Sabbath keeping is not a much talked about subject in my circle of churches. I think this is because we are terrified of legalism and always want to emphasise grace.
Some of us have very bad memories of the past, when Sunday was a day of restrictions and joylessness. When I was a boy my family would sometimes stay at a Christian conference centre which had a swimming pool. That swimming pool was out of bounds on Sundays, because to swim on a Sunday would offend Jesus! I remember hot summer Sundays longing to get in the water but being expressly forbidden from doing so.
For other people the Sabbath is never thought about not because of negative experiences in the past, but simply because the very notion of Sabbath is just not culturally there. It is a totally alien and strange idea.
But whichever side of this fence you sit on, the reality is that the Sabbath is a major biblical theme.
The fourth of the ten commandments gives instruction to keep the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11). This is the longest of the ten commandments, and is addressed to everyone. And it is unique in setting out the reasons for it being given. Over the next few posts we will look at these reasons, and their application to us.
In the book A Passion for God’s Story, Philip Greenslade writes this:
If it is true that human beings are the crown of God’s creation, it is equally true that the Sabbath is the goal of creation. Everything God has made aspires to that end. The Sabbath sanctifies time. It invites us to look back to the God who rested from his creation task and model our lives on the rhythm of God’s labour and rest. It encourages us to imitate God’s creative labour as worshippers, not restless workaholics.
It is these themes, and this goal, that I want to take some time to explore.