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What does keeping the Sabbath look like?

Question & Answer


Q: By Dr. Wally

Why have Christians abandoned the sabbath established by God?

A: By Toni Ann Reynolds

Dear Dr. Wally,

I fear I have more questions in response to your question. Mostly because when I think about the biblical rules “established by God” it seems that very few people currently abide by them in the way they were initially prescribed. I do not think this is a bad thing. Good faith, practical faith, adapts and metabolizes as it needs to. I wonder what your idea of keeping the Sabbath looks like? I also wonder what kind of growth you had to endure in order to learn that keeping the Sabbath means what it means to you. What gentle, and graceful help can you be to others as they volunteer their struggle of keeping the Sabbath?

I’m tempted to go into a short diatribe about a potential reason being the dysfunctional culture of congregational life. The same culture that means pastors have no time for a spiritual practice of their own because of the excessive, and often absurd, expressions from congregations. I’m wondering if some of the reasons the Sabbath keeping practices look different now has to do with our culture. We can click buttons and have just about anything done for us, delivered to our door, cleaned up, etc. Are we expecting faith leaders to do our spiritual work for us, the way that hired people in our Monday-Saturday lives do other difficult work for us?

I do not agree with you completely- that Christians have abandoned the Sabbath. I don’t know all Christians, and I don’t know how all Christians actually do/don’t observe the Sabbath, nor how they have adapted their readings of scripture to make sense in a world where boxes talk to us and we can see our living rooms from the other side of the world. The prescription given to the people who wrote the bible, again and again before it reached the NIV or NRSV, was not this world you and I now occupy.

This is a moment where my former Christian self would envy Judaism and Islam for the way they value successive interpretations of scripture for each generation of followers. Despite their controversies, these collective attempts to make sense of scripture in an ever-changing world are models of metabolizing faith practices as the world around us evolves. Since Christians don’t have this aspect, I like to think that it’s an invitation to healthy freedom. Freedom to decide what element(s) of your weekly life hinder, or simply strain your relationship with God. Whatever the answer is, that’s the thing that should be put on rest. If not for a full day, then after 5pm; or before noon each day. Ultimately, rules aside, it is up to each of us to govern ourselves in a way that keeps us moving in the Light of Love. Regardless of what all other Christians are doing, perhaps it is most advantageous to become lovingly disciplined about your personal respect for a day that is of utmost importance to you. That way your presence can speak and people can learn from you as they witness the power of your practice.

~ Toni Anne Reynolds

About the Author
Minister Toni Anne Reynolds is committed to singing flesh onto the bones of the Christian tradition by incorporating recently found texts of the ancient world into liturgy, sermons, and poetry. Toni’s Christianity forms a holy trinity with the psychological medicine of Tibetan Buddhism and the eternal Life found in Yoruba traditions. Balanced in an eclectic faith and focused in theology, Toni’s ministry offers a unique perspective on life, theology, and spirituality.

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