When was the last time that you experience silence? Not just quiet, but actual, peaceful silence. The kind that allows you to feel yourself breathe, listen to your heartbeat, and embrace your alive-ness a little bit more.
Sabbath was created as a time for rest. We’ve heard this from the pulpit over and over again — on the seventh day God rested, so we ought to rest as well. For many of us, though, the purpose of such a “day of rest” has changed from actually resting to going to church. It’s as though once we’ve attended our church service, we have “Sabbath-ed,” and we can proceed on with our Sundays as we would any other day. But how is that restful?
A true Sabbath in many ways demands rest. If we were to Sabbath as Orthodox Jews do, we would shut down our phones, email, TVs, and go off the grid for 24 hours. We wouldn’t drive our cars or spend hours cooking or finally catch up on laundry. With these options eliminated, how would you spend your time? The Internet and TV are a huge crutch for me — they ensure that my brain is constantly active and stimulated. To shut those off would be a huge change of pace. But it might also encourage my body, mind, and spirit to rest.
In Matthew 12, Jesus goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath and encounters a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees then ask Jesus if the Torah allows him to heal the man’s hand on the Sabbath (v. 9-10). Jesus responds by asking them if they would rescue one of their sheep that had fallen into a pit on the Sabbath, and then states, “How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! So the Law allows a person to do what is good on the Sabbath” (v. 11-12). And Jesus heals the man’s hand (v. 13).
We are allowed to do what is good on the Sabbath. I don’t know about you, but my Sabbaths are often filled with whatever is typical of the rest of my week. Sure, they start at church, but afterward they contain going out to lunch, cooking dinner, calling friends, checking email, tidying the house, watching movies, and ultimately, lots of work.
As my husband and I were discussing Sabbath this morning, he pointed out to me that some evidence exists that early Christians would practice Sabbath on Saturday, and then also worship together on Sunday morning to celebrate the Resurrection. It’s like a mini-Easter every weekend. While most of us, including myself, will find plenty of excuses to not practice such radical resting, I encourage us today to reflect on how we can integrate more restful practices. Whether it is turning off our TVs, computers, and phones for a period of time, sitting at the kitchen table for meals, reading the Bible together with our loved ones and on our own, or going for a walk, may we find ways of honoring the Sabbath and increasing our sense of peacefulness and rest every week.