The best/worst thing about teaching is that it is difficult to tell someone else to do something that you aren’t doing. The best/worst thing about teaching the Bible is that it isn’t just cute information to tuck away in the recesses of your mind but instead it messes with your life!
So last week I’m teaching a class on the Ten Commandments, we were on the Sabbath command, and before I knew it I say something like, “We are missing the boat if we discuss the commands but don’t make any changes to our everyday life.” AHHHHH now I had to do something.
Frankly, I haven’t been a very good Sabbath keeper lately. Ohh I know there is worse but I didn’t have much time in my life for rest. I would go to Church (a GREAT Sabbath practice by the way), watch some football (a marginally good Sabbath practice), take a nap (a good Sabbath practice) and then do a lot of homework (a terrible Sabbath practice).
So in a grateful response to a God who created us, sustains us, came to earth to live for us, died for us, conquered sin, death, and the devil for us, and gave us all the many good things in our lives I decided that we going to keep a Sabbath. After all if the Almighty God has done all these things for us then I think it is safe to assume that God has our best interest in mind.
A Jewish Rabbi once told me that Jews believe that they have spent 1/7 of their lives in heaven because every Sabbath they have spent worshipping God and spending time with friends and family. I also find it interesting that they start their day with rest as each day starts at sundown. Hey it’s Wednesday time to go to bed. It’s a different way to live. It seems that rest is viewed as a gift, something to look forward to, and cherish. It was instituted at creation (God rested the 7th day) and given to the people in the commandments in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. Interestingly it is the longest commandment as it is very concerned that the powerful allow the less powerful a chance to rest as well. For those of us, like myself, who are powerful in our culture it is our own dumb fault if we don’t take time to rest so last Saturday we, The Ostercamp’s, began to celebrate the Sabbath!
We decided to follow fairly closely to a Jewish model as they have been doing this for a long time. So last Saturday we went out and bought two very large candles. You see our goal is to prepare for the Sabbath as if it is a guest that is soon arriving to our house. We will strive to clean the house, prepare the food, and finish our homework as the time arrives for the guest to come. At sundown on Saturday the oldest woman in our house (on Saturday it was my wonderful Mom who happened to be in town for our first ‘official’ Sabbath celebration) lights the two candles.
Why two candles? In Exodus the commandment starts with remember. In Deuteronomy the commandment starts with observe. The remember candle points to the Exodus to remember the wonderful and amazing things God has done in our life, remember God’s grace! The right response to an amazing gift is to observe what the gift giver tells us. So each Sabbath we remember who God is and we remember why and for what reason we observe!
After the candles are lit the eldest woman says a prayer for the family and we read a blessing that says, “Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, who sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to be a light to the nations and who gave to us Jesus our Messiah the light of the world.” We then read the Scripture passages that will be read in the Church the next morning as we begin to prepare for worship.
Until the sun goes down on Sunday night our goal is to do very little work. Cleaning, cooking, homework, work pertaining to our jobs, doing bills, etc are to be avoided. Part of the point is trust. Do I believe that if I take a day off my world is not going to fall apart? Do I believe that I am not that important to the office, my studies, the family routine, etc. Instead we worship God and do activities that improve the lives of others and bring life to us. On the Sabbath we go to Church, spend time with friends, play as a family, watch football, nap, play a sport, garden, volunteer, and try in vain to beat Anita in Settlers.
The big question is of course how committed to this are we? That’s a question I am asking myself even today. It’s cute and fun for one week but could we actually live our lives this way month after month and week after week? Only with great intentionality, and only if we begin to really value the Sabbath. This will continue only if we work so that we can rest instead of resting so that we can work. I realize that we made a pretty significant change in our routine which makes it much more difficult to continue over the long haul. We will see where our Sabbath practice takes us, where is your Sabbath practice taking you?