June 20, 2007

Sabbath Exceptions

capOver the past decade, the Adventist Review has carried loads of articles on the Sabbath, but very few on Sabbathkeeping, as such. This editorial and the article starting on page 22 attempt, however minimally, to correct this imbalance. I begin here with two personal examples to illustrate the need to not pass judgment too quickly.
1. In the Caribbean for a series of speaking appointments back in 2002, I had the good fortune of being located at a beach hotel on the island of Barbados, the first stop on my itinerary. The location sounds exciting at first glance, but I’ve returned from several such situations without ever getting wet. This time would be an exception, I decided.
But after they returned me to the hotel early Friday afternoon following my first speaking appointment, I still needed to brush up on four sermons for the weekend and get my clothes and other stuff in order for Sabbath. So it wasn’t until about 5:30 that I felt ready to head for the beach, forgetting that in most of the Caribbean, the sun religiously goes down at 6:00, or just after.
I remember the moment well. Alone in the water, watching that big ball of light descending beneath the distant horizon, I literally jumped when it suddenly dawned on me that it meant the beginning of Sabbath! Not in the habit of “going to the beach” on Sabbath, I made to rush away. But just as suddenly a voice inside me (I believe the Spirit’s) said: Just calm down, Roy! Where do you think you are? You’re in God’s own big pond at the end of a busy week and a hectic day! What better place to welcome the holy Sabbath!
2007 1517 page5So there I was all alone, in swimsuit, singing: “Day is dying in the west,” my voice bouncing off the water back to me, almost as if I had celestial company. It’s a Sabbath welcome I shall never forget!
How would you have reacted?
2. A big storm hit the Washington, D.C., metro area back in September 2003, knocking out power where we live. 

I remember leaving town the Friday following the incident on an assignment in Georgia, returning Sunday to find the power still down. By Thursday we were desperate, especially after my daughter noticed that our freezer had conked out, with hundreds of dollars of frozen food in danger of spoiling.

Hours of trying to fix the machine myself came to naught, and an electrician later advised me it may not even be worth it to fix the 7-year-old appliance. “Why don’t you try dry ice in the meantime?” suggested my wife, Celia, (away in Florida at the time—lucky for her!). But as I was to discover, that’s not an easy commodity to find.
However, late Friday evening she managed to reach the person in her office responsible for transporting sensitive medication, with dry ice for protection, and got an address—an address for a local liquor store (of all places!).
Right on the eve of an overseas appointment and in a state of high frustration on account of the power situation, I needed to make a rare Sabbath stop at my office in the General Conference building (where there was power) to pick up a few critical items in connection with the upcoming itinerary. Dressed in casual attire, I appeared at the building.
“How long are you planning to stay, sir?” the wary security officer asked as I completed the sign-in formalities. Failing under heavy stress to see that he meant no offense, I responded testily: “I don’t know. And why does that matter to you?”
“Well,” he said, “seeing as it’s Sabbath, and workers should normally not be in their offices on the Sabbath day . . .”
It occurred to me then how difficult it is to police one another in such matters. For here was my brother, himself clearly working, questioning why a minister should be in the building on the Sabbath. And as I left the complex that morning, the thought came to me: If he only knew that my next stop was the liquor store!
But exceptions don’t make rules. And I hope that point emerges in the article, commencing on page 22.

Roy Adams is associate editor of the Adventist Review.