(An Excerpt from the Sermon)
Sermon Series: Relationship Killers
We've lost who we are and we're struggling to connect.
Even in the church, where we are supposed to find true connections, many of us are not in community groups because we are very, very busy. We cannot stay and enjoy time after service because we're rushing to Costco or Walmart or somewhere because we need to get things done. Some of us rush out of service right after the sermon ends. We don't even wait for worship. We miss the weekend services because we have sports and schoolwork and so much more. When God came down to rescue the Israelites, He restored two things:
1. Their identity.
2. He restored their rhythms.
This is done through the establishment of the Sabbath rest. This day is vital for the relationship with God and with each other. So, number one, God restores their relation, their identity. They were God's children.
In Exodus 3:7-8, He says,
“I have seen the oppression of My people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them.”
This is further confirmed in Exodus 31:12-17,
“Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Now as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘You must keep My Sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, so that you may know that I am the Lord who sanctifies you. Therefore you are to keep the Sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who prevents it must be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from his people. For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is Sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death. So the sons of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to celebrate the Sabbath throughout their generations as a permanent covenant.’ It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed.”
The command here is in the context of the creation story. It is also a confirmation that they were God's people. Sabbath is assigned “between Me and you forever.” The Sabbath is to be assigned at a time for remembering the distinct relationship between Yahweh and the people of Israel.
Number two, He restores their rhythm. God worked, we are to work. God rested, we are to rest.
Deuteronomy 5:12-15 says,
“Keep the Sabbath day to treat it as holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. For six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the LORD your God; you shall not do any work that day, you or your sons or your daughters, or your male slave or your female slave, or your ox, your donkey, or your cattle, or your resident who stays with you, so that your male slave and your female slave may rest as well as you. And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to celebrate the Sabbath day.”
The context here for this one, in Deuteronomy, is that you take the Sabbath day because you were a slave in Egypt. But my rhythm and my life is going to be different from yours. God says to them, in both scriptures, the Sabbath is sacred and to the Lord, it is to be treated as set apart. Holy. The surrounding nations never ceased from work. So, when the Israelites entered the land, this day was going to set them apart. There would be so much pressure to be like the nations around them – to work, work, work. But the Sabbath was to set them apart from the other nations.
What do we do to improve our relationships through Sabbath rest?
1. Stop and cease.
A few years ago I was doing research on the Christian roots of worship. I got to visit a synagogue and what I experienced was amazing. Everything stops for the Jews. Everything stops. Work stopped and they gathered together for worship. It was one of my favorite worship services I ever attended. It was beautiful. They were singing so loudly, rehearsing Psalms, and dancing. The kids were just having a great time in the synagogue. After service there was a feast. They just ate and delighted in each other. No one was rushing, no one was going anywhere. They just sat and had a conversation for almost two hours. It was amazing. Then there were family gatherings right after that. They went home and lit candles and prayed. It was an amazing time. You could sense the depth of love, warmth, fellowship, and authenticity. Busyness, noise, and the lack of rest, is a relationship killer that steals deep connections that we need in our marriages, families, friendships, and in church.
If we never slow down to connect with ourselves, to know who we are, to delight in the things that we love, how can our relationships thrive? We slow down to connect with God, to connect with ourselves and others during the Sabbath. Sabbath is a length of time, typically 24 hours, set aside for rest in God. It doesn't matter what day it is. It could also be 12, 16, or 24 hours. It's just a time set aside to rest in God.
My family has done Sabbath differently during different seasons. Sometimes we would light the candle on a Friday night, put all the phones away till 12:00 PM Saturday, the next day, have a meal, no rush at all, and enjoy conversation. Or we focused on resting and reading aloud, playing family games together. Being actively with each other in a fun, relaxing environment. Sometimes focusing on having specific meaningful conversations. Or watching shows and movies that only add value to our lives and then we’d discuss them together. We’d go to a beach or on a hike. Places that can take us to God's creation so that we can have God-centered conversations. In order to truly experience being God's children, in order to know ourselves, in order to connect deeper in our relationships, Sabbath rest is absolutely important. It sets us apart from the world systems of work, work, work and sets us under God's rhythm of rest and work.
What do we do to improve our relationships through Sabbath rest? We have misconceptions about what practicing Sabbath looks like. We think it's walking around all somber with nothing to do, all sad, laying around doing nothing. No. Sabbath is God's gift and it’s meant to be enjoyed.
What do you do on Sabbath? One, it's a period set aside to stop. Just stop. In the word “Sabbath” is the inbuilt meaning to stop. We stop all kinds of work unless the work is restful. We stop projects, term papers, answering emails, returning phone messages, cleaning the house. On Sabbath, Pete Scazzero says, you embrace your limits. You are a human being.
On the Sabbath day, you remember that the world will turn and continue going on without you. You can put everything in God's hands and sing that lovely song that says “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” The problem is that many of us think that if we stop, the world is going to collapse. The world would end because you have stopped. Everything will come tumbling down like Humpty Dumpty. The real issue is that you don't trust God to run the world. If you trust God to run the world, you will focus on connecting with people.
So we need to stop the chronic pain, the chronic need, to work in our own way. Put the computer and the phone away. Give your kids 12 to 24 hours of no TV, no cellphone. Your children, guess what, they will default to talking to you. Give yourself some hours away from the screen. Friday is my day off, I try my best not to answer any work emails or texts, unless it's an emergency. I don’t watch the news on Fridays either. And no social media. It becomes a little more serious during the evening.
What does rest look like for you? Engage in activities that take your mind away from work. Like a good, lovely nap. Maybe it's a hike, a slow walk. Rest for me looks like this: I love to laugh. Maybe a Mr. Bean movie, or something like that, that makes me laugh. If I can enjoy a good, wholesome, funny comedy, I will be restful. So rest from work, from physical exhaustion, from hurriedness, from multitasking, and from worry and decision making, technology, and maybe even talking – because some of us just keep talking all the time, right?
What happens when you rest? You are able to engage in relationships because you are fully present. Your mind can fully participate in going deeper with those people who are in your marriage, your siblings, your sports, whatever it is, your relationships will definitely get deeper.
What is delighting? It is getting or receiving joy and pleasure from something. It is slowing down to enjoy the pleasures of life. Because we are always rushing around from school, to soccer practice, to football practice, to track, to dance, to all this. And then we're yelling at one kid and rushing to work with no time to really taste our food and driving so fast that we don't even notice the big beautiful tree that's down the street from you. On this day, to delight means that you take your time, you eat your food, savoring it. Mmm, it's lovely food. If you're a young person, a young man of 14, don't just push the food down like Cookie Monster. No, slow down. Enjoy the taste. Watch the sunset or sunrise with your favorite people. Quality time, undisturbed, uninterrupted. No phones in hand, no TV in the background. This can be a time that your child can clearly see that there is nothing more important to mom or dad than the simple act of being with them. On Sabbath, God invites us to delight in people.
So I try as much as I can on Friday, on my day off, not to hurry unless I have to. I try not to take the freeway. I try to notice things around me that I may have missed. New shops, flowers, trees. On that day I also delight in really washing my wife's car. It gives me great joy when Tanya drives away in a clean car because it helps her start her week less stressed. Now, washing a car may not be the thing for you. It may not bring you delight. That's okay. Going to the beach may not be your thing. Running may not be your thing. That's okay. What is it for you that helps you rest?
The whole idea of delight comes from Genesis 1:31,
“And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”
God delighted, He was overjoyed, and was filled with pleasure in all He had done. So He slowed down to enjoy it. Slow down and delight in your relationships.
The final and probably the most important aspect of Sabbath is contemplation of God. Sabbath is set apart for God according to Exodus chapter 31, verse 15.
In Deuteronomy, 5:1414 says this,
"But the seventh day is Sabbath of the LORD your God."
So we spent time in immersed in God's and folding devotion to us. We set aside to be His presence, feasting in His word, praying, maybe some silence and some solitude. The more we feast on God's presence, not rushed, but being still, the more we become what God wants us to be. If we all spent more time contemplating on God and loving union with him, our relationships would be fuller and they would be thriving. Jesus said that we are not made for Sabbath, but that Sabbath was made for us. So we are supposed to find pleasure on Sabbath day. It helps us connect with God, with ourselves, and with others.
Do you want to be a better wife? Do you want to be a better husband, a better brother, a better sister, a better coworker, cousin, grandpa, or grandma? When was the last time you slowed down? When was the last time you stopped, you rested, delighted, and contemplated? When was the last time you just stopped doing and started being?
The challenge that I have for you, maybe over the next week or two, is to take an 8 to 24 hours Sabbath rest.
If you have family, include them in the Sabbath rest. Make it fun. Connect with God, yourself, and be intentional about your relationships. Let's be different from what the world has for us because we are no longer enslaved to that system of the world. Let's see how different our relationships will be. God rescued us from being slaves to sin and idols like busyness through the death of Jesus Christ and His resurrection. So, I challenge you this next week or two, take Sabbath rest and see what God can do for you and how He can rebuild your relationships.
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