Sunday, September 11, 2005

Ahhh-- Sunday. The Sabbath. Day of Rest. What a Crock!

I find myself in an Oasis.

It's the calm that comes after one storm and right before the next storm.

It's a typical Sunday.

I started with breakfast in the Fellowship Hall. Pancakes and bacon! Maybe not the healthiest meal, but I love every bite.

Then there is the first service and the weekly Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

Sunday School follows -- and I am in the middle of teaching one of the classes, so I had to rush to the room. As soon as that was over, it's a rush back to the Sanctuary for the 11:00 worship. We had a baptism! I love baptisms.

After the worship, the Associate Pastor and I posed for pictures with the family around the baptismal font.

I had lunch with elders -- Presbytery meeting is coming up on the 27th, and like all Presbyterian Churches, we send the pastors and a certain number of elders based on the size of the congregation. Presbytery covers a geographic area of several counties and meets a handful of times each year. With the elders, I review the agenda for the coming meeting and highlight the parts of the packet that need their closest attention. I also explain for them some of the backgound for different things that will be happening at the meeting. This is probably something I should do via email, but I've been doing it this way for years, and it follows the time-tested motto in our church, "This is the way we've always done it."

After lunch, I ran into the Associate Pastor who was coming in from serving the Sacrament of Communion in the hospitals and nursing homes. He mentioned one fellow who is in serious condition, so I ran to Jackson Hospital to see him.

Now I'm in the office, enjoying the calm.

Not enough time for a nap.

Too much time to start the next thing on the calendar.

So I sit and piddle with this blog.

And while I do, I consider how pastors mistreat the Fourth Commandment. "Remember the Sabbath day." Day of rest?

It's 3:42 now. At 4:00 there is a committee meeting. Perhaps I'll get a nap then.

At 5:00 Confirmation Class begins. I don't attend every session, but I'm scheduled to teach this particular one.

At 6:00 there's Pizza in the Youth Lounge. I'll hang out with them until 7:00, when there is another committee meeting. That's an interesting meeting, and one that will be sure to keep me awake. I often get frustrated with that committee, so when I leave that meeting I'll probably go home and click on Then I'll click "Ministry and Vocations." From there I'll scroll down to Church Leadership Connection and click "Opportunities."

(This is how pastors get therapy).

I'll enter "$100,000" as a minimum salary and see what comes up among vacant churches looking for pastors.

I'll go to sleep and go to the office on Monday. Unlike what I do on Sunday, that will be work :)

So what about the Sabbath?

The Ten Commandments were written in stone -- or was in the beginning -- so it must be important.

So what is the fourth Commandment?

"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work..."


Years ago there was a short-lived television series about priests and nuns working in a Roman Catholic parish -- "Nothing Sacred." I loved that series and apparently was the only one in the nation that watched it.

In one scene two priests are in the vestry room. It is between services, and they are busy getting ready for the next one. It's not yet Noon and it has been a full day. The elderly priest puts on his robe and says, "Ah Sunday. The Sabbath. Day of rest. What a crock."

That's the moment I fell in love with that series.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism is one of several Presbyterian statements of faith. In a question and answer format it deals with the Fourth Commandment and asks, "Which day of the seven has God appointed to be the weekly Sabbath?"

The answer: "From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly Sabbath; and the first day of the week ever since, to continue to the end of the world, which is the Christian Sabbath. (Footnotes point to Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:1, 2; John 20:19-26)

Then the Catechism asks my question -- HOW? "How is the Sabbath to be kept holy?"

The answer: "By resting all that day."

It throws in public and private worship in the answer -- but that's no problem.

It's the "resting all that day" that gives me trouble.

I like to work, so it is hard to stop.

I think my work has value, so it is hard to stop.

In my perverted thinking, I feel that work gives my life value, so it is hard to stop.

I take Friday and Saturdays as "days off" but they are not Sabbaths.

A Sabbath is a stillness. "Be still, and know that I am God."

A Sabbath is a quietness. "Let all the earth keep silent before him."

A Sabbath is a rest from work. "You have six days to do all your work, but the seventh is a Sabbath to the Lord."

There are some sins that do not tempt me. I don't struggle with them at all.

I've never killed. Not literally. A little hate in my heart, which Jesus counted as being as good as murder, but give me credit for never appearing on Court TV.

I've never stolen -- well, not since that fountain pen I stole from the drug store in high school. You know teenagers and their dares and double dare ya's.

But Sabbath rest? I've never actually obeyed that one.

Well, it's 3:56. Gotta get back to work. It's Sunday you know.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog! I have added it to my list,
and will check back often.

Best Wishes,

4:00 PM  
Blogger ~**Dawn**~ said...

hmmmm...i find the little variances between Christian religions kind of fascinating. i am a Missouri Synod Lutheran & the Sabbath Commandment was always taught to us as the Third Commandment--not that it really matters which number it is i suppose. LOL anyway way here is the explanation they teach us according to Luther's Small Catechism:

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching or His Word but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.


that's it. i know my grandparents were raised by the "no work on the Sabbath" ideology when they were children & as long as they were alive, they never worked (even after my grandfather retired, they had a small orchard & 3 acres of land that they gardened) on Sunday--just a family dinner & time spent together. for thought...

10:35 PM  
Blogger Kirk Bartha said...

I had a mentor/friend tell me recently (when I was about to quit my ministry job from travelling more than 100 days away from my family in a year), "Sabbath means STOP."

You've never killed? Wow! When I read the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes sure that all of his hearers break all of the commandments. "You've heard it said...Well, let me tell you a thing or two about that."

Because commandments are not things. They are the very essence of His glorious character. What we don't "do" makes us to "be" more like Him.

Via Negativa

A friend of mine once wrote a book, "Stop Setting Goals if You Want to Solve Problems."

Anyway, it was good to read from you today.

11:39 PM  
Blogger Reverend Ref + said...

And just where does it say the Sabbath has to be Sunday? Technically, with Sunday being the first day of the week, the Sabbath is Saturday -- but all of that aside, it's the idea that you take time out for yourself.

My Sabbath is Friday. My work week is Sunday through Thursday, Friday and Saturday off. Fridays are MY time. Mrs. Ref is at work and The Kid is at school. It's MY time to do what I want to recharge.

I love Friday, the Sabbath day in my life.

2:47 PM  
Blogger Apostle John said...

Rev+ I agree. Historically Saturday is the Sabbath. In Christianity it did move to Sunday. But I think we miss something in the Sabbath when we take it as individuals. I think the society is called to take a collective Sabbath.

4:08 PM  
Blogger HeyJules said...

I loved this post. I know that Sunday is a very busy day for pastors and preachers but never realized that while we get in our cars and go home to "rest and relax" they are still there, running the meetings and setting up chairs and talking to parishoners. How funny to think that the ones not keeping the Sabbath on Sundays are the preachers! Anyway, thanks for a new look on things.

8:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can people with young children ever have a sabbath?
I wonder how the Old Testament families kept it--with three generations under one roof! One of my OT professors pointed out that the commandment to "honor the parents" was a great way to insure that a 30 year old father in the house would not kill his 55 year old father who was still giving him orders!
But as to sabbath...I always have applied the lesson that anything having to do with the things of God--study, prayer, worship and fellowship with God's people---were sabbath-worthy engagements. But is that just my own justification for doing what I want when I have a free moment on Sunday?

11:38 AM  
Blogger the reverend mommy said...

Hey, I was going to comment earlier, but, um, didn't have the time.
Sunday -- 3 services plus SS, lunch with members.
Visit members in the afternoon, Confimation class, small group studies, Youth Choir and drama club, Disciple studies, another small group. a 14 hour day if it ends when it is supposed to end. Which it never does. And by Monday, I'm almost comatose.

Maybe the clergy should have their own Sabbath and take turns leading it? Hmm... now THAT'S a thought.

12:54 PM  
Blogger PresbyPoet said...

Perhaps what needs to be done is that a church has so well trained elders they can do the preaching, and all the other things that need to be done on Sundays, so she can relax and enjoy worship.

Maybe the question should be. Why do we make worship work? Why do we try to make the choir perfect, so only those who know how to sing are included?

For me, reading the bible and prayer are a daily need, as much as eating and drinking. I enjoy church. I enjoy hearing God. Why do we make it difficult to enjoy church? Of course, I am disapointed when the service ends, I wish it was longer.

My question to you is: Why do you feel responsible for the service?

4:17 AM  
Blogger Apostle John said...

PresbyPoet, I think you may have missed a part of the reason for worship. I don't go so God can meet my needs, I go to meet his needs.

9:06 AM  
Blogger PresbyPoet said...

I know about worship being for God, this is part of one of the great mysteries. Why should the God, so amazing, so far beyond me (I'm mere speck of cosmic dust), not only care about me, but desire my worship, and somehow "need" it.

The story of the prodigal, and how the father rejoices when his son returns, gives me a sense of how God feels when we come to him. Such irrational exuberence. The older brother cannot understand. The faithful have forgotten. You should know Christians because we are so joyful.

I do wonder if ministers can relax, and worship with a congregation. So often the danger is for worship to become performence. To use praise chorises to try to manipulate feelings, setting up a more suggestable hypnotic mental state, in an effort to produce the "right" feelings. Trying too hard to preach an uplifiting sermon, saying the right things, and not hearing what God wants us to say.

I often try to worship in the opposite spirit. When I am in an intellectual service, to work to feel God, and in a charismatic church to seek to understand.

Silence is the part of worship Presbyterians seem to have the hardest time appreciating. Have you ever offered a time of silence during the worship service so people could be still and know God?

To return to your Sabbath question: Do you worship with the congregation? Do you feel responsible if something "goes wrong"?

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Towanda said...

Your post reminded me of an episode of the Vicar of Dibley, wherein said Vicar gets invited to 4 different Christmas lunches, and goes, and eats, at all four. Hilarious stuff, and if you haven't checked out the series, it's worth it!

7:27 PM  

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