Posted by: Susan Gaddis | June 13, 2009

Rest Stops on the Journey

Father’s House, Susan’s sermon notes

1152283_airportSelf destruction

Work hard—play hard! Americans have busy lives, active leisure, and an inner obligation to have perfect kids, perfect homes, be productive and be successful. Like the Chinese pictograph for “busy”—composed of two characters: heart and killing—our driven culture is destroying us. Not only is our culture of busyness killing us, but we often feel guilty when we stop!

“While many of us are terribly weary, we have come to associate tremendous guilt and shame with taking time to rest. Sabbath gives us permission; it commands us to stop.” – Wayne Muller in Sabbath, Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest

“This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it’” (Isaiah 30:15 NIV). In her book, Mad Church Disease, Overcoming the Burnout Epidemic, Anne Jackson takes this verse and flips it: “Rest is a beautiful gift of God, but we usually prefer the opposite…. ‘In rebellion and work is your demise, in noisiness and distrust is your weakness, and you will have it all the time.’”

Letting our souls catch up

“The Story is told of a South American tribe that went on a long march, day after day, when all of a sudden they would stop walking, sit down to rest for a while, and then make camp for a couple of days before going any farther. They explained that they needed the time of rest so that their souls could catch up with them.” –Wayne Muller in Sabbath, Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest

At creation, God worked six days and then He stopped and rested. He instituted these same rest stops for us. They are to happen weekly. These rest stops are called Sabbath. The word Sabbath literally means to “stop” or “cease.” We might call it our “Stop-day.” Sabbath is about stopping, resting, reflection, worship and relationships. Sabbath creates space so that our souls can catch up with us.

840094_picnicThis stopping isn’t a casual diversion such as looking for a McDonalds off the next freeway exit. Rather, it is an inner resolve that makes us pull over to the campground on the side of the road, park the car and let the kids out to play on the grass while mom pulls out the picnic lunch and Dad sets up the tent for the night. Both are rest stops on a journey, but one is happenstance while the other is deliberate.

“Pausing is not the same as collapsing. Some people say, ‘I’ll do all my pausing at the end of the day, after the kids are in bed.’ That’s not hitting the brakes; that’s running out of gas. Both get you stopped, but only one is intentional. And only one will help you feel more rested and peaceful.” –Keri Wyatt Kent in Breath: Creating Space for God

No longer roommates

“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 manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 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, NIV).

The first three of the Ten Commandments focus on loving God and the last six focus on loving others. The Sabbath command is right in the middle of them. It is the transition between the two sections. It connects the commands to love God and love others.

We tend to ignore the Sabbath command because it doesn’t seem to be a big deal like adultery or idolatry. We just don’t see the significance of it. Yet it seems that God intentionally commanded us to practice Sabbath so that our relationship with Him and people would come into focus.

This is the one command where God elaborates. He gives specifics and a reason for the command. In Deuteronomy 5:12-15 the reason to stop is to celebrate freedom. Here in Exodus, the reason is to rest. Both tell us to keep the day holy, or set apart. In Deuteronomy, we are told to observe the Sabbath, but here in Exodus, we are told to remember the Sabbath.

God knew we would tend to leave the practice of a Sabbath discipline out of our lives so He specifically said to remember the Stop-day by keeping it set apart. “But if we forget the significance of Sabbath, it’s easy to let it slide or to let the day morph into something else—a day just to chill out or to focus on ourselves.” –Keri Wyatt Kent in Rest, Living in Sabbath Simplicity

God’s heart behind all of the commandments is love. The Sabbath commandment is simply God’s design for connection time with us. Most wives would concur that men don’t always do “connect time” well. In some aspects, men would say the same thing about women. No wonder God made Sabbath a command!

If we are not careful, our relationship with our spouse and kids grows into a roommate situation rather then a marriage and a family. For many of us, our Christianity is simply a roommate situation with God. The Lord made this command because He loves us and wants to connect with us.

4432_stop_signThe gift of rest

“Sabbath is not dependent upon our readiness to stop. We do not stop when we are finished. We do not stop when we complete our phone calls, finish our project, get through this stack of messages, or get out this report that is due tomorrow. We stop because it is time to stop. Sabbath … liberates us from the need to be finished.”Wayne Muller in Sabbath, Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest

Sabbath calls us to rest from:

Providing—with the economic crisis many are worried and feel the need to provide. It is easy to forget that He is our provider. When we take a day every week to stop working we are reminded that God is our provider, not us. For one full day we have to trust Him and not our own efforts.

Consuming—when we have a day every week where we stop consuming and just enjoy what we already have in thankfulness and gratitude, we are resting.

Performing—when we have a day every week where we relax in His grace rather then our performance, we are resting.

Accomplishing—when we have a day every week where we don’t have to accomplishing anything, we are resting.

Why is stopping so hard to do? Why can’t we take one day a week to not be the provider, the problem solver, the fix-it person, the lord of our manor and king of our hill? On this special day we are to rest, not work, and by so doing we acknowledge that Jesus Christ is our Lord, Provider, Counselor, King and our All in All. We remember that He is God and we are not. Sabbath is a gift of rest from God to us that brings our lives back into perspective. Whether we open that gift or not depends on us.

“What we deny ourselves is all our well-trained impulses to get and to spend and to make and to master. We do this maybe for no higher reason at first than that God told us to do it…. The law of Sabbath is not legalistic. It is a command given to save us from ourselves.” –Mark Buchanan in The Rest of God

Creating a rest stop

Clear your schedule and create space for Sabbath. “Henri Nouwen writes that a spiritual discipline is simply creating some space in our lives in which God can act. So the first part of Sabbath as a spiritual discipline is simply to create the space for it—to clear our schedules….”  –Keri Wyatt Kent in Rest, Living in Sabbath Simplicity

Start where you are and keep it simple. Don’t try to change everything at once.

Plan ahead. Try to do the housework and chores during the other days of the week so you don’t have to do it on Sabbath. Plan simple meals with family and friends—Sabbath is all about community.

Establish some rituals. Plan a special breakfast or lunch; attend church; take a nap; call your mother; read a good book; keep a box of Sabbath toys that are only brought out on that day; join with friends for a meal or a game; or read a passage of Scripture at meal time together. “Rituals may seem like things we ‘have to’ do, but they are simply ways of arranging and organizing our lives. They’re regular practices. I recently realized that the word ritual is embedded in the word spiritual: spiritual.” –Keri Wyatt Kent in Rest, Living in Sabbath Simplicity

Rest! Just as God rested on the seventh day, so we are to rest. Reject the compelling urge to “do” instead of “be.” In this way, Sabbath becomes your sanctuary in time.

Connect with God. Worship, pray, read your Bible, join in ministry at church or take a quiet walk in the park.

How would honoring the Sabbath bring you closer to the Lord and to those who matter most to you? What can you do this next week to plan a “Stop-day” that is set-apart from the rest of the week?

Sabbath creates space so that our souls can catch up with us.



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