight to keep my Sabbath day. I just have to.
Now, as I take Sabbath more seriously, I’ve become more observant of how little Sabbath I see in other’s lives.
I live near a conservative, traditional Jewish synagogue. On Friday nights and Saturdays (the Jewish and Biblical Sabbath), I observe Jewish families walking to the synagogue, dressed in traditional Jewish attire. They are walking, because they believe that driving is a violation of the Sabbath, which also implies that they have chosen to live within walking distance of their synagogue. Though I have never spoken with any of them, my observation is that Sabbath keeping is a priority in their lives. They are honoring and keeping a sacred duty.
I respect that. I envy that.
Though my family never consistently attended church, when I was a child, I can still remember the influence of the Church on Sundays. Sunday morning worship was followed by chatting with fellow congregants in the church parking lot, followed by lunch with church friends, followed by family time, and perhaps concluded with some evening church activity. Sunday was for church, friends, family, and rest.
I still remember Publix being closed on Sundays. I remember the glass doors at gas stations being locked on Sundays, prohibiting the sale of beer. I’ve been told that movie theaters and bowling alleys were also closed during my childhood – but, I wouldn’t know. We never would have gone anyway. Instead, most Sundays we visited my grandparents, which included long afternoon motorcycle rides on country roads, followed by big dinners.
Things have changed. The Sabbath is no longer sacred in our society – nor in our churches. I observe so many young families (the vast majority, really) that come to church when they can. They are torn between attending church and various sporting activities. I watch families scurry out of church, when they can make it, on to the next activity, which I am sure will be followed by several more. More and more people have to work on Sundays.
I’m not saying that sports or other Sunday activities are bad, necessarily. I just wonder what we have lost – and are losing – and are stealing from our children – by habitually violating the Sabbath. What are we teaching them about priorities, rest, and the value of worship and time with family?
Sabbath is a commandment, by the way – not optional.
I’m thankful to have finally discovered the wisdom of Sabbath-keeping – even if I have to do it on Monday. Now, it’s time to finish my coffee, eat my breakfast, and see where my motorcycle takes me today.