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Sunday, July 17, 2011

7/18/11 A Need for Rest (updated 12/25/11)

The Ten Commandments: The Fourth Command: Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy

 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

("Come Unto Me" Carl Heinrich Bloch 1834-90)

Thoughts: Americans have willingly embraced a part of their inheritance while disowning the foundation (and motivation) for what they do.  Americans embrace the Protestant work ethic.  It is the ethic that says work and productivity is good. However, the ethic was founded on the belief that we are created to glorify God with our lives and with our work (not so widely embraced today).  So today, 35% of Americans work on weekdays as well as weekends (  Americans work 30% more than their European counterparts- and this has risen from equal work hours in the 1970s ( 
At the same time, Gallup polls indicates that American sleep habits have decreased.  In 1942 84% of Americans slept 7+ hours a night.  Today that is only 56%.  Depression (often a sign of weariness) has risen to epidemic proportions as well.  30% of American women are depressed.  There is a striking rise in depression among children ( 
Americans are more in debt, and so they work to ease themselves out of debt (I owe, I owe so off to work I go).  We know we need self control and restraint but we are unwilling to bite the bullet of stopping ("Sabbath" means stopping). 
     This is easily seen in the demagoguery of our politicians who loudly indicate that we need to stop going into debt, but are not willing to make enough spending cuts.  It could be argued that while America defeated the idea of Marxist materialism when the USSR fell in 1989, yet it succumbed to the very materialism it defeated- living for work and visible things.  One check against materialism, and slavery to work was a corporate day of rest.  To say that there is no effect of the elimination of a Sabbath in the last generation would be naive.  In the South the practice of keeping a Sabbath kept the pace slower.  In the Western world, the Sabbath was instituted legally by Constantine in 321 when Christianity itself became legal.  Sabbath laws are still in effect in much of Europe (which may account for the 30% difference in work habits since the 1970s).  At the same time, pagers, cell phones, Internet accessibility, email, text messaging, social/business networking keep some from escaping work- even on days off and vacations.  We may easily buy/produce/sell 24/7.  The bigger question is "whether we should?"
     Christmas Day is perhaps the last remnant of a true Sabbath in our culture, and even that is being eroded.  It still is amazing that the tail-light to tail-light mall rush is stopped for one day between the last-minute-gift buyers and the returns or after-Christmas-sales.  One Christmas song that is appropriate is (From "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear")- "But you beneath life's crushing load whose forms are bending low; who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow; Look now for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing; and rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing."  Isaiah said when the Messiah came, he would bring "comfort" (Isa. 40:1).  Jesus said to come to him when we are weary, lacking peace, seeking comfort.  He is the comfort of our soul.  The Sabbath is one gift to us from God that keeps us from being slaves to our work, our earthly focus, or our debt.  Without a social consenus that we need more peace and more break it cannot happen.  But American history is full of weeks (until the 1960s) when we stopped and caught our breath and were renewed to dream, think, worship, and pray.
     In a culture busily spinning out of control with materialistic greed and lust for more, perhaps a call to come back to values and the Sabbath should be heard.  In a too-busy world, Jesus calls us to come to Him- when we are weary and heavy laden and He will give us rest to our souls. The Sabbath was not meant to be an inconvenience to us, as much as a break- a holiday for us.  It is a time to catch up on what is most important- our relationship with God, with others, and peace within our own hearts. 

Prayer: In a world that has a hard time resting, Lord, help me to find my rest in you.  Give me grace to take one day in seven to honor you.

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