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Lenten Devotion

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March 16, 2021

All Day

God’s Invitation for Stress Prevention

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing;

so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.

Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2:2-3)

The Sabbath is a day set aside for rest and worship of God. We live in a fast-paced, action-oriented world. There is always something to do and no time to rest. Yet, on the seventh day of creation, God demonstrated that rest from work is appropriate. He himself rested from all the work he had done. He blessed the day and made it holy.

Many of us struggle to take a day of rest, a time-out, a Sabbath. Throughout the Bible people also struggled to keep the Sabbath commandment (Exodus 20:8-11). The Pharisees established many rules to prevent the Jewish people from working or basically doing anything on a Sabbath. But these rules made the Sabbath a burden rather than a gift.

There are several recorded incidents in the Bible where Jesus reminds the people of the true meaning of Sabbath. One such example is when Jesus’ disciples, one Sabbath, picked grain in the fields because they were hungry (Matthew 12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5).

Jesus also performed the miracles of healing and driving out demons on the Sabbath. This honored God by helping those in need. When the Pharisees accused him, Jesus rebuked them by asking “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” (Mark 3:4). To clarify the purpose of the Sabbath Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

In Switzerland on a Sunday, stores, offices, factories and schools are closed; public transportation is reduced; drivers (Sonntagsfahrer) are slower and there are beautiful nature walks (Sonntagsspaziergänge). However, our family still struggles to fully rest on the Sabbath. There is always a backlog of work, chores and duties that have piled up during the week: housework, laundry, gardening, homework, studying for a test, etc. I am guilty of occasionally preparing for work on a Sunday evening. This lack of rest causes stress!

One Sunday, just before a busy week loaded with tests, our daughter Helena announced that from now on she would be keeping the Sabbath and would not study or do homework on Sundays. She informed us that she needed a day to relax after a busy week of school. My first reaction was shock, but then on second thought, I realized that Helena was right. Her decision to obey demonstrated her faith and trust in God. After all, spiritual and physical renewal is more important than receiving half a mark higher on a test.

So, do we accept the Sabbath as a gift and blessing that God made for us?

Do we keep the Sabbath holy in order to

   - worship God for his creation and who he is?

   - make attending church services our priority?

   - have a day of rest for our spiritual, emotional and physical renewal?

This is an invitation – actually a command – from God for stress prevention.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, we thank you for giving us the Sabbath. To keep the Sabbath holy, help us learn to take a day of rest in our busy, work-oriented world. We ask you for spiritual, physical and emotional renewal and prevention from stress and burnout. In your precious name we pray. Amen.

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