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This week's eNote

July 25, 2022 Pastor CHIP FREED

We have been studying what Biblical Scholars call “wisdom literature” all summer. The Biblical writings usually associated with this genre are: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, Song of Solomon, and sometimes the Psalms. Several verses in Proverbs talk about the need for “Sabbath rest.” How are you doing with that after all of the drama of the past 2 ½ years? I recently took this advice and took some much needed time off. “Sabbath rest” was God’s idea and God modeled it in Creation (Genesis 2:2-3). Sabbath rest, as you will see in the article below, “is about more than taking time off.” It involves us but it also involves God. Certainly, we should find ways to unplug and do the things we most enjoy with those we most love. Yet, Sabbath also means to factor in time to commune with God who loves us most of all.


I know our schedules, spaces and routines were so disrupted the last 2 ½ years. I think disciplined “Sabbath rest” is crucial toward our needed recovery of balance, perspective and peace. So, two questions…

1) What are you doing to maintain or reclaim physical, emotional and psychological health right now?

2) What are you doing to maintain or reclaim spiritual health right now?

Both areas are crucial and lack of attention to either will affect the other.


Worship, prayer and serving Christ’s mission are probably the three most important disciplines for spiritual health. Some would add Bible Study and I agree it is essential to reflect on God’s Word; but if you are regular in your weekly worship, you will at least have the opportunity to hear God’s Word read and reflected upon. I know that regular worship routines were certainly disrupted for some. We worked faithfully to make sure that weekly worship opportunities have always been offered at GMUMC no matter what! I pray you are finding ways to keep weekly worship a part of your spiritual development… whether that is in-person, online or even setting aside quiet time during the week for worship while playing back a service and marinating in the music and meditating on the message. There is a question that was posed in a sermon many, many years ago that has always haunted me: “If you feel further away from God today, who moved?” I pray that you are practicing or committed to developing healthy Sabbath habits for your body, mind, heart and soul. I hope you find the following article by theologian Tim Keller helpful regarding Sabbath, I sure did:


“When it comes to time management, one of the fundamental principles of the Bible is the Sabbath. If we are to be an “alternate city” (Matthew 5:14–16), we have to be different from our neighbors in how we spend our time outside of work; that is, how we rest. So what is the Sabbath about?

According to the Bible, it is about more than just taking time off. After creating the world, God looked around and saw that “it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). God did not just cease from his labor; he stopped and enjoyed what he had made. What does this mean for us? We need to stop to enjoy God, to enjoy his creation, to enjoy the fruits of our labor. The whole point of Sabbath is joy in what God has done.

             

Writer Judith Shulevitz describes the dynamic of work and Sabbath rest this way:


My mood would darken until, by Saturday afternoon, I’d be unresponsive and morose. My normal routine, which involved brunch with friends and swapping tales of misadventure in the relentless quest for romance and professional success, made me feel impossibly restless. I started spending Saturdays by myself. After a while I got lonely and did something that, as a teenager profoundly put off by her religious education, I could never have imagined wanting to do. I began dropping in on a nearby synagogue.


It was only much later that I developed a theory about my condition. I was suffering from the lack [of a Sabbath]. There is ample evidence that our relationship to work is out of whack. Ours is a society that pegs status to overachievement; we can’t help admiring workaholics. Let me argue, instead, on behalf of an institution that has kept workaholism in reasonable check for thousands of years.


Most people mistakenly believe that all you have to do to stop working is not work. The inventors of the Sabbath understood that it was a much more complicated undertaking. You cannot downshift casually and easily. This is why the Puritan and Jewish Sabbaths were so exactingly intentional. The rules did not exist to torture the faithful. They were meant to communicate the insight that interrupting the ceaseless round of striving requires a surprisingly strenuous act of will, one that has to be bolstered by habit as well as by social sanction.


In the Bible, Sabbath rest means to cease regularly from and to enjoy the results of your work. It provides balance: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God” (Exodus 20:9–10). Although Sabbath rest receives a much smaller amount of time than work, it is a necessary counterbalance so that the rest of your work can be good and beneficial.


God liberated his people when they were slaves in Egypt, and in Deuteronomy 5:12–15, God ties the Sabbath to freedom from slavery. Anyone who overworks is really a slave. Anyone who cannot rest from work is a slave—to a need for success, to a materialistic culture, to exploitative employers, to parental expectations, or to all of the above. These slave masters will abuse you if you are not disciplined in the practice of Sabbath rest. Sabbath is a declaration of freedom.


Thus Sabbath is about more than the external rest of the body; it is about the inner rest of the soul. We need rest from the anxiety and strain of our overwork, which is really an attempt to justify ourselves—to gain the money or the status or the reputation we think we have to have. Avoiding overwork requires deep rest in Christ’s finished work for your salvation (Hebrews 4:1–10). Only then will you be able to “walk away” regularly from your vocational work and rest. 


Sabbath is the key to getting this balance, and Jesus identifies himself as the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27–28)—the Lord of Rest! Jesus urges us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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” (Matthew 11:28–29). One of the great blessings of the gospel is that he gives you rest that no one else will.”