“Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy…” (Exodus 20:8). Here we are reminded of the importance of the Sabbath as a day of rest. Not just any rest, but solemn rest. What does that mean? This commandment to honor the Sabbath day was given to the Chosen People on their release from slavery in Egypt and was entrusted to them as a sign of the irrevocable covenant between them and God. And so it remains with us today.
“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24) Our lives today are busier than at any time in human history. There are a thousand distractions and hundreds of demands that are made on us in our daily lives. I can remember in my lifetime when most stores would be closed on Sundays. If you needed something, you had to plan to meet that need, because it would be nigh on to impossible to get it met anywhere in town on Sunday. This, as we all know only too well, is no longer the case. We have become 24/7 people. Stores are not only open on Sunday’s but around the clock.
Rest of the normal kind, that is, time to step out of the rat race of everyday life, time to rest the body, the mind, and yes, the soul, from the demands of our busy lives, has become an infrequent luxury for most of us today. Our evenings and weekends are no longer time for rest, but time to dash about taking care of all the important and the pleasurable family things that need our attention. We are stressed often to the point of breaking, and that tension often gets taken out on those who are closest to us. We live on the border of madness all the time because all of our energies are taken up in the demands of this world. This is because modern life, as it is structured, pushes us relentlessly to pursue earthly things, and it militates against the normal human rhythms of work and rest.
In reflecting on this Third Commandment, we are called back to those natural human rhythms, not just for the sake of our bodies and our minds, but more importantly, for the sake of our eternal souls. God gave us an example to be followed. He rested on the seventh day. We are called on to rest, so that we can concentrate on the presence of God in our lives, and on our need for his constant and faithful love and grace, so that we can live in ways that are proper to our dignity as human beings and children of God. It is a time for silence and quiet reflection on the role of God in our lives and to give thanks for all of his gifts and graces toward us. We are to spend time with the most important people in our lives and to gather together in our worship communities to give thanks and praise to God for all of his gracious gifts to us, especially the great gift of our Christian faith. The sacred reality is that we are nothing, and we have nothing without God’s love and grace. It is good to rest, to take concentrated time out to honor God. The sabbath is set aside for us by God, to remember our covenant with him by taking time to take ourselves apart from the rat race of our daily lives and to raise our eyes, our hearts, our minds and our souls to God and to share that with our families, and our faith communities.
Lord, Our lives and all the good things in them are pure gift from you. Strengthen in us a desire to keep each sabbath holy by coming together to worship you in our faith communities. Give us the humility to see the wisdom of resting, of stepping back from the business of our daily lives, and of making a concerted effort to honor you by spending focused time with our families. Help us to keep our sabbath covenant with you at the center of our lives. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen!
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