Most of us are aware of the Ten Commandments (if you can remember all ten off the top of your head without Google’s help, give yourself a bonus point). The ones we can remember are probably: “Do not murder” and “Do not covet your neighbour’s wife or their ass” (which many of us only remember because we’re still school children at heart and ‘ass’ is funny).
One of the ten, the top ten, is ‘Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy’. What even is the sabbath and how do we keep it holy? Christians believe that God created the world. Some believe it took six days start to finish, others that evolution has played a part. But the idea of sabbath is that when the work, the creativity, the making, is done it’s time to relax. When God had finished creating everything he sat back and looked at it all and relaxed.
Human beings are made in God’s image and the commandment to remember the sabbath is a commandment to rest, sit back and relax. Just like God did. In fact we’re to do it every week. In the Old Testament this was a big deal. Orthodox Jews today still have thirty-nine categories of things you can’t do on shabbat. For us as Christians, we don’t have to spend our sabbath worrying about whether we’ve crossed the line, Jesus makes clear that sabbath was invented to help us, not the other way round.
But it’s really hard. To take a day and rest. Not catch up with our to-do list, get on top of the cleaning or batch cook for the week ahead, but to rest. Totally relax. Achieve nothing useful. That’s a real challenge.
At the same time it’s potentially life-changing. Many of us feel that life is out of control. That every day is full, and that every moment is busy. We get up, get the kids out of the house, go to work, come home, cook, clean, get the kids to bed, do the washing and ironing, a few emails before bedtime, crash out and get up and do it all again. Eat. Sleep. Work. Repeat. Deliberately breaking the cycle is hard. How will everything get done?
But slowing down helps us to reflect on what’s happening. Are we focussed on the things that are important to us? Are we stuck in unhelpful patterns that are boxing us in? If we could change something about our lives, what would it be and how would we go about it? Where is all this busyness taking us? Is there enough in our lives that brings us joy? Do we never stop because we’re afraid of what emotions might rise to the surface?
So we’re sold on the idea, time to rest and refocus, but how do we do it?
Start small. This is a commandment we can start small in obeying. Do not murder is an all or nothing kind of commandment. Remember the sabbath is something we can get better at over time. Do something non-productive every day. Read a chapter of a book. Decide to just sit down for 10 minutes without an electronic device and just be quiet. Practice turning your phone off for a few minutes. Totally achievable small steps.
Taking it further, decide on which day is going to be your sabbath and then start to think about what you do and don’t want in it. Maybe you aren’t going to do laundry on your sabbath. Perhaps you’re going to prep your lunch the night before and budget to have a takeaway on your sabbath so you don’t have to cook. You would almost certainly benefit from turning your phone off for a couple of hours and to going to bed early for some extra sleep. Once you’ve made your plan, try it out. See what a difference it makes.
For lots of people coming to church and remembering God is an important part of their sabbath. Pop along one Sunday and don’t forget to tell us if you’ve given it a try and what a difference sabbath has made.