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A Missing Voice in a Sabbath Discussion

Posted on September 30, 2019
A Missing Voice in a Sabbath Discussion
Residents of Grand Rapids, Michigan, have a community news resource that offers stories on various topics. The Rapidian is an online news service funded by donors.

One regular feature is a column on “Ethics and Religion Talk,” moderated by Rabbi David J.B. Krishef, who leads a conservative Jewish congregation in town. The column poses a spiritual question to various local spiritual leaders.

A recent column relayed a reader’s question: “I would like to know if each of the panelists [has] anything similar to a Sabbath and if so, how they observe that day?”

A local Hindu temple’s outreach minister said their faith doesn’t set one day apart from the others; however, “Hinduism in the West has taken to ‘borrowing’ Sunday as a day when temple attendance and religious education seem to make the most sense.” He said he meditates for about two and one-half hours on Sundays, leads a meditation service, and engages in yoga.

“Because I’m A Minister, I Choose Wednesday”

According to a local Unitarian minister, “Unitarian Universalists technically would call Sunday our Sabbath day because that is when we attend church. As a minister who spends Sundays fully engaged in my calling, I choose to make Wednesday my Sabbath Day.”

Individual choice also marked the observance of a United Church of Christ cleric, who wrote, “As a UCC Pastor, my Sabbath is never on a Sunday. It’s often on a Friday, and sometimes a Saturday. Rest is a key element of my Sabbath, so I sleep late or take a nap. And I often will go with my wife to midday Friday Mass.”

For an Eastern Orthodox priest, the emphasis, he said, was on community and family connections. “Traditionally, the day is begun with worship, fellowship with the other members of the family of faith, then restful enjoyment in the company of family and friends. Of course, this rest is relative for those in charge of the cooking and cleaning for these family gatherings! But even this work is seen more as enjoyment than effort,” he wrote.

Perhaps the perspective closest to the Bible’s standard came from a retired Reformed Presbyterian minister, who declared, “The Presbyterian ideal is for Christians ‘to observe [a] holy rest all the day from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of God’s worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.’”

“Disconnect from Daily Life”
The retired pastor continued, “You clear your agenda and disconnect from daily life in order to spend this day in communion with God and His people. Those who do so know that Sabbath-keeping is liberating, refreshing, and rewarding for body and soul, and no bondage at all.”

Granted, the Presbyterians—and every other Christian quoted in the article—hold to Sunday as the day of rest and worship, despite the Bible’s message that “the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God” (Exodus 20:10). Indeed, the split in the Christian world between those who observe the Bible Sabbath and those who observe Sunday is a primary reason for this website: to uphold the Bible’s standard and to educate everyone about the purpose God had in creating a Sabbath for us.

But at least our retired minister friend, more clearly than some others, delineates the Sabbath as a day to “disconnect from daily life” and be “in communion with God and His people.” Those important aspects of the Sabbath are central to what Sabbathkeepers do, and why we do it. Truly, as Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man” (Mark 2:27), and it was made to provide good things for humanity: rest, fellowship, community, reflection.

Rabbi Krishef facilitated the discussion but didn’t participate. “I have a lot to say about Sabbath observance, but due to space constraints, will have to wait for another opportunity,” he wrote.

Thus, there were no voices in The Rapidian of those who observe the Bible Sabbath, even though there are at least 21 Sabbathkeeping congregations—English, Spanish-speaking, and even for those from Myanmar—in the area. The pastors of any one of these groups could have explained the Sabbath from a biblical perspective and offered testimony to the benefits and blessings of Sabbath observance.

It’s helpful to remember that the Sabbath is not intended to be a burden. If anything, as our Presbyterian friend would assert, observing the Sabbath is “liberating, refreshing, and rewarding for body and soul, and no bondage at all.” It is a rest day, and the best day of the week, because in it we are reminded, tangibly, of God’s love and care for us.

Should Christians still keep the seventh-day Sabbath holy? Pastor Doug Batchelor had a conversation with Sunday-keeper Pastor Steve Gregg of The Narrow Path on the subject. You can find the video presentation here, and if you’re undecided on the question, it might help you make up your mind.

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