I had a relative who loved to knit. On a couple of occasions--Christmas or my birthday--I received one of her sweater creations. She was so proud of what she had made and I was certainly aware of all the work and care she had put into the gift. The problem was the sweaters weren't a style that I would wear and they didn't fit. The result was that I would only wear the sweaters when I knew she would be present.
A gift that is not used correctly or is not used at all is a sad thing. This goes for sweaters and for Sabbaths.
The gift of Sabbath
The Sabbath is literally a day of rest. The writer of Genesis recorded that after God had finished creation, in six days, God rested.
The New Revised Standard Version Chapter 2
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. 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.
God wanted the People of God, the Israelites to follow suit. When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, keeping the Sabbath holy was one of them.
The New Revised Standard Version The Ten Commandments
Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work. 10 But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work
The Sabbath became part of Judaism's identity. Mixed among gentile heathen and suffering under an oppressive foreign government Judaism adopted three identifying characteristics:
• The mark of circumcision
• Kosher meals
• The Sabbath
The Sabbath became a hot topic in the early Christian Church. Most of the early Christians were Gentiles and not Jews. They did not have a history of keeping the Sabbath.
Life and the Sabbath
The Pharisees were sincere, religious people who were concerned with keeping their Jewish identity. They created an elaborate set of rules in order to help people keep the Sabbath and express their Jewishness.
Jesus confronted the Pharisees. Hi confrontation threatened the identity of the Jews that the Pharisees had worked so hard to protect.
Jesus proclaims that he is Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus is the fulfillment of the law. Because of this the followers of Jesus follow the guidance of Jesus and the Holy Spirit rather than a set of rules.
The New Revised Standard Version The Question about the Sabbath
The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
The Sabbath was God's gift to humankind to promote life. (The Sabbath was not given so that God would receive more worship.) Jesus stresses this in his words and actions.
The New Revised Standard Version The Man with a Withered Hand
I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?”
The Sabbath Today
We are a people who have been richly blessed by the Lord.
• We walk in a relationship with God.
• Our lives have meaning and purpose because we know that God has called us to love and serve.
• We know that God provides with our daily bread--all that we need for our lives.
Observing the Sabbath adds to our personal witness
• We celebrate that our walk with a living God is a life changing experience. We are not like everyone else.
• Resting demonstrates our belief that God cares for us. We do not have to work 24/7 in order to live. In fact resting allows us to experience the abundant life.
• The Sabbath is a time when we can promote life by our care and service of others.
The Sabbath is God's gift to us. Observing the Sabbath is a way that we live in the reality of God's kingdom. Whatever we do with the Sabbath in our daily lives, the invitation remains to come and rest in God love and strength.