Practicing Sabbath

If you would like to listen to the sermon please go to and click on sermons July 31st, 2016

Good Morning.  At general Assembly this past year, I was sitting in one of the sessions when the speaker said, “The church offers something to the world that no one else offers.”  My ears immediately tuned in. I thought about inspiration…nope, they can get that in listening to a TED talk or reading a book.  I thought about music…nope, they can get that at a concert.  I thought about community….nope, they can get that at work, in a bar, through a shared interest.     He said, “WE offer Sabbath.  We need to teach Sabbath.”  What does Sabbath look like to you?  (Show pictures of fishing, napping, devoting time to a hobby like scrapbooking.


For me, I always think of going to church and not just going to church but going to church on Sunday.  All of these ideas are a part of what it means to practice Sabbath, so, this morning I want to build upon our ideas of Sabbath and what God calls us to when the scriptures say to keep the Sabbath Holy.  It is not a small request.  It is not a side note.  It was such a big thing that eventually they put laws in place that if you did not keep the Sabbath, you could be put to death.  If it was that important to the faith of our ancestors then to me it is worth taking a look at for today.  Remember with me that God gave the 10 commandments to Moses, or in godly play curriculum, we tell the children that God gave us the 10 best ways to live.  These set of instructions could be divided into two catagories:  1- the 1st 3 are to help the people of God learn about who God is and what God is like and what relationship looked like with God and 2-the last 6 are to help them understand how to live in relationship with each other. Jesus helped us understand that when he said that all the law can be boiled down into 2: Love God & Love your Neighbor.

But it is important to note that this fourth commandment is situated right in between 3 commandments that talk to us about God and the other commandments that help us learn how to live with each other in peace so this fourth commandments pulls double duty in that it teaches us about our relationship with God and it teaches us about our relationships with others.

Let’s first look at the basic scriptures that talk about Sabbath.

Genesis 2:2—God rested on the 7th day from all the work that God had done.  So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.

Exodus 20:8  Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.

As I studied these, I thought “I know this!  I learned these scriptures in Sunday School as a kid.”  But I knew that there had to be more to it so let’s look a few others that might not be as well known.

First, I will read Exodus 20 and read v.10.

But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.

Now here is one about our relationship with God:

Exodus 31:13  You shall keep my Sabbath(s), for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations.“ talks about the Sabbath as a covenant or a sign between God and God’s people.  A sign that lets everyone know that are the people of God with a different order to society.  Jesus would later refer to it as the Kingdom of God.

Here are more scripture passages that talk about Sabbath as a way to live in the Kingdom of God.

Exodus 23:10-11 For 6 years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the 7th you shall let it rest so that the poor of your people may eat….6 days you shall do your work, but on the 7th day you shall rest, so that your ox and your donkey may have relief and your homeborn slave and the resident alien may be refreshed.

Deuteronomy 15:1, 15   every 7th year you shall grant a remission of debts…… remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the lord your God redeemed you; for this reason, I give you this command.

Leviticus 25:10  “and you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.  It shall be a jubilee for you; you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family.”

Wow!  Sabbath has a lot more to it than I have ever thought!  I had never paid attention to all of these scriptures about Sabbath.  We saw that Sabbath is to give us time and space to remember all that God has done and to think about how we live our lives in relationship with other people.  This commandment is important because Jesus said that all of the law can be made into 2: Love God & Love your neighbor as yourself.  I believe this is why God called this day Holy.  This day is the beginning of our understanding how to follow and be the people of God.

First, I want to look at Sabbath as loving our neighbor.  These are the scriptures that blew me away!  Sabbath reminding us of very practical ways of how we are to show love for our neighbor.  Let’s recap.  We just read how on the 7th day Sabbath all people including those who are traveling through the land and those who worship other gods.and animals and the land are to be given rest.  Then you see that in the Sabbath year, the 7th year, debts are to be erased and the land given rest.  Then on the 50th year after 7 sets of Sabbath years, people who have lost their family’s land and become slaves, then they are able to return to their family’s land and given a second chance.  Sabbath is a way of living together!  A society structure!  It is a way for divisions to be put aside in favor of remembering that God created and so we are all connected to the earth, to each other and to all living creatures.  This sounds like a great society that God is setting up for God’s people but my next question has to be why did God instruct us to do things this way?  Let’s remember why….

You see the Israelites came to Egypt because there was a famine in the land and Egypt had all the food.  They quickly realized that the way of life for them in Egypt was Bread for Bricks.  You can eat and not die of starvation, but you will be our slave in return.  This way of living made it easy for the Israelites to stir up feelings of hatred, so much hatred that could even lead to murder.  It was easy to covet what others had because they were not allowed to have.  It was easy to justify stealing when your family barely had enough to survive.  Years and years of this cycle of working and not having enough, working to barely live, and living lives that did not matter created a pattern of thinking.  It got deep down into their DNA defining them as a people.

Leaving Egypt, the question became, how would the people of God live.  Would their time spent in Egypt make their hearts calloused to other human beings, to the animals and to the earth? Would their time in Egypt make them a slave to work worshipping the gods of success and achievement instead of the God who brought them out of slavery?  Would their experience in Egypt cause them to want so badly to have power and control that they would turn and oppress others to achieve that goal?  But our God is a gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love so God not only delivered them out of slavery but gave them a new way to live so that he could get the slavery mentality out of the people.  It is one thing to help someone physically walk out of slavery but it is another thing to help them change the way they think about who they are as a child of God.  This was the purpose of the 10 commandments.  For God’s people, the work Sabbath rhythm is a way of life that encourages a continued look at liberation.  Creating time and space for Sabbath allows us to think about how we are personally opening ourselves to God’s freedom and how we are going about the work of helping set our neighbor free.  We may not be slaves making bricks for our bread like our ancestors but Maybe its financial slavery.  Maybe its some kind of addiction.  Maybe its fear that enslaves us.


Very practically speaking to me Sabbath is like pushing the restart button every week.  If I have been sucked into fearing people who are not like me or fearing for my future, if I have forgotten that I am a child of God , if I have elevated Amber’s ability to do do do over resting in God’s provision, if I have forgotten my neighbor, then practicing Sabbath is my opportunity to remember that I live in God’s kingdom and this is my new way of life.  Isn’t that grace!  God built in this rhythm so that we could reorient our thinking, our words, our doing and our not doing.

These scripture passages about Sabbath calling us to a way of life where we love our neighbors as ourselves radically changes the view of Sabbath.  But Sabbath is not just about plotting goodness of ourselves and our neighbor.  It is about remembering.  “Remember that you were a slave and the lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore, the Lord your God commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”


Remember…..God.  We create this sacred time and space to celebrate that God is the beginning and the end.  This is how I am able to rest and refuel during Sabbath because I remember that God worked in human history as recorded in the bible and we stop our doing so that we can take time to remember all that God has done and is currently doing in our life.  In this way, we learn about God’s love and God’s character by looking for ways in which we see God working in our world and then we are able to identify areas that God is calling us to partner with God.  We have 6 days to partner with God to work for good in our world and then God says rest and remember that my love is the beginning and my love wins in the end.  Jesus said to his disciples in

Matthew 13:  To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.  The reason I speak to them in parables is that seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen nor do they understand.  But blessed are your eyes, for they see and your ears for they hear!”

Weekly practice of Remembering helps sharpen our eyes and our ears so that we can see and hear God at work in our world.  I really need that right now.  I must confess that in our world today, I am finding it very hard to find glimpses of where God is working.  I can feel totally exhausted, depleted and hopeless as I read the newspaper or watch TV.   This is why Sabbath is a practice.  This weekly remembering helps me practice using my eyes of faith to look for where God was with me the past week and today and this hour.  If I can practice finding God in what has already happened. then I can more easily look at the future with hope because if God has worked in our past and is working in our lives today then God will be there working for good in our future…whatever the future may hold.  We no longer have to fear and live with anxiety but we have hope because we remember.


These two ideas must go hand in hand.  We create a sacred time and space for remembering God and celebrating God’s goodness AND we use this time to give thoughtful consideration to our neighbor.  Sabbath is how love for God and love for neighbors begins.

It is fitting that the heart of our worship service is communion.  For it is at this table that we remember God’s love for us displayed in the life and death of Jesus.  We also remember God’s power in raising Jesus from the dead.  As we come to the communion table this morning, let us as a community of faith in practice let us remember that our God is the God who works wonders.



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