Monday, March 18, 2013

4. Remember the Sabbath Day; and keep it holy.

The Fourth in a series on the Ten Commandments.

Sabbath....ah, the meaning of the word is "rest".  Take time to rest.  That is all it means, pure and simple.  People get hung up on the word's true meaning in regard to when in the week it is to be observed.  Is it Saturday or Sunday?  What can you do on the Sabbath?  What is work and what is not when it comes to observing the Sabbath?

For centuries, biblical scholars have argued over the meaning of the Sabbath.  Some scholars have been literalists or purists-wanting to give their definition based upon what they interpreted from Scripture as the most precise answer to the questions about the Sabbath.  Jewish scholars for centuries have attempted to pinpoint what could or could not be done on their Sabbath, which is Saturday, and went so far as to forbid the switching on or off of light switches or the traveling more than a certain distance from home on that day.  The definition of "work" on the Sabbath was a complex thing that required rabbis to dissect the commandment so many times that it lay in pieces on the biblical cutting room floor and could hardly be put back together.  So, people who think there is a strict, literal interpretation of the Sabbath law want others to know that they MUST obey their interpretation or they are guilty of breaking this commandment.

Then, there are those of us who are not literalists, but we are more inclined to see the meaning of the commandment contained in the purpose of give people rest.  The concept of "sabbath" literally means "rest" as in "After six days, God rested from his work (of creation)".  If God needed to rest after being busy for six days, then shouldn't humans also rest from their labors after six days.  So, after we have had a busy week, shouldn't we devote at least one day to resting and not doing much more than is necessary so that our bodies and minds can recover.

Different people rest in different ways.  Some people literally "take to the bed."  I sometimes like to do that, especially on a hot summer day.  When the weather is really hot in the summer, I like to go to bed in the middle of the day, closing all the curtains, and turning on the fan, pretending that it is night-time and taking a great nap on a Sunday afternoon.  I remove the phones from the bedroom and bar the door so that no animals can disturb my slumber.  I awake rested and relaxed and a bit mellow.  That often works for me to get much needed rest.

Other people have to escape their house and go somewhere so that no one can find them.  They may have their phones with them but they silence them or ignore them or turn them off.  They need to see different scenery for a short while.  They may simply need to take a drive in the country (harkening back to the "Sunday drive" of the 1950s or so) to see the wildflowers or trees.  They may need to find a lake or river to watch for a while and just rest their minds.  I have done that too.  I like drives in the country and I love lakes so driving to a lake to have a picnic is a great restful activity, unless the road is full of other drivers or the lake is full of swimmers, boaters, or cavorters who wreck the quiet of nature.

So, you see, the way you rest is up to you but the purpose of having a day of rest is to allow our bodies and minds to recover from life's daily grind.  We need a break from daily living and the Sabbath helps us to find it.

Now, is the Sabbath Saturday or Sunday.  Yes, it is.  It is either or both, whichever you choose.  Our Jewish friends and some Protestants who think they are a bit Jewish like to observe Saturday as the Sabbath.  Most Protestants and Catholics use Sunday as the Sabbath claiming the "Lord's Day" of the Early Church as their Sabbath.  I think that since there are two choices, then that proves that God is not that strict about which one you choose.  After all, if most of the world's population uses one of those two then God must be flexible on this one.

Is it okay to work on Sunday?  Sure, if your boss says you have to and you work in a business that is open on Sunday, they I guess you have to.  I work on Sunday regularly, and the other days too regardless of what some of my church members may say.  The Sabbath was made for humans, I believe Jesus said, so it is used as it is needed to be used.  Just don't get so tired on the Sabbath that you need to rest up the next day or you have defeated the purpose of it.

Can I go to church on the Sabbath?  Yes, and you should go to church on it if you are bodily able.  Worshiping God on the Sabbath is an act of giving back to God some of the energy and life that God has loaned you.  If God can give you 7 days of life, then surely you can give back 1 hour of your time and energy so that God can be praised.

So, that is the primer on the Sabbath.  God loves you and wants you rested.  Use the Sabbath to benefit you and others and take time to smell the roses and drive to the lake for a picnic.  I may see you there.

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