January 30, 2023

The Gift

What the Sabbath means to me.

Susan Phelps Harvey
70 AR02 CloserLook Pic
Nikolaus Satelmajer, Sheryl Beck, Steve D. Cassimy, Abraham J. Jules, Ainsworth K. Morris, and Ruth I. (Nutter) Satelmajer, editors, The Gift: What the Sabbath Means to Me (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2022), 206 pages; US$17.99. Reviewed by Susan Phelps Harvey, author and former vice president for marketing, Pacific Press. 

This collection of highly personal views of the Sabbath comes from an astonishing 168 different individuals. Six editors compiled the work of writers from 25 countries. The essays are short, punchy, and easy to digest. The roster of contributors reads mostly like a Who’s Who of Adventist leadership, although chapters by non-church leaders, including a few teenagers, are also included. The youngest contributor is 12 years old. You’ll likely find familiar names among this list. 

While some contributors—mostly pastors and church officials—have presented thoughtful mini sermons on Sabbathkeeping, most participants have taken the subtitle, “What the Sabbath Means to me,” literally, and have shared their personal stories. Many are nostalgic, some heartbreaking; all detail their individual experiences with Sabbathkeeping. 

An entire section is devoted to “Sabbath witness” and is filled with stories on such topics as a lost job, a missed exam, a soccer game not played, and how those circumstances led to opportunities to share one’s Sabbathkeeping convictions with others. It occurred to me as I read these accounts that people are often called to witness for the Sabbath—whether they want to or not—when circumstances challenge them to take a stand. God works in mysterious ways! 

The nostalgia aspect appears in the writers’ descriptions of Sabbath memories: in a backyard paradise in Loma Linda, California; on a hilltop overlooking the city of Kingston, Jamaica; at a picnic table beside a beautiful lake; in a landlady’s kitchen; in a busy hospital emergency room; at the Jerusalem Wailing Wall; in a pigpen with dirty, smelly pigs; and 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle—to name a few. These stories spoke to my heart and reminded me of the beauty and power of the Sabbath and how it enriches our relationship with God. In this wide range of places and settings, I felt the strong sense of community that Sabbathkeeping brings to our church family, and how precious that connection is. 

The editors’ enthusiasm for this project is evidenced not only by the large number of contributors they involved but also by the several pages of endorsements they’ve gathered, which appear in the front of the book. I suggest skipping over them and going directly to the meat of the volume. Then when you’ve finished, go back and read these endorsements. I think you’ll find more food for thought there and much to agree with.