Exminster Methodist Church, Main Road, Exminster EX6 8BT
Email email@example.com, Minister: Rev Julian Albrow, Telephone (01392) 255791
Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work;
but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God: Exodus 20:8-9
The Bible knows little of our modern concept of leisure and all that goes with it, such as the booming tourist industry or the enormous social influence of TV soaps. How the writers of Proverbs would have shuddered at the words of a radio presenter I overheard one Friday, encouraging us all to push off as soon as possible to start the weekend early. No the Bible doesn’t encourage leisure. But in its place is a concept far more powerful and far more important: rest. Of all the Ten Commandments, this is the most difficult to apply today. Nine are straightforward. We know that worshipping idols, murder, theft, covetousness and the rest are wrong. Whatever the Christians attitude to the law and legalism, these commandments remain in force. Not so with the Sabbath. Jesus himself worked on the Sabbath. In His time, the day of rest had become surrounded with so many petty regulations that keeping it had become hard work. But if in following the example of Jesus, we think we do not need to keep the Sabbath, how are we to interpret the commandment? For while perhaps we regret that Sunday has not been kept special, we need to acknowledge that for so many people Sunday has become the busiest day of the week, with folk rushing from one thing to another. Here lies the problem, folk can be so busy and overburdened they find it difficult to set aside time to allow the Lord to have space in our lives. Work is an important part of our lives, it helps form our identity. The work we do helps to make us the people we are. It helps define us, not only for other people, but for ourselves as well. But it is also essential to stop being a teacher, a doctor, an engineer, a mother, a factory worker, a grandparent, even a minister, not once in a while but regularly, so as to discover who we really are before God. If you read Genesis 2 and 3 we discover God gave folk jobs to do. We are therefore to understand that work is a good thing. It is a source of satisfaction and fulfilment, an opportunity to stretch and prove ourselves, to succeed in a task, to achieve something really worthwhile, to provide for family and to serve others. However sometimes we can find ourselves submerged in work, unable to be and do without it. We experience fatigue and frustration, in which fruitful work too often becomes anxious toil. On the social level, working life is dominated by economics-the science of scarcity-and a fruitful source of injustice. There is competition for scarce resources, anxiety against going short, the need or desire to amass enormous wealth as a sign of one’s status or value. God’s answer in his plan of salvation to these problems concerning work, is found in his command to rest. The Psalmist writes: ‘It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep’. He is not claiming that there is no need to work but warning against the attitude of mind in which we become so absorbed in work that we forget God’s vital part in it. Unless God blesses our work, it is useless. Human work was intended to be done in obedience to and in partnership with God. We claim to believe in justification by faith, but many folk, by their actions demonstrate that their real confidence is in their works. They can be so busy serving the Lord that they become afraid to stop in case he isn’t pleased with them. They forget that God calls us to rest before He calls us to work! Rest is not optional, it is God’s command. Rest is something to be used. Rest is a discipline and a gift. In doing so we can grow in self-acceptance and self- awareness. Set time aside then to be with God and rest in His presence.
God Bless, Julian