What did you do with your Daylight Savings Time extra hour yesterday? Did you even notice that you had one? Or perhaps you, like me, didn’t think that so-called extra hour made any difference. After all, it will be stolen from us next spring.
As I sat in worship yesterday morning, those thoughts contrasted with the sermon topic: Recapturing the Sabbath. Without laying a guilt trip on the overworked, unrested members of the congregation, the speaker went on to explain how Sabbath rest is actually a gift from God.
God had miraculously rescued the children of Israel from harsh servitude, and they were beginning the trek to the Promised Land. But as one preacher put it, “between bondage and blessing lay the wilderness.” They began to fret about food supply now that leeks and garlic weren’t growing so well in the desert. “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to rain bread (manna) from heaven for you and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day.’” Eventually God would add quail protein to their diet.
It was in these circumstances that the people learned about Sabbath rest. “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord; bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning…’ And the Lord said to Moses, ’See! the Lord has given you the Sabbath, therefore on the sixth day he gives you food for two days…’ So the people rested on the seventh day.
When I was a girl, we (meaning my dad and I!) did no work on Sunday. My mother, of course, had risen early to begin cooking what would rest in the oven and be ready for a delicious dinner after church. But even she did no other work on Sundays. Sometimes we took a ride into the country, sometimes family and friends visited. Yes, there was a hint of legalism about the practices (or non-practices) although I don’t recall a sense of heaviness about the day. My hardworking parents sensed that in addition to Sabbath-keeping as a command, the gift of one full day away from labor in a factory, in the garden, in the house was to be treasured.
But are we to understand this Sabbath-gift as only a what-you-don’t-do-on-Sunday? But could there be a reason beyond obedience for Sabbath keeping? Is there something deeper that God wants us to grasp and experience? Could it be that God is asking us to intentionally carve out that “extra hour” on a regular basis? That we will find unexpected treasure as we unwrap the gift of Sabbath?
Rev. John W. Sonnenday writes: “Sabbath is a gift. Not a burden. It is a gift of time free from the (world’s) competitiveness and coercion and manipulation and exploitation and abuse and anxiousness.”
I don’t gather manna or boil quail. My days are full with meetings, people, study, appointments, tasks, deadlines and more. When and where and how is my Sabbath? When I do purposely set aside that time—whether on Sunday or, preferably, every day—is my mind fully concentrated on him? Do I open the gift he has given and become hilarious with joy with what I discover?
You may be a person who has too much time. Maybe you live alone, far from family and empty of friends. Are your “extra” hours merely void of activity or are you finding unexplainable depth of intimacy with the Savior? Activity-driven and activity-less people are recipients of the Sabbath gift just waiting to be opened.