During the week, from Monday to Saturday, our lives our busy with many things. We toil away at school, going to classes, doing our homework, studying for tests. Some of you take music lessons. Others go to math or other supplementary classes. We do all of these things so that we can get by in this life and prepare for the next step. These are things we need to do to survive in our society today, so our lives are filled with doing things.
We also try to unwind by listening to music, maybe dancing in front of the mirror to practice the latest K-Pop moves, or watch YouTube videos, or shows on Netflix. Whether we’re working or unwinding, our lives are filled with a lot of activity.
Is a life filled with activity the purpose and meaning of our lives?
Let me ask questions another way: are we supposed to just be filled with activities seven days a week? Is coming to church on Sunday merely another activity in this busy schedule of activities?
Today’s passage is interesting. It takes place after all the other acts of creation were completed on the first six days. Let me clarify one thing: I don’t want you to look at this through our modern, scientific lens. The writer of Genesis didn’t know anything about modern science, so I don’t think he was talking literally in a scientific way about six days. Rather, he was talking in a spiritual way. That’s how we have to look at this passage.
For the first six days, God created the heavens and the earth. Chapter 1 talks about how God took what was a formless void and darkness, and created the universe as we know it. So really, after six days, God’s work was done, wasn’t it?
But no! Verse 2 says: “And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done…” God was done the actual creating, but God’s work wasn’t finished until the seventh day. Aha. So there’s a big clue. If there’s no more creating to do, then what more work is there?
God created the seventh day to give meaning, purpose and significance to the other six days. In other words, the seventh day is what makes the other six days worth living. You know what I’m saying? Many of us tend to think of Sunday – the Sabbath – as just a day to rest or a day off so that we can plunge back into the days that really matter, the other six days of the week. Isn’t that true? Sundays are just a day to recuperate so we can get back to the real business of life.
But God is telling us that it’s the opposite way around: that the seventh day is the what gives meaning to the others.
There are three words the author uses: rest, bless, and hallow (or make holy).
The first is that God “rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.” This is the first requirement of the Sabbath.
In Jewish tradition, Jews are not supposed to do any work on the Sabbath. There’s a reason for this. When we are busy doing things, are minds are not clear to focus on life. We are distracted and our attention is elsewhere. Real rest is to be free from everything that distracts our attention. So even “relaxing” is a distracting thing when we are “doing” something like being on our phones or watching stuff.
Rest involves letting go of doing anything so that we can focus on life. When we focus, we can start reflecting honestly on our lives. By doing so, we can start connecting with the source of our life – God.
When we can really “rest” in this sense, then we are ready for the next word: bless. To be blessed is to celebrate with joy and delight. We celebrate when we realize once again that I am not just a machine. I am a beloved child of God. I am here in community with the people of God. These realizations give me hope and strength to get through the challenges I face during the other six days of the week.
The last word, “hallowed” means to make holy. What does this mean? To be holy means to set apart. We set ourselves apart for God on this day. What does this mean? It means we first have to truly “rest” – meaning, we let go of all other activity that takes our attention away. Because then we can focus on the presence of God. When we are in God’s presence and focusing honestly on our lives, we become calm and quiet in our hearts. We take our worship and the presence of God seriously, not lightly and casually.
The Sabbath is meant for life. It is one of the greatest gifts we have. It gives us purpose and meaning in our lives. It reminds us that we are not here aimlessly and without meaning. When we quiet our selves and come into the presence of God, we connect again with the source of life. It gives meaning to the other six days of the week.
My friends, let’s cherish this gift we have. Let us allow the Sabbath to restore life. So let’s take it more seriously. On Sunday mornings, let’s try removing all distractions. If you can, don’t go on your phones. That’s probably the best practical thing. If you make this a habit, you’ll be surprised how much it will affect you. Secondly, come to church with a sense of expectation and excitement. This will be a time where you can reflect honestly on life and what you’re going through. You will be able to do this with a loving community with whom you can share life. It is a time for celebration. And it is a holy day. Let us take this gift seriously. When we come, let’s allow our hearts to be ready to praise, to sing, to reflect and pray. And also, like we shared last week, ready to be alert for those who might be struggling or left out. Let us thank God for the gift of Sabbath.