On the Sabbath

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My sabbath days have changed somewhat over the years. From my earliest I recall the first day of the week as a one in seven day given for worship and rest. My recollections from childhood are of bowties and crisp white shirts and sports jackets and slacks, which were usually hand-me-downs from other boys. Because the hand-me-downs came from a social worker whose grandchildren went to the St. Paul school in Hammond, Louisiana, I was a Baptist poorboy who dressed like an Episcopalian schoolboy. Sunday school and Divine worship formed the focus of our day. Usually that meant investing our Sabbath mornings at the Baptist Church, and occasionally it meant the Methodist Church. There were only two churches In our small, rural community. There were a few other congregation which had strayed from these main two but we could only get car rides to these two churches. We literally had to go to church where we could catch a ride since my aunt Eva never drove a car in her life. We usually listen to the Martha White Flour Gospel hour on the radio as we were waiting for a ride. Thus, the music of the day was always different from the other days of the week. Everything was different. It was the Sabbath. I look forward to those days.

Through the years Sabbath meant something else to me. In my prodigal days it was a day of rest but not of day of worship. It was incomplete. I was incomplete. My life was not going along the rails of spiritual reason but was derailed. That means I was a wreck. The use or abuse or disregard of God’s Sabbath is an indicator of one’s spiritual condition. And my condition was one of pathological spiritual disease leading to eternal death.

When God’s grace overwhelmed the sinful isolation and rebellion of my life and I was born again, I was born again unto a new Sabbath. The Sabbath became a delight in the blessings of worship. Rest was enhanced by spiritual nourishment. And spiritual nourishment anticipated perfect rest.

After I surrendered to the call to preach the Gospel and to become a minister of Word and Sacrament, my life all the more revolved around the cycle of worship and rest. Worship and rest for a pastor is not the same as worship and rest sabbaths for others. Make no mistake, the pastor looks forward to his Sabbath, but as Eugene Peterson puts it, he must have a “pastors Sabbath.” He must find a one-in-seven-day in the cycle of life which incorporates worship and rest but which may not be the same day. Sabbath-day is a full day for the priestly laborers in the temple. It is a full day and it is a fulfilling day as one’s vocation becomes one’s sanctification. There is nothing like the Lord’s day for a pastor. He lives for it. He anticipates it. Not only is his week built upon it but his entire life revolves around it.

The Sabbath is teleological. It forms, now, not only a holy remembrance of creation but a sacred anticipation of a new heaven and a new earth. We call the Sabbath a delight because it is a gift from God that regulates all of the rest of life but is also a destination – the denouement of the grand narrative of God. For Christ himself who is the creator of all things and sustainer of all things is also the glorious resolution, in Himself, of all things.

And so I lie down to rest. And I await the fullness of the Sabbath to come as I remember the Sabbath today.