The Sabbath Principle

worshipLate last year, I suggested that the Old Testament Sabbath was a day that still has two-fold significance for us. It marks a day of rest, but also a day of worship. Many a Christian will readily espouse the value of taking a ‘day off’ from our usual routine, but few will speak of the regularity of a communal worship gathering. Interestingly, some even accuse those advocating a weekly church priority of legalism, but will then religiously promote a rest day, invoking some divine imperative to grant greater legitimacy.

Of course, rest and refreshing are keys to longevity of success in whatever we do and no-one would rightly suggest that these should be compromised. Nevertheless, busy people know that you sometimes have to be flexible enough to do what has to be done. In a similar way with the day of worship, we all understand that there are occasional intrusions to the usual outworking of this priority, but a commitment to worship needs to be a non-negotiable and fixed weekly block, even if the place in which it is fixed or the mode of expression might need to alter. This worship priority, of course, has elements of community, sharing & giving, teaching and praise. Interestingly, the New Testament espouses the continuation of these traits, without confining them to Sundays (or Saturdays!), whilst it reaffirms each of the Ten Commandments, except that of Sabbath-keeping; in other words, the principle is valued, but not with precise or legalistic expression.

Whilst I could therefore argue against going to church every Sunday, I solemnly respect the Sabbath principle by always prioritising worship on a Sunday and therefore by having some kind of church service. On the rare occasions I am not in my own church, I will be in another service elsewhere, even on holidays, and even if at home with my kids selecting their favourite songs, leading communion, bible readings and prayer. As the ‘priest’ of my home, I set the spiritual tone as I lead the members of my family, even if they don’t like it! Slackness, distraction or busyness are easy to succumb to, but my immediate and extended family and my friends and associates need to see enough integrity in me to know that I am serious about my faith. My ‘Sabbath observance’ has been a weekly practice since becoming a Christian at age 16 (not just as a minister) and I can’t recall having a ‘Sunday off’ since then. My wife and I even went to church on our honeymoon!

In the end, though, it is not about frequency, but about faith, and how we intentionalise the Sabbath principle in our own lives. What is your response?

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