Are we supposed to keep the Sabbath today?
What about keeping the Sabbath the way it was understood by the traditional Christian Reformed family during the last 150 years?
What has changed in the way we look at the Sabbath?
These sort of questions were addressed during the pastor and spouse retreat in October 2013, opened for all ministers in Classis Grand Rapids South. The main talks and questions were asked by Rev. Pat Zandstra, who basically looked at how do we keep the Sabbath and what does it mean to rest?
For those who grew up in the CRC in the 1960s Sabbath observance entailed a rigorous set of rules to be kept. At that time there were many stores closed on Sunday, particularly in Grand Rapids area. Families used to have a Sunday dinner together and avoided going to a restaurant on Sunday, mainly to protect the right to rest for those who worked on Sunday in a restaurant. Playing was allowed, but mainly on the back of the house, no playing on the front lawn. Going to the beach or to the cinema were things you don’t do on Sunday, and using the scissors, sowing, riding the bike or playing ball were also forbidden practices. Some say that their parents allowed them to play catch, but there were not allowed to use a bat. There was limited TV time and definitely no football time on Sunday.
But what is God’s will for you in the fourth commandment?
The Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 103 is very clear on this: First, “that the gospel and education for it be maintained, and that, especially on the festive day of rest, I regularly attend the assembly of God’s people, to learn what God’s Word teaches, to participate in the sacraments, to pray to God publicly, and to bring Christian offerings for the poor.” Worship on Sunday is purposeful and meaningful, it orders our life in a 6+1 rhythm that seems to be established by God.
Second, the forth commandment tells me that “every day of my life I rest from my evil ways, let the Lord work in me through his Spirit, and so begin already in this life the eternal Sabbath.” Rest from evil ways is not only happening on the Sabbath day, but on every day of the week, in fact on Sunday I am reminded that on Monday I have to rest from my evil ways, and on Friday too.
We are also reminded that rest means letting God work in us through the Spirit, instead of putting our efforts to work our salvation by ourselves, to realize that we are dependent on the Spirit, and finally, to understand that we can begin here the eternal Sabbath to which we are called and designed for.
God could have made Adam and Even on the 3rd or 4th day, asking them to help him in the work of creation, just as the Egyption creation stories say that the gods got tired of creating and that’s when they made human being to continue the work of creating and to allow the gods to rest. In Genesis Adam and Eve are created on the 6th day, when everything else is ready for them to enjoy, and in fact their first full day of life is the day of rest. The 7th day does not end like the other six days, with an evening, pointing that God continues to rest, and that Adam and Eve were invited to rest with him.
The truth is that we live in a restless culture, but in Genesis 2:1-4 we are reminded that we’re created for rest. God created us for rest, and we ought to be people who rest, from our worries, from our anxieties, but also from our physical work.