June 18, 2008

Take a Load Off and Rest

2008 1517 page6 caphile searching the Internet for appropriate devotional thoughts for a staff worship talk I was giving, I decided to explore the topic of Sabbath. It being Wednesday, I thought I’d try to encourage my colleagues to push through till the end of the week when we could forget work and stress for at least a day.
My exploration of the subject on Google brought up several interesting hits. Among them was a commentary on the concept of Sabbath rest by Mark Earley. Earley is currently president and CEO of Prison Fellowship Ministries, an organization that has become the world’s largest Christian ministry to the incarcerated and their families. Earley is also a former Virginia state senator and attorney general. He is not an Adventist.
“This should be interesting,” I thought and printed the document out for a better look. As I read, the following words spouted off in my head like bubbles in a cartoon: Duh; Yes; Well, of course, and so on. And even though he made no mention of the seventh-day Sabbath, Earley’s commentary on the need society has for the resting nature of Sabbath made good points.
Allow me to share a snippet: “It is not surprising—is it?—that people of all walks of life are discovering a need for Sabbath rest once again. As it says in Exodus 23, God intended that man and even animals should be ‘refreshed’ by keeping the Sabbath. Rest was woven into the fabric of creation. And what we find as we take time off from the rhythms of work is—as the old Hebrew saying goes—not that we keep the Sabbath, but that the Sabbath keeps us.”1
2008 1517 page6It never ceases to amaze me how the concept of Sabbath-keeping makes so much good sense. It is as relevant, necessary, and blessed now as much as it was when God first created it. A 24-hour vacation from all that ails you, mandated by God Himself? What a sweet deal!
But though as Adventists we know the truth of the Sabbath and hold it dear to our hearts, even in our observance we can sometimes miss the true blessing of the day. “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (Gen. 2:2, 3). God rested—completely. Do we?
Even though we look forward to congregating in church on Sabbath, if you are like me, and have been involved in church in one way or the other over the years, the “rest” experience may escape you. Sermons to give, Sabbath school classes, and kids services to teach—though enjoyable—may cause you stress. If you’ve invited people over for Sabbath lunch or have to prepare food in large quantities or help with a potluck, you’re probably not able to stop and take in the true nature of a restful Sabbath experience. These things are by no means activities to shun on Sabbath, but they can be distracting all the same.
And if the preceding week has rumbled through a haze 
of busyness filled with harried comings and goings, you may have found yourself “dumped on Sabbath’s doorstep,” as I like to say, not fully able to catch your breath. If so, you’re missing the point. Rediscover the joy of Sabbath in its ability to heal and rejuvenate the soul in a way only God could have ordained.
This Sabbath, or at least one coming soon, take the time to breathe in the blessing. If that means maybe taking a break from services to spend time in nature with your family, or in quiet companionship with someone who needs you, or even just listening to soul-calming music with your Bible, so be it. God created the Sabbath and through it further shows us His love in meeting our basic need for rest.
As Mark Earley added, “Consider how you and your family might rediscover the Sabbath. And as our secular friends discover the need for rest—or suffer from lack of it—let us use it as an opportunity to talk about how the soul itself will be, as St. Augustine put it, restless until it finds its rest in God.”2
Adventist singer/songwriter and friend of mine Larry Karpenko recorded a song about the joys of Sabbath called “Delight.” He has graciously allowed Review readers the chance to download it for free by going to the following link: www.larrykarpenko.com/delight.html.
Perhaps you can listen to it as you find your Sabbath rest and reconnect with the Maker of all things good—the Lord of the Sabbath.
Wilona Karimabadi is marketing and editorial director for KidsView, Adventist Review’s magazine for kids.