Sabbath rest. We are commanded to remember the Sabbath and keep in holy. What day is the Sabbath? Around here that is a serious question. With a local Seventh Day Adventist college we are heavily populated by SDA churches of all sizes and types. Saturday is the only acceptable day for worship for them, it is the Sabbath. A few old time Adventists are so convinced of the rightness of their day that they are equally convinced that we Sunday people are doomed to hell. On the other hand, most Christian literature of the 19th and 20th centuries had no problem conflating the words Sunday, Sabbath and the Lord’s Day. All one and the same as far as they were concerned. Logically minded people like to stir the pot by reminding us that Saturday or Sunday are mere conventions for certain days assigned to the calendar of the Common Era, and given the many changes in the western calendar over the years, who knows when the real Sabbath might have been? Wading in are certain biblical scholars contending that the original Sabbath was a bimonthly not weekly event, which is not what it says in Genesis but who cares.
God must wonder how we can get so screwed up over one simple question. Oddly enough, our Anglican tradition agrees, in part, with the Adventists. Saturday, convention or not, is the Sabbath and is to be a day of rest in preparation for the celebration on Sunday, the Lord’s Day. Of course that is not to say that we actually rest on Saturday to prepare for celebratory worship on Sunday, but that’s another story. The point is that Sabbath rest is important for our spiritual, emotional and physical well being as human beings. I’m not convinced that God cares very much which day out of seven is devoted to Sabbath rest, but one should be. I don’t remember ever taking a real Sabbath rest during my secular working days. I don’t recall ever giving it any thought at all. During my ordained working days I tried to make Friday my Sabbath but with marginal success. Now I’m retired and Sabbath should come easy, but it doesn’t.
I’m on a committee that is grappling with how to improve the spiritual dimensions of healing in our local Adventist hospital. A good question was brought to the table at our last meeting. How can we make Sabbath rest a part of each patient’s experience while they are here? I’ve been a patient (too many times for my taste). Lots of things happen to patients. Probing, sticking, moving, testing, feeding, visiting, IVs and drugs, half stoned semi-awareness, noisy halls, loud talking, unanswered calls for nursing help, boredom, restless sleep. It’s quite a buffet, and Sabbath rest would be a delightful and healing addition.
I wonder how Sabbath rest could be introduced into other venues of ordinary life? I wonder how Sabbath rest could become a treasured part of our weekly lives? God commanded the Sabbath not because God needed it, but because we need it. I wonder if we shouldn’t take God more seriously on this one. Today is the Sabbath. I’ve got coffee with a friend, dry cleaning to drop off and pick up, a stop at the pharmacy and a funeral to attend, then I’ll rest. How about you?