Sabbath – It’s Not Just a Good Idea, It’s the Law

In confirmation last Sunday we were discussing social media and which of the ten commandments might apply to how people of faith use said social media.  If you’re interested in the commandment explanations in Luther’s small catechism, please take a look at page 1160 in the red books under the seats.  You might have to share.  If you have the small catechism app on your smart phones you can look there, too.  If you don’t have it feel free to use our wi-fi and download it from the links in the eNews or search for small catechism on the app store for your device.  It’s kind of interesting.

Getting back to social media and the commandments, we had great consensus that the 8th  commandment does by all accounts apply very directly to how we use social media.  That’s the one where we aren’t supposed to talk smack about other people, and not only that, we are to actually speak well of them).  Several other commandments applied pretty directly as well, like the 5th (don’t murder – in this case, murdering people’s spirit with the words of our keyboards).  The first commandment, not having other Gods before me, has a definite application to everything in life but has a particular application to the amount of time we spend on social media.

Somewhat surprisingly, the third commandment came up too.  Commandment #3 Go ahead and look that one up in the ELW or the app- Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.  Hmmm…  How does this apply to our usage of social media on Sunday?  Especially in light of the fact that Pr Lance says to use social media on Sunday in worship?

That’s kind of a thing, isn’t it?  The answer to that is something of the crux of what Jesus is talking about and what we wrestle with.

In Jewish tradition you honored the Sabbath day and kept it holy by resting and not doing anything that might be construed as work.  We would likely find some of the rules amusing, if not downright silly.  Like turning off and on anything that uses electricity unless you use timers or apparently you can move things in non-standard ways like hitting the light switch with your elbow or your nose.

Amusing?  Perhaps but the devotion to the details is something we could learn from, I think.  Our culture today acknowledges no actual Sabbath, opting instead to run ourselves ragged as we never seem to rest much from our labors.

And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is the purpose of honoring the Sabbath and keeping it holy.  It had been turned into a specific day with specific requirements, all with good intentions in mind, all designed to get people to slow down and rest for a day.  But it turned out adherence to the intentions and designs became the goal rather than living out God’s intent and design for us to rest.  Let me say that again, it turned out adherence to the intentions and designs became the goal rather than living out God’s intent and design for us to rest.

Jesus shows up and kind of blows up the whole idea.  Jesus shows up and blows up the whole idea of rigid adherence to a list of rules and instead makes the point that the list isn’t the point.  The idea of taking some time off and resting is the point.

Luther’s explanation in the large catechism goes into this fairly deeply and the idea is simply this.  We all know that we need time of rest and relaxation.  More importantly God knows we need time of rest and relaxation.  Enter, the Third Commandment!  God is telling us to take one day a week and slow down.  In the third commandment God is saying to us I didn’t design you to go non-stop 24×7.  If I wanted that I would have created robots first instead of waiting for you to invent them.  Instead, I created you and I want what is best for you.  So remember to goof off occasionally.

Most importantly, it isn’t a rigid time and place for the Sabbath.  If that were true we’d be doing it all wrong.  In the first place, what we typically refer to as Sabbath happens on what is today known as Sunday.  In Jesus’ day and for Jewish people today, the Sabbath begins Friday night at sundown and goes through Saturday at Sundown.  So biblically speaking we’re calling the Sabbath on the wrong day.

Jesus is saying, and Luther explains in the large catechism, it doesn’t matter what day.  Pick a day and take it off!  Which is good for lots of people that work on Sundays.  Me, for example.  I can be all worshipful and whatnot on Sunday but Sundays sure ain’t my Sabbath.  Same with military, law enforcement, medical folks, and a whole list of others who are scheduled to work on Sundays.  If you work on Sunday then pick another day as your Sabbath day.

Whatever day it is, pick a day and take some time off.  I know, I know, I know.  Many of you are thinking, that just isn’t possible.  You’re always saying the laws of physics will not be denied, Pr Lance.  With everything I have in motion there is no way I can get them to slow down and take any time off, Pr Lance.  Hang on, I didn’t say it would be easy, I’m only saying that God says it is important.  That’s called using my prophetic voice.  You know, saying what God wants from us even when it’s unpopular or seems unrealistic.

And really, we do know deep down inside that if God thinks it is important then it must be important. Which pushes us to think about what we can do to honor what God wants.  When it comes right down to it that is what the commandments are all about.  Honoring what God wants.  Not because God needs to control us because that would take us back to the robot thing.  If God wanted to control our every movement and thought God would have created robots instead of humans.  God just simply wants what is best for us.  And best for us is to rest ourselves occasionally.  Like every week.

How is that done?  I’ve no idea and I struggle with the same issues.  Activities often get scheduled on my days off. Okay, fine.  Take another day off.  Well, that’s great but sermons still need to be written for Sunday and the eNews still has to go out on Thursday and all the day to day things that happen here at Spirit of Hope.  And doubling up on Tuesday so I can take Wednesday off doesn’t really address the issue.  Does this sound familiar?  I get the challenges.

But going back to the prophetic voice and saying something potentially unpopular or seemingly unrealistic, we’re still not off the hook.  Or out of the net as Peter and the others found out last week.  We just have to be creative in our approach. It isn’t always easy to know what God wants for us but this is a case where it is pretty straightforward.

Whatever creative solution you land on, get some rest.

God knows you need it.

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