THE THIRD COMMANDMENT: Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.
WHAT IS THIS? OR WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
We are to fear and love God, so that we do not despise preaching of God’s word, but instead keep that word holy and gladly hear and learn it. (Luther’s Small Catechism, pg. 17)
Genesis 2:1-3 NRSV
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.
Matthew 11:28-30 NRSV
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
ELCA Book of Faith Devotional Questions:
- What scares, confuses, or challenges me in this text? What do I have questions about?
- What delights me in this text? What is my favorite part, and why?
- What stories or memories does this text stir up in me? How does this story connect to the story of my life?
- What is God up to in this text? What is God calling me to do or to be because of this message?
This fall, the confirmation students and I have been studying the Ten Commandments in Luther’s Small Catechism. When I teach the commandments to confirmation students, I am always amazed at which ones certain groups accept completely, and which ones generate more in depth struggling and discussion. This year, the Third Commandment, “Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy,” was one of these more difficult ones. First, we had to learn that the word “sabbath” means “day of rest.” Then, we learned that although Jews and Christians both practice sabbath, we do it on different days of the week (Jews practice from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, because it was the order that God made in the creation story. Christians practice sabbath on Sunday because Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the week, and we believe that this is the most important thing that has ever happened since the world began and ought to be celebrated weekly, not just once a year at Easter). Then, as good Lutheran confirmation students, they asked me “What does this mean?”
I think that practicing sabbath is tricky in this time and place because we live in a society that tells us that we are what we produce, and that a packed schedule is a badge of honor, and that the pinnacle of productiveness is to be a human doing rather than a human being. If this is the case, how do we take the sabbath commandment seriously and learn to practice it more fully?
For me, it has become the practice of Rest & Gather. What if, into our packed schedules, we scheduled some time to rest, to be instead of always doing? Our older confirmation class receives this as a gift every night when we gather and take time to breathe, to be still, and to remember to listen for God’s still, small voice. I was speaking with a shut-in last week, and she said that it is amazing how life goes in a circle. When she was small, she took a nap every afternoon. Now that she is in her later years, she finds herself doing the same. Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). As reflections of God, we are created to create, and we are created to rest and to remember our creator.
We are also created to be in community with one another. As Dr. David Lose was fond of reminding us, “It is impossible to believe in the miracle of the resurrection for more than a week at a time.” We need to gather together with other followers of Jesus on a regular basis to strengthen one another, to build one another up, and to remember who we are and whose we are in a world that is constantly trying to rip those identities away. When we gather and sing the ancient hymns of faith, our faith is strengthened. When we gather and learn something new together, our connections to one another are strengthened. When we gather to listen God’s word and respond in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving, we reconnect to God, who holds us all in his hands.
I invite you to be a part of our Sabbath Sunday experiment on the last Sunday of the month for the next several months. If you come to the early service, gather with us in worship first, and then plan to stay for fellowship to reconnect with family and friends, or go home and take a nap before dinner! If you come to the late service, take the opportunity of a break from Sunday School programming to spend a little more time in your jammies, a little more time with your family, a holy moment at the family breakfast table with no one rushing out the door. Then, rested and reconnected, make it a point to join us for worship in which all generations are welcome and able to participate in the worship of God and the experience of God’s Word. Let’s reclaim the sabbath together.