It has stayed with me because there is this underlying tension of how we view Sabbath. Do we see it in context of a cultural/spiritual practice: personal renewal, family time, using all our allotted vacation days? Or do we view it in the Biblical context - that it is time spent with and focused on God?
As a Lutheran I looked to guidance from Martin Luther. In the Large Catechism Luther says this about the 3rd Commandment: The day should be occupied with holy words, holy works and holy life. He makes a distinction that it is different than being idle and refraining from work. Luther sees this set apart time meant for us to be immersed in God's Word and then be transformed by it. We do this in community - primarily worship.*
Is that how I have viewed Sabbath in the past? I supposed I have leaned toward the "creation interpretation" of Sabbath. In Genesis we know that on the 7th day God rested and took delight in all he had made. It is convenient for us to choose that connection to Sabbath. "I should rest, take the day off, delight in creation." But I don’t think this gets at the heart of the matter. It is not the origin of the commandment for us.
In Deuteronomy Moses presents God's people with the 10 commandments (or teachings) of how they should live so that all know they are God's people. The first three commandments focus on our relationship with God. The last seven focus on our relationship with each other. We are to have no other gods. We are to keep God's name holy. And...we are to honor the Sabbath and keep that holy as well.
Holy. Set aside. Sacred. As Luther sees it, we are to enter into God's Word and hear what God has to say to us. That is really different from family time and a walk in the park! Maybe that is why we like to connect to the "other" interpretation of Sabbath. While prioritizing family time may be difficult in our busy lives, it certainly is easier than wrestling with what God has to say to us.
During the discussion I was asked if it was hard for me to find Sabbath time as someone who works in the church and consequently works on Sundays. Because I had both of these interpretations of Sabbath in my head, my first reaction was no. The culture of my church workplace is that we worship together daily in Morning Prayer, we read the writing of theologians and regularly engage in sacred discussion, and we also are encouraged to take our time off away from the church in both vacation and continuing education. The reality for me is that I have regular Sabbath (time when I am focused on God and God's Word AND time of quiet refreshment).
But then....I also have days when I do not and the repercussions hit me pretty quickly. I get crabby! I am less patient with myself and others. I lose the sense of purpose in my work. I feel a loss of connection to the people I care about, my work and the needs of the world. In short, I turn in on myself. I think that is the sin that God is helping us to avoid with the commandments. God was telling the freed Hebrew slaves in Deuteronomy that it is not all about them. Just as God reminds us of the same thing today. The gift of Sabbath is that we do not turn in on ourselves and only think about our needs and our wants. As Luther says, it is for holy words, holy works and holy living for the sake of the world.
As a result of my own inner ramblings about Sabbath, this is the conclusion I have come to for myself: I need both. I need to set aside time to regularly focus on how God is speaking to me now and I need it do that in community. I do not have the discipline to always want to read challenging works or attend worship or live faithfully for the sake of the world. I need others to encourage and challenge me.
And...I need a break from worldly responsibilities and take time to delight in the world and the people I love.
Each time I fully immerse in all the practices of Sabbath, I discover the true essence of who I am and my place in the world….and I know God takes delight in that!
*(Martin Luther makes me chuckle. He had an answer for those who do not find worship and/or preaching "good enough" for them...in his 16th century way he tells us - It is not all about you.) "Likewise those fastidious spirits are to be reproved who, when they have heard a sermon or two, find it tedious and dull, thinking that they know all that well enough, and need no more instruction. For just that is the sin...a malignant, dangerous plague with which the devil bewitches and deceives the hearts of many."