• Lex McDonald

Make Your Own

Exodus 20: 8

Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.

Make Your Own

When did the world change? That question has many answers, including, of course, that the world has changed significantly during the current COVID pandemic. Nearly all activities that involve social interaction have been disrupted and altered in 2020.

As it relates to the church, the question of when the world changed has other answers. In his book “Resident Aliens” Will Willimon writes about growing up in Greenville, S.C. in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He recalls being a teenager in 1963 when suddenly, and in defiance of the ‘blue laws’, the movie theaters in downtown Greenville began to be open on Sunday. This event, Willimon says, was the sign that things were changing. The church was served notice that there would be no more “free passes” and that it would no longer be the only activity in town on Sunday.

Willimon’s memory of that time coincides with my own. I recall Sunday, when I was growing up, as being a day that was free of any activity other than church, quiet time, and rest. It was, for my family and nearly everyone I knew, a day set aside for activity different from the other six days. Sunday offered a nice respite to the rest of the week.

Where we make the effort, Sunday can still provide that benefit. Only nowadays, of course, we live with little if any structure in the way the world works. Work is not confined to eight hours a day, five days a week, thanks to email and zoom. School is now often conducted remotely rather than on campus only. Sunday has become a day with the full range of scheduled activities that are the same as the other days of the week. The forces of culture, technology, and the pandemic have combined in 2020 to make our lives subject to more intrusion, disruption, and busyness than ever before.

So during this time we are reminded of the fourth commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.”

So how do we accomplish this? How do we remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy?

For one thing, we look forward to the day when we will return to our Sunday gatherings in the sanctuary, and we commit to making it happen as soon as it is feasible. In the meantime, as you know, we continue to produce videos of sermons and musical performances. These help fill the void created by our Sunday absence. They are a less-than-complete substitute for being together at church, but they do offer a way to worship. They also remind us that the day will come soon when we will return.

Also, and perhaps more important, we can make and keep our own Sabbath. We can still create our own Sabbath time, our own holy time. This can and should be done individually and involves the spiritual discipline of setting aside time, committing to the time, and guarding it. Regular activity creates discipline and adds rhythm to life.

We make our own Sabbath by regular ‘set-aside’ time and by intentional activity. For some, it requires solitude, and for others it requires connecting with a spiritual friend or mentor. For some it requires intentional resting and “turning off” the noise of the world. For some it involves reading and for others it involves writing thoughts, hopes, and dreams. For all, it should include prayer and listening for and to God. For all, it should involve giving thanks to God and seeking to develop the spiritual gift of gratitude.

Making your own Sabbath time and keeping it holy is like physical exercise. Any amount, however small, has benefit. Any amount is good, but greater amounts are better. As Thomas Merton said, “Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”

A hymn that speaks to this is “Come Sunday.” The words say:

Come Sunday, oh, come Sunday, that’s the day. Lord, dear Lord above, God Almighty, God of love, Please look down and see my people through.

I believe that God put sun and moon up in the sky. I don’t mind the gray skies, cause they’re just clouds passing by.

Heaven is a goodness time, a brighter light on high. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, And have a brighter by and by.

May we seek to keep the fourth commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.” Thanks be to God. Amen.

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