Stewardship Resource

The Gift of Sabbath: Week One - Rest

Sermon  Sermon

"By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work." - Genesis 2:2

By the Creator's own example we see that a full 1/7th of our time is given as a gift of Sabbath. This gift is so important that the life rhythm of labor followed by rest was built in right from the very beginning.


Week One: Given for REST
Cheryl Mathison
Click on Rest, Re-Creation, Receptivity for graphics that can be used for this series.

Laura Ingalls Wilder in her book Farmer Boy describes how her husband Almanzo spent Sunday afternoons as a child. 

"After dinner Eliza Jane and Alice did the dishes, but Father and Mother and Royal and Almanzo did nothing at all.  The whole afternoon the sat in the drowsy warm dining-room. Mother read the Bible and Eliza Jane read a book, and Father's head nodded till he woke with a jerk, and then it began to nod again.  Royal fingered the wooden chain that he could not whittle, and Alice looked for a long time out of the window.  But Almanzo just sat.  He had to.  H was not allowed to do anything else, for Sunday was not a day for working or playing.  It was a day for going to church and for sitting still." (p. 94)

I imagine we all hear this passage differently

  • Some hear:  sitting, no whittling, staring out the window: boring/waste of perfectly good afternoon/such a burden to be required to sit...still.
  • Others hear: an afternoon spent napping and reading: pure bliss.
  • Still others: how indulgent and lazy; wish I could afford such luxury but too much to do!

Those diverse reactions to how we spend our Sunday afternoons drew me to want to preach about the Sabbath
Today begin a 3 week series
Speak about Sabbath as a gift given for three distinct purposes:

Rest, Re-Creation, Receptivity

I can hardly talk about the Sabbath without speaking of the 10 Commandments: specifically, the 3rd:  Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
Frankly, I imagine this is where much of the negative connotations of the Sabbath originate
Not too long after the Commandments were given,

  • God's people began to closely examine each command in an earnest desire to keep it.
  • And in the process of examination extracted from it all kinds of rules and duties associated with each.
    3rd Commandment: no different
    In fact, of all 10, this one has most exhaustive list of additional expectations attached to it
    You know what I am talking about--
    Lists of what is acceptable and unacceptable on the Sabbath...
    What constitutes work?
    When you think Sabbath this way, no wonder, perceptions of the Sabbath are all tied up with duty, obligation, and burden!

But, what I want you to know today is that long before the Sabbath was given as a command,
It was given first and foremost as a gift
Sadly that truth tends to get overshadowed by the command.
In Genesis 2:3 the Bible tells us that
After six days spent calling the universe into being,

  • God ceased from his labors
  • Rested
  • And declared the 7th day Holy; set apart to be qualitatively different.
  • Naming it "Shabbat" which means to cease or to rest.
    Do you see? 
  • In effect God established a life rhythm for us: 6 days of labor followed by a day of rest.
  • the rhythm is knit into the very fiber of our being

So Sabbath is given
Not as a punishment
Not as a duty, obligation, burden
Not as something you do for God,
Rather, what God has done for you?
Our unfortunate tendency is turn it around and then we miss the wonder of the gift
Pure gift given for you
A full 1/7 of your time given, set apart, established for nothing at all but rest
What a wonderful gift!

Now I know there is no need to neither persuade nor convince you;
No need to make a case for need for physical rest
We know and understand that we are finite
We are subject to human limitations
We know it, but we are known to push the limits...

I know a kid who loves baseball; all things baseball

  • Room is baseball themed
  • Collector of baseball cards
  • Reads the sports section religiously
  • Huge Twins fan
  • When not playing baseball in his backyard, playing on one/two teams
    Mom telling me that he is experiencing a perfect summer
    Played game every day; sometimes two
    Its tournament time; several recently
    One in particular: 
    A break in afternoon time enough to go home cool off eat
    Fell asleep
    Went to wake him up to her amazement he protested saying: 
    "I don't want to play; want to sleep"
    She said: Imagine that: turns out there is a threshold for how much baseball one kid can take!

There is a threshold.
In spite of knowing it we sometimes refuse to rest even at our own peril
Like small child who resists bedtime insisting not tired; time for one more...
Live in
A world that encourages us to resist rest
A world that places a value upon our work; even our overwork
A world that considers our 24/7 world to be a professional virtue
Not uncommon to receive email sent at 2 or 4 am
Especially in this economy people are more likely to prove their worth to employers

So, while we might know our the need for rest, it doesn't hurt to be reminded there is a threshold.
God gave the gift of Sabbath rest; a physical quieting for our well being
The result of this rest is refreshment.

A second way to speak of Sabbath rest/contrast to physical nature/speak of far less often.
Spiritual Rest
It might very well be the more important of the two
Martin Luther describes it this way;
The spiritual rest which God especially intends is that we not only cease from our labor and trade but more that we let God alone work in us.
To attain this rest we begin at the same place as with physical rest:
We cease our labor, our toil, our work.
But one more thing is necessary to know that rest
That is

  • to trust God
  • To allow God to take care of us
  • To leave our future in God's hand
    This rest is as necessary for the wellbeing of our spiritual selves.
    As is physical rest for the well being of our physical selves.
    Marva Dawn puts it this way: 
    Spiritual rest gives us the freedom to accept the fact that human happiness is fleeting
    and to trust that there will enough grace to carry us through

    Spiritual rest grants us a moment of clarity...you see?
    When we put all things back into perspective
    Proper Order is restored
    We don't have to be in control.

I believe that Jesus was put together these types of rest when he said:
Come unto me all ye that are weary of your labor and heavy laden
And I will give you rest.


Someone else has said:  Spiritual rest is a form of freedom.
Freedom from all that binds us, consumes us
Our work, our worries
Our ambitions, our anxieties
Our desires; our dreads
Freedom for sheer bliss of resting in the arms of our maker.

When Jesus said: 
Come to me all ye who are weary of your labor and heavy laden
I will give you rest.
I believe he was speaking of Sabbath in its truest purest sense of Gift.
And I dare say: It's a gift we can't afford to ignore.

Sabbath: Week Two - Re-creation

Sabbath: Week Three - Receptivity

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