Rest – The unforced rhythm of Grace
Matthew 11:28-30(The Message)
George Methodist Church
With Peter Veysie
1st August 2021
8am and 10am
Background to Sabbath
The Sabbath is commanded by God
Every week religious Jews observe the Sabbath, the Jewish holy day, and keep its laws and customs.
The Sabbath begins at nightfall on Friday and lasts until nightfall on Saturday. In practical terms the Sabbath starts a few minutes before sunset on Friday and runs until an hour after sunset on Saturday, so it lasts about 25 hours.
God commanded the Jewish People to observe the Sabbath and keep it holy as the fourth of the Ten Commandments.
The idea of a day of rest comes from the Bible story of the Creation: God rested from creating the universe on the seventh day of that first week, so Jews rest from work on the Sabbath.Genesis 2:1-3
Jews often call the day Shabbat, which is Hebrew for Sabbath, and which comes from the Hebrew word for rest.
A reminder of the Covenant.Deuteronomy 5: 12 -15
The Sabbath is part of the deal between God and the Jewish People, so celebrating it is a reminder of the Covenant and an occasion to rejoice in God’s kept promises.
A gift from God
Most Jewish people look forward to Shabbat all week. They see it as God’s gift to his chosen people of a day when they take time out from everyday things to feel special.
Shabbat is a time with no television, no rushing to the demands of the telephone or a busy work schedule.
People don’t think about work or other stressful things.
It’s an oasis of calm, a time of stillness in life.
The traditional Sabbath greetings are Shabbat Shalom (Hebrew), or Gut Shabbos (Yiddish).
A family time
Shabbat is very much a time when families come together in the presence of God in their own home.
Singles, or others with no family around may form a group to celebrate Shabbat together.
In order to avoid work and to ensure that the Sabbath is special, all chores like shopping, cleaning, and cooking for the Sabbath must be finished before sunset on Friday.
People dress up for Shabbat and go to considerable trouble to ensure that everything is organised to obey the commandment to make the Sabbath a delight.
Sabbath candles are lit at sunset on a Friday. The woman of the house usually performs this ritual. It is an integral part of Jewish custom and ceremony.
The candles are placed in candlesticks. They mark the beginning of each Sabbath and represent the two commandments Zachor (to remember the Sabbath) and Shamor (to observe the Sabbath).
After the candles are lit, Jewish families will drink wine. Sabbath wine is sweet and is usually drunk from a special goblet known as the Kiddush Cup. The drinking of wine on the Sabbath symbolises joy and celebration.
It is also traditional to eat challah, a soft rich eggy bread in the shape of a braid. Challah is a eaten on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays except for the Passover when leavened bread is not permitted.
Under Jewish law, every Jew must eat three meals on the Sabbath. One of the meals must include bread. Observant Jews will usually eat challah at the beginning of a Sabbath meal.
Before the challah is eaten, the following prayer is recited:
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha’olam, hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz.
Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.
Other blessings, prayers, songs and readings may also be used.
It is traditional, too, for parents to bless their children on Shabbat.
The blessing for daughters asks that they become like the four matriarchs, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, while sons are blessed to grow up like Ephraim and Menasheh, two brothers who lived in harmony.
Some of the family will have been to synagogue before the Sabbath meal, and it is likely that the whole family will go on Saturday.
I feel like it’s so important for us to really just take a look again at the sabbath and please be assured that I am not about to change our Sunday worship to a Friday – Saturday,although I want to really honour those who do.
It seems like we are always running and not resting. Our shops are open and it’s business as usual and it as the lockdown levels get less crazy, we also tend to drop our guard and allow for more infections and more challenges with this pandemic. I see more and more people being deeply affected by this and some businesses just not recovering. Many people’s lives are upside down and we wonder when it will end. But in the midst of this absolute chaos there are some helpful things that we need to do before we are forced to do it because of our own stubborness.
Let’s have a look at some of the keys that Sabbath brings and maybe find ways to enable them to be a part of our lives.
1.Preperation. It’s critical for us to prepare for a time to have a rest. If we don’t plan it then it won’t happen. You have to create a space between the stimulus of life and your response or you will respond in a way that you don’t want to. Recognise your tired and worn outness before it recognises you !!! I often ask people about when they last had a break and it’s shocking to hear how few actually do it. You don’t need anything else but time and the opportunity to stop.
2. Switching off.
In Jewish custom everyhting is switched off and technology is locked up in a box until the end of the sabbath. I am not sure about you but I am surrounded by technology, social media and the call to respond to it on a daily basis. Woe betide the person who keeps you hanging on wattsapp without ticking your message with a blue tick !!! Or not responding to an email or instagram or telegram or Facebook. It’s exhausting and sadly also leads us to move away from engaging around the table and focussing in on the tablet. It’s not uncommon to see a whole family out to dinner and all of them on their cellphones. When we are looking at a screen it’s really difficult to really see what is going on in each others eyes and so turning off technology literally enables us to see each other. Children are given comforters these days which are iPads or laptops or cell phones and it’s cracy to see how clever a 2 year old can be.
Literally switching off from all the pulls on our life is healthy and don’t worry about those demanding humans or family members who may even think that you have fallen off the earth or gone AWOL !!! Just enjoy it !!!
3. Lighting a candle – light
The mother of a house traditionally lights a candle and places it in the window as a symbol for all to see that Shabbatt has begun. It’s like a powerful do not disturb sign but it also has such a calming effect. When we have loadshedding is’nt it nice to just quieten down and light the candles but why wait for the loadshedding when you can do it whenever you like. It also reminds us of the light that shines in our homes – The Light of the World. It reminds us to Shine like stars in the universe. It is an opportunity to fill our homes with light where darkness has crept in and needs to be removed !!!
4. A greeting Shabbat shalom – rest with peace quite literally.
Debbie and I spent two months in Israel on a Kibbutz and it was a beautiful thing to hear everyone greeting each other in this way. Can you just imagine if it was in our custom to say to each other happy rest day and peace. We need this. In this covid state of being it is so easy to just walk by people with our masks on. We are afraid of talking even in a que just in case people think that we are crossing the line. We have become suspect of each other and this is so sad. When we arrived in George from JHB, we could not get over how people would so easily greet each other and wave at complete strangers. Politeness at a four way stop was almost unheard of in JHB as people rushed to get from one place to another.
5. A family or friendship time
Rest literally gives us opportunity to have family or friendship time and to play and have fun and to listen and hear each other without the noise of the outside world or technology. A real rest from the Lord enables us to see each other and to be there for each other.
6. A time for others
This time can be an opportunity also to meet the needs of others with our own particular gifts. To open up our hearts to give of our time to care and share with others. It’s always interesting for me that the sabbath did not stop Jesus from healing. Matthew 12:9-14 It’s highly significant that he says :9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shrivelled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’
11 He said to them, ‘If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’
13 Then he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. Love this !!!
7. A meal or two or three with wine
Something beautiful normally happens around a table and it gives us an opportunity to give thanks for all that we have and also to enjoy the very provision from Above. I love a meal and it is great when the food is good and the conversation just gets better. The joy of having a good laugh to the point of choking and then in the Sabbath of your meal to brak bread and give thanks with bread and wine or grape juice. 1 Cor 11:23-26
8. Dressing up !!!
It’s becoming more and more common for us not to dress up and I must say that I am the first to enjoy just relaxing and being casual, but it is rather fun to get dressed up for an occasion and occasionally maybe we should just dress up not to go out but to stay in and to celebrate in a sense the joy of our rest. On Friday nights in Jerusalem you see families going out to join their families walking together all dressed up and ready for Shabbatt. You hear singing and then sometimes dancing as people share in their rest and peace.
9. Remembering – story time
We also need to learn the fine art of stroytelling as well and this enables us without technology to share stories and love with others.
10.Prayer and scripture and worship – corporate and personal.
Finally it’s an opportunity for prayer scripture and worship both corporately and personally. We have to find time to do this or we will not do it at all. It’s our life blood and the time for us to gather to connect and to enter into a spiritual space of life and love and worship. This is so critical for our beings. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace – find rest for your soul and watch how Jesus does it!!
The promise – YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOUL !!!