This Sunday’s sermon is going to be a tough one. This summer, we’ve been journeying through the Ten Commandments here at Bayshore, and thanks to our staff’s summer preaching rotation and the timely intervention of a stomach flu, I’ve wound up with a commandment that I violate on a fairly regular basis:
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, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)
Without divulging too much about the sermon’s surprise twist (and, yes, the sermon on Sunday will have a surprise twist), I want to share with you why this commandment is so tough for me personally, and a blog post seems like a better medium for this than a sermon. If you’ve ever struggled with not working on the Sabbath, believe me, I get it. I’m in the same boat, and here’s why:
Rest has never been a key virtue for my family. We tend to be on the go most of the time, and the standard leisure activities (fishing, the beach, quiet retreats in the mountains, etc.) have just never been our thing. My mom is part of more civic and church groups than I can count. My uncle built his own house in his spare time. My granddad has explored every continent. My grandmother taught four Bible Studies every week well into her 90s. And then there’s my dad, whose work as a doctor and teacher has often meant a 7-day work week with 6AM mornings so that he can be home in time to eat dinner with us (not to mention the fact that he also makes a practice of reading theology books in a single sitting). The Chappells and Lewises love tasks and puzzles and the satisfaction of a full day’s work, and throughout my upbringing, I was always encouraged to devote as much time and energy to my passions as possible. Of course, none of this is bad, but it can start to get a little dangerous when we mix it in with our culture’s definitions of success and prestige:
Martha Stewart purportedly sleeps only four hours a night. Bill Gates logged over 10,000 hours of computer programming in his teens alone. And don’t even get me started on Nikola Tesla! A recent study shows that schools with longer days and no summer breaks tend to produce higher test scores and more qualified graduates. Early Christian monks kept to a rigorous schedule of prayer, fasting, and study that still astonishes us to this day. And then there’s my alma mater (Duke Divinity), where we routinely bragged about our workloads and the library was open on Sundays. The mentality we’ve been taught in this country is, “When work is something you love, keep at it! Future generations might be depending on your innovations and example, and you don’t want to be remembered as lazy, right? Work is where we find our deepest fulfillment, right?”
The Fourth Commandment is a reminder that, ultimately, our responsibility is not to other people, to the values of our upbringings, or even to ourselves. God commands us to keep the Sabbath day holy, and that should be cause enough to do it.
More about this on Sunday…
Grace and Peace,