Why stripping back Sundays is helping me to think about Sabbath

I’ve recently commented that having been in a position for most of my life where I’ve attended church at least twice on Sunday, sometimes more, that now being in a place where we are only attending once, it feels in some ways that for the first time, the Christian Sabbath is doing its job.

Now, there may have been a little bit of hyperbole there -though I don’t think too much. I don’t want you to think I’ve never enjoyed a Sunday, been encouraged, strengthened, refreshed.  To repeat again, I don’t specifically have a problem with churches opting to have more than one service and I would be very happy for us to do it again. 

What I was getting at is that sometimes we can confuse true Sabbath observance with how much time we spend at church and/or how many times we go.  Rather, our focus should be on whether the Sabbath Day is doing its job.  In that context, it’s worth remembering that whilst the Sabbath is a day for praising God, it is a day that Jesus said was made for us, rather than a day that we were made for. There is meant to be specific benefit for us.

In our case, reducing down our amount of time spent in meetings on Sundays has been helpful for two reasons. First, because we had been so busy on Sundays and this was true for many years.  We were of course in a unique situation at our last church of running several gatherings and there was a lot of logistical work to do.  So, when the pandemic hit and it meant doing things differently, we were probably among those who found it refreshing and as though a weight had been lifted off our our shoulders.

However, I think that the changes we experienced in the pandemic and then the different type of church life we’ve experienced post COVID in a different place mean that I could not just operate on auto-pilot assuming that it is the Lord’s Day and I’ve made it a Sabbath by how many times I’ve been. Rather, I’m actually thinking in terms of the results of the day.  I think that we are now in a place where the day refreshers us and is again a day of renewing joy and hope in the Lord. 

It will be so important, if and when we see things build up again as opportunities arise to help people to gather that we carry that mindset with us.

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