This past weekend I decided that I’d take Sunday seriously. Because of a few words one of my professors, Dr. Dennis Okholm, said about it I realized I’d never had a real Sabbath. I’ve never actually celebrated it. Sure, I’ve rested a little bit but never had I actually seen the day as a “holy” day (exodus 20:8-10). I’d never actually rested in the right reality.
Making Sabbath a holy day means not just treating it that way when it finally comes around. It means living everyday in anticipation for it. If you read the first part of the commandment in Exodus 20:9 you might notice that it says “six days you shall labor and do all your work…” it’s important to note that the author uses the word; “all.” God’s command is two pronged. Not only must you rest, this part is familiar to us at least in theory but probably not in practice, but this is only the second aspect. In order to truly rest we must fulfill the first part of the command. We cannot treat Sunday as just any other day by allowing obligations and responsibilities to pile upon it. We mustn’t save anything for Sunday except ourselves; our heart, soul, and might. If we truly believe it’s a holy day, if we make it holyday then we must keep it holy on our calendars when we’re making plans. It’s not an ordinary day that I can procrastinate towards, plan a meeting for, or cram my plans of the week onto. Work is for the days we regard as normal. We don’t mind skipping work on Memorial Day or Christmas Day. We don’t mind pausing to remember the past on Veterans Day or Martin Luther King Day. Yet when the only holiday mentioned within the Ten Commandments comes up we are bothered by the idea of taking the day off and making sure our commitments are fulfilled in prior preparation. If I have committed to Christ then I have committed to the celebration of Sabbath. I have committed my life to making sure that I do all my work in the six previous days. I have committed my heart to the joyous anticipation every week for the glorious celebration. When the Spirit of Sabbath enters will I hallow it and rejoice it as a loving bride rejoices in the presence of her husband? Or will I leave it at home as I rush to meet my apparently more important obligations?
Why do we celebrate it on Sunday? Can’t we just celebrate it any day? Isn’t it ok for me to find a day on my own? What if Sunday is inconvenient? Dr. Okholm said it like this; “we don’t celebrate the 4th of July on the 2nd so why would we celebrate the resurrection of Christ on Tuesday?” As the Jews celebrate the culmination of first creation as Christians we celebrate the culmination of new creation on the Sabbath; the day when Jesus Christ, the crucified messiah defeated death and brought New life to all who will have it. As Christians we celebrate Easter every single week. Sunday is not just any day and we cannot replace it with any other day. We also must realize that Sabbath isn’t meant to be an individual holiday. Have we become that individualistic? Sabbath is a communal celebration. It’s the whole community of God rejoicing together as all the saints who’ve come before us have done. This is why we have “church” on Sunday. This is why we meet together and sing to God, talk, discuss, fellowship, and learn. This is what it’s all about. We are celebrating together, the way God meant for us to celebrate this glorious day. We enter into an eternal community. Sabbath is not just between you and God, it’s between God and His Church. You cannot be the Church on your own.
When we rest on the Sabbath it’s not resting so that we may be ready to work harder the next days, which is to rest in the idea that the work is not yet finished. We don’t rest merely so we can fulfill some divine mandate, which is to rest in the idea that there is no purpose grounded in reality. We rest because we know that the work is finished and that the world will not stop spinning if we do. This is resting in the reality of New Creation. We rest in the reality that the work that only God can do is finished and that because Christ is no longer in the tomb of death the Garden of life is now available in our midst. We rest in the Holy Spirit; the new breath of life for new birth. We find true reality when we are not working. We discover that we are truly alive when we are not rushing to achieve the next goal. We rediscover our worth to God and what life really means. We find the peace of the Sabbath; peace that only God can give, which surpasses our understanding, peace that only comes on the holy day.