iLife Week Two: "iRest"

This week I am going to be preaching on Sabbath as part of the "iLife" sermon series.

Whenever I think of the word "Sabbath," I think of lying on the couch on a Sunday afternoon after a huge meal with football on the television, and the knowledge that I will soon be sleeping.

I'm pretty sure that over half of the people who come to church on Sunday have a nap in their future.  Some of my parishoners don't wait until they get home to start their nap---they just catch forty winks right there in their pew.

I can see them.  I don't think they know that.  In my last church there was an elderly lady who would come to church and would sleep through half of the service, but very nearly all of my sermon.  Without fail, she would leave, shake my hand and tell me what a good sermon I preached.

Remember when things were "closed on Sunday?"  I am old enough to remember these things.  You didn't just pop in to the store on Sunday after church to grab some Publix fried chicken.  Publix was shut tighter than a drum on Sunday.  So was K-Mart and a bunch of other stores.

Now the only real example we have of that kind of commitment to "closed on Sunday" is ChikFilA.   When he started ChikFilA, Truett Cathey made a commitment to stay closed on Sundays due to his conviction that Sunday be a Sabbath for he and his employees.  Did you know that even though ChikFilA has way fewer stores than McDonald's, and is closed on Sundays they have a higher per store revenue than McDonald's?  Betcha didn't.

The definition of the word "Sabbath" in ancient Hebrew had two elements to it:
1. Rest
2. Cessation of Labor
What the ancients basically believed was that you didn't do the things that you normally had to do on the Sabbath.

There was something freeing about it.

In Exodus 20:8-11 we find the Fourth Commandment. "Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy."  You can click on the reference to read the whole passage.

Wanna know how serious God was about His people keeping this commandment?

Read Exodus 31:12-18.

Did you notice the parts where God commanded that anyone who broke the Sabbath command should be put to death?

I don't know about you, but that's pretty serious.

Busy-ness in our culture is something that we wear like a Badge of Honor.  But what about the ancient world?  Did they do the same thing?  In sort, yes, but not for the same reasons.

There was no such thing as a day off in the ancient world.  That was lazy talk.  Only really rich people had a day off.  Besides, the Hebrew people had been slaves for 400 years in Egypt, so having a day off was not part of their DNA.  Sabbath keeping for the ancient Hebrew people was much deeper than just taking a day off, though.

It was about obedience.  It was about a lifestyle.  It was about being different.  It was about saving your life.   The lesson here is one that we need to hear and heed:

Ignoring God's commands to live a Sabbath-centered life will be hazardous to your health. 

Hopefully you read the Exodus 31 passage.  Do you ever wonder what really happened on the mountain with God and Moses?  I mean Moses was up there for a month... with God.

I like to imagine that when they were talking about the commandments that Moses sort of paused when they got to the Fourth.  "The rest of these kind of make sense, God." He might have said. "But this fourth commandment seems kind of... well, unreasonably harsh, man."

If Moses asked these questions, I am sure God had some answers.  Maybe his answer was Exodus 31:12-18.

You see God has a purpose when it comes to the Fourth Commandment.  What God wanted then and wants now is for His people to recognize who He is and what He has done for us.

For a bunch of former slaves, who had known nothing but slavery for 400 years... he gave them the freedom to stop.

God also led by example.  In Genesis, God rested after creating.  In our culture, Busy-ness is the ultimate achievement, and we create things that are far less intricate than the Universe.  Yet, we don't see the need to follow the example of the Creator.  We believe that rest is something you do when you're too old, or dead.

Did you know that the Chinese pictograph for "busy" comes from two images: the image for "heart" and the image for "killing."   That preaches.

But here's how all of this can get messed up if we are not careful.  We can get too freaky about the rules, and miss the point that the Sabbath is about a relationship.

Jesus was criticized for letting his disciples gather food and eat on the Sabbath by Pharisees who often selectively kept the Sabbath laws as it suited them, but wanted everyone else to keep to the letter.   Jesus responded to them that "Man was not made for the Sabbath."  They had begun to keep the Sabbath so rigidly that they became a slave to the rules.


First, God wants us to keep his "sabbaths" and make them "holy."  I bet you were wondering about the use of the plural for Sabbath in Exodus 31.  So what does the world "holy" mean?  It means "set apart," "sacred," or "points to God."  There isn't just one day that is set apart, it's our very lives that are set apart.

Second, God wants us to Re-Order our set apart lives.  In the Creation account in Genesis, we hear these words at the conclusion of each day of creation: "and evening and morning were the first day... and evening and morning were the second day..."  "Evening and morning..."  For the ancient Hebrew people, the day actually began at night---when they returned to their homes and their families.

What if your day began when you got home?  What if your sacred space was your dinner table?

We need to begin living this Sabbath lifestyle...

Ignoring God's commands to live a Sabbath-centered life will be hazardous to your health.  God meant what he said when he said that death was the punishment for ignoring the Sabbath.

Here are some questions that we need to begin asking if we plan on making the Sabbath holy and re-ordering our lives:

1.  What will I shut down turn off, stop doing this week to begin living differently?

2.  What will I do to re-order my day, and begin saving my life?

Your answers (and mine) to these questions could very well change everything for us.

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