Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Why do we need Sabbath? In my first sermon on Sabbath (Feb 21) I mentioned 5 of the Transforming Center's 15 signs of a tired soul: irritability, feeling pressured for time, emotional numbness, shortchanging important relationships, and isolation. If we have these signs, then we probably have tired souls.
Now let me turn that around. Instead of asking why we need Sabbath, let me ask: Why do we have tired souls? The answer: Because we don't keep Sabbath.
A lot of us have been "9 commandment Christians" for a long time. Jesus said to the Pharisees that "the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath". The Pharisees needed the second part of Jesus’ rebuke because they were making Sabbath-keeping burdensome for people who really wanted to follow God’s laws. We evangelicals need the first part of Jesus’ rebuke, "The Sabbath was made for man”: Sabbath was given for our flourishing. Really. Yet this is the one commandment out of ten that we are most likely to disregard. It's no wonder that there are so many worn-out, irritable, emotionally numb, isolated evangelicals. We are constantly violating the Sabbath.
Evangelicals tend to be workaholics. We justify our existence through work and if we don’t feel a sense of worth, we work more and harder. Another way of saying this is that we believe we are saved by work. In a recent book, "The Radical Pursuit of Rest", John Koessler starts by breaking the connection between rest and work: we shouldn’t rest so that we can work, or work so that we can reward ourselves with rest. His radical (but biblical) idea is that rest is an end in itself. We are designed to enter into rest (Heb 4:3).
Jesus tells us that if we are truly resting our work will be easy: “my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. For people who are addicted to work and exhaustion as a way of finding worth, that makes no sense. "Work is supposed to make me tired! It’s not work if it doesn’t make me tired." Jesus doesn’t say that he will get rid of work. Work is a gift from God, given before the Fall. The Message puts it this way: “Walk with me and work with me...you’ll learn to live freely and lightly" (Matt 11:28-30).
Jesus calls me not to work so that I will flourish, but to rest so that I will flourish. How will I respond?