God loves you so much he says, "Go ahead and take the day off."
Yes, really! Last week I wrote that I was considering the word “Sabbath” as my word for the year. I wasn’t so sure I wanted that word because it’s associated (at least in my mind) with rules -- especially don’t-do-that and you-must-do-this kind of rules. I have a tiny problem with authority. I don’t like anyone telling me what to do!
After I sent that email, my brother sent me the Heidelberg Catechism question and answer for the fourth commandment. The fourth commandment says, “"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (The Heidelberg Catechism is a series of questions and answers that our denomination uses as one of its core confessions.) Below is what the catechism says about the Sabbath commandment.
Look: No long list of do’s and don’ts! Basically: Go to church, and “rest from your evil ways” all the time.
Where I work, years ago we did an employee survey asking people what they thought was a good thing to do for a holiday celebration. People had all kinds of answers -- a formal party, an outing such as bowling, a picnic, money, a PTO (paid time off) day, and more. As I meditated on the concept of the Sabbath, it occurred to me that one interpretation could be that God was saying “take the day off.” I have heard it explained as a day to do something different than you do every day, and what is that but a day off?!
I’ve always been kind of confused by the story where Jesus says to the Pharisees, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) Huh? But it makes more sense when I think of the Sabbath as a vacation day. God didn’t give us a day off for his own good, it’s for our good. It’s a gift he gives us.
Lots to think about with the word Sabbath: What does it mean for me to “rest from my evil ways”? I wonder what “the eternal Sabbath” will be like? How can I make the Sabbath -- Sunday for me -- feel like a day off? “Festive”? How do I make it festive? But, hey, I’ve decided to take a year to think about it, so lots to think about is a good thing.
AND, when you think about the Sabbath as a gift, a treat, a reward, something good God is giving us, it’s yet more evidence of God’s love. God loves you so much he says, “Go ahead and take the day off!”
Lord’s Day 38 - Q & A 103
Q. What is God’s will for you in the fourth commandment?
that the gospel ministry and education for it be maintained,
and that, especially on the festive day of rest,
I diligently attend the assembly of God’s people
to learn what God’s Word teaches,
to participate in the sacraments,
to pray to God publicly,
and to bring Christian offerings for the poor.
that every day of my life
I rest from my evil ways,
let the Lord work in me through his Spirit,
and so begin in this life
the eternal Sabbath.