Between rest and action –
Live according to God’s rhythm
Church at the train station, Frankenberg, October 23rd, 2023
The secretary looks out the window, lost in thought.
Suddenly the boss comes and asks: “What do you do on Sundays?” “Nothing,” she says and smiles at her boss. “Then may I remind you that today is not Sunday.”
Between calm and action.
There is a time to work and there is a time to rest and recover. This morning is a time to recharge in God’s presence. So sit back and at the same time pay attention to what God wants to say to you this morning.
Last week we started our new series. We have found that it is not a question of these two sides of peace and action being in opposition to each other, but that we often find it difficult to find a healthy balance. We live in a fast-paced, hectic and restless time and this often kills our joy, our peace, our relationships and even our relationship with God. It is difficult for us to find peace both externally and internally.
We have heard Jesus’ invitation, who wants to give us life to the full and who invites us to come to him, to find rest with him, to lay down our burdens, but also to learn from him for our lives.
He invites us to live out of this relationship with him because we are in danger of overemphasizing performance and work and defining ourselves by it. And then we looked at how we can recharge with God, how Jesus did it and what that means for our everyday life.
You will rediscover some of these aspects this morning, because it is again about finding peace.
We will look at something that God gives us in return: namely a whole day. This morning it’s about the Sabbath, Sunday, and how God gives us a rhythm that makes it worth living!
This rhythm is one day older than us humans.
I read the Bible text from Exodus 20, 8-11 :
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is , and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
The word “Sabbath” means “to rest,” “to celebrate,” “to stop doing something.”
What we just read is one of the 10 Commandments. The 10 Commandments are God’s good rules for a successful life. God gave them to the people of Israel after they came out of slavery in Egypt to show them how their lives as free people can be successful: in relationship with God, with themselves and in their interactions with one another.
Jesus took up and confirmed these rules in the New Testament.
Rules that are supposed to do us good, rules that are supposed to protect us and allow our lives to unfold. Not a restriction, but a gift to us because God knows what is good for us. And if we look at the commandments, I think we agree with that
It is not good to steal, to commit adultery. We do not want anyone to do that to us and it makes sense to us not to do that to others either.
But with the commandment that we are talking about today, even believing people have their difficulties.
We say: We can’t afford this, do you actually know my life? I have so much to do. I am myself and constantly and there is always something going on and I constantly have to make sure that it continues.
Or we say: It just doesn’t work.
I have a deadline, my project has to be finished, I have to finish my paper for school, I’m writing an important paper, my budget is looking like. It’s not working.
If we apply this reasoning to the other commandments:
It’s not possible, I just have to kill. So this week I’m going to commit adultery, just a little bit, then next week not again.
Do we realize how stupid that sounds? The Sabbath commandment is on the same level as all the other commandments. We should take God just as seriously. And at the same time they are rules that are good for us and it is crazy that God wants to give us a day off and that makes us feel restricted.
So let’s take a look at what the Sabbath is all about and how we can put it into practice. And the first thing we have to see is:
- The Sabbath is for us humans
We just read that we should rest because God rested in creation on the 7th day.
That’s a strange idea. I don’t think God rested because he was so exhausted, but because he wanted to set an example for us. We read that we are created in the image of God. God has designed a rhythm for our lives because He knows we need it. 6 days of work and 1 day of rest.
Now it’s like this:
The whole creation is subject to a rhythm: spring, summer, autumn and winter. Day and night also have such a rhythm. These are rhythms that are in nature. There’s nothing we can do about it and they’re good for us. The creation rhythm of 6:1, on the other hand, is different because it is in our hands whether we live it or not.
We all know that, there is so much to do.
And if not work at work or school, then work at home. This can captivate us so much that we can’t or don’t want to stop. This can be clearly observed in our society.
The urge to be able to achieve something or to have to achieve something is so strong. Everything seems possible and it is entirely in your hands. If you just work hard enough, you can achieve anything. Career, money, status. We are available 24/7. We take our cell phones home with us, we work from home, we just check a message, etc.
In Exodus 31:14 we read that God says: Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
And you know, that’s exactly what we’re experiencing. When we power through, when we don’t find peace, we feel exhausted, our irritability increases, we lose our joy and peace, our relationships suffer, we suffer ourselves and we cut ourselves off from the power of God.
I don’t even want to list it all anymore, I already said a lot about it last week. Something inside us dies.
In 1929, Sunday was abolished in Russia with the introduction of the five-day week with continuous working hours.
But it soon became clear that this wasn’t working. Then they experimented a bit until they finally returned to the seven-day week and Sunday in 1940. It was found that everything else was affecting family and social life and that the expected increase in production was not occurring.
The Sabbath is for us humans.
God knows we need a break to recharge. That’s why he created this rhythm like that.
In Deuteronomy chapter 5:12-15 the Sabbath commandment is repeated again.
Everything exactly the same, but with a different reason:
Verse 15 : And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.
You might be thinking, what does this have to do with me?
This is Israel and Egypt and I was never a slave. But have you ever noticed how often we are slaves to the pressure to perform and work and can’t find peace?
The Sabbath is an invitation and a reminder: remember to live from your identity that God gives you. With him we are recognized, loved without performance. We don’t need to earn anything, neither from him nor from people.
Last week we talked about the promise through Isaiah that with the coming of the Messiah, Jesus, the driver’s rod is broken, he will lead us out of slavery, and the Sabbath is an invitation and a reminder: Think about living out of the identity God gives you. With him we are recognized, loved without performance. We don’t need to earn anything, neither from him nor from people.
When we internalize this identity, we become more relaxed and no longer live so driven lives. God creates man and what is man’s first day? The Sabbath, the day of rest, where it is said that God and man walk in the Garden of Eden and live out their relationship. Where Adam can enjoy everything that God has created. Not: Adam, we have to get started now and give the animals their names.
And this is what Jesus says when he calls his disciples:
Mark 3:14 : And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach
What is the order here: The first is that they be with him.
It’s all about this. We often live like this: work, work, work, and then finally rest, I deserve it. But God thought it the other way around: We should not live for rest but from rest . And from this calm, from his presence, we can then shine for Jesus in everyday life. We don’t get inner peace and peace by keeping a certain day. We find true rest for our souls in our relationship with Jesus Christ.
In Exodus 16 we read an interesting story about the people of Israel.
The people are out in the desert complaining because they have nothing to eat. And God announces that he will provide them with manna. But they are only allowed to collect for that day. Of course, some people don’t do that, they stock up, and it promptly goes bad.
Now on the 6th day God suddenly says, Gather double and save it for the 7th day because then it will be a day of rest for the Lord and there will be nothing to collect. Here the Sabbath is mentioned for the first time, even before the commandments.
Why shouldn’t the manna rot now?
Isn’t it always the case? So the people gather and it actually doesn’t rot this time. Some of the people didn’t trust God and still wanted to go collect manna. But they found nothing.
Two things are clear about this story:
Namely, God cares for each new day and He also cares when the people observe the day of rest. Conversely, it can also be seen that he does not bless the work on his day of rest. People can’t find anything, they’ve searched in vain. Your work is not blessed.
In the same way, God also cares for your life, for what you need and for what is good for you.
How quickly we forget God because of our efforts. But it is he who blesses, or not. If we cannot rest, then we are not letting God be God.
“I’m so important, I can’t afford to rest.” That’s what we say.
That shows something about our faith, about our trust, whether I know when I rest that there is someone else who will make sure that everything doesn’t go down the drain without me. Actually, the commandments do not say: You shall, but rather: You will. You will keep the Sabbath when you understand who God is, that you can trust him, and that it is good for you.
You will. I hope that we understand what God is actually giving us. So the Sabbath is there for us humans, we need it, we can recharge our batteries with Jesus and learn to live out of our identity in him as his beloved children and he takes care of us.
- The Sabbath is for God
I come back to Exodus 20:8 : 8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates
We have just seen that the Sabbath is there for us humans.
But he is the same way for God. We should sanctify this day. What does that mean?
Holy means: Separate, special. And we do it by making it different than the other days. God says we should stop doing the mundane things, work, laundry, cleaning, etc. And why?
To find peace, to have freedom, to be able to live my relationship with God.
Of course we live this relationship with God every day, but on this one day we have a lot of time to do it. Just like your relationship, your marriage, consists not only of conversations in between but hopefully also of times when you have more time together as a couple.
Because that’s exactly what helps a relationship deepen. Reading the Bible, praying, going to church services, we saw last week that we gain strength from this. So this is not something that costs us strength but rather something that gives us strength.
The second aspect is remembering what God has done, which makes us grateful and joyful
Just as the Sabbath was a reminder of that deliverance from Egypt and of the covenant God made with the Israelites, so our Sunday is a reminder that, the Bible says, we were once slaves of sin. Very early on the first day of the week on Easter morning, the women came to the empty tomb and from then on the first Christians met on that day to celebrate with each other (Acts 20:7) what Jesus had done for them and us. With his vicarious death on the cross, he paid for our guilt that separated us from God. With his resurrection he makes it clear that he has conquered death and can give us eternal life.
He offers us forgiveness of our sins and reconciliation with God. And everyone is invited to accept this gift and to be able to live in a new relationship with God again. So Sunday can and should remind us of the covenant that God made with us through Jesus:
You don’t live on what you have earned and achieved. You live by what God has done for you! You live from what Christ suffered and acquired for you through his death on the cross. You are his child, your sins are forgiven, you are free. That’s exactly what we’re about to celebrate together in the Lord’s Supper.
And so Sunday is not just a day of rest, not just a day off, but a holiday.
A day on which the community celebrates God together, a day on which we take more time than usual for God, for his word, for prayer, for the community. This is what makes Sunday a refueling day for the new week. That’s what makes Sunday Sunday. We make time for our relationship with God, we remember what He has done, and we celebrate Him for it.
So what can this look like in my life?
- How can I live God’s rhythm in my life
To answer that, I would like to look again at Jesus and how he did it:
23 And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. 24 And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful? 25 And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? 26 How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him? 27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: 28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath. 1 And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. 2 And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. 3 And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. 4 And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. 5 And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. 6 And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.
What we see here is a confrontation with the Pharisees.
They had a set of rules about what was and wasn’t allowed on the Sabbath. If we ask ourselves the question of what is permitted on the Sabbath and what is not, then it goes in a similar direction that we work through a catalog and think that we are now on the right side. It is precisely in this pattern that the scribes have developed a whole set of rules, which is all work in order not to violate the commandment. There are 39 categories, plus subcategories that have continued to be expanded to this day. One category, for example, was carrying loads.
Was it a burden to carry a child? And what if you were carrying a child who had a stone in his pocket? There was even a limit on how many nails the sandals you wore could have so that it wasn’t like carrying a load.
At the same time, the Pharisees tried to cheat. One category, for example, was travel. It was determined how many steps you were allowed to walk on the Sabbath. But now they wanted to travel further distances and then put a bag of water on the back of a donkey before they sat on it, because that would be a journey by water, and traveling by water was not forbidden on the Sabbath.
So we see that this had little to do with the attitude of the heart and little to do with the understanding of Sabbath that we were just talking about. Jesus himself says that the Sabbath is for man and not man for the Sabbath.
We have said it is about understanding that the Sabbath is for us and is for God.
That we learn to stop working, externally and internally in our thoughts, because God wants to give us gifts, that we rest and recharge our batteries, that we live our relationship with Jesus, and that we come to joy in remembering.
Jesus himself used the Sabbath in a special way to be there for people in need.
We just read that too. He listened, he also helped in a very practical way, he healed. And that is another dimension, namely that this day is also a day where we have time for each other. It is God’s gift for just that: time for the children, for the partner, for neighbors, the sick, the lonely, and in general: time for the next one. Just as God blesses me on this day, his blessing can and should flow through me to others. There is often little time for this during the working week. We honor God all the more when we nurture our relationships on Sunday and do good for others.
But Jesus also made sure that his disciples really rested ( Mark 6:31 ). At a point where many people wanted to see Jesus again, he simply took them with him and drove across the lake to somewhere else.
But Jesus, you could now say: All the people, what a missed opportunity. They do need you. Jesus went anyway. And I think there is a secret in this: to keep observing yourself and then being able to let go.
God wants us to find relaxation, to be able to realign ourselves and to recharge our batteries. If I spend my Sunday only serving others, then I am serving God in a way that He did not want. My connection to God decreases, my own performance decreases and in the end I burn out myself. And so I believe this day of rest has a triad: it is for relaxation for me, it is for God and it is for living together with others.
For most people, the day of rest is Sunday.
But there are also people who have to work on Sundays. Nowhere in the Old Testament is it mentioned which day the Sabbath falls on, it always says on the 7th day.
The first Christians who lived outside of Israel had to work among other peoples. There was no day off. They would then meet early or late for church service. They had no other option, but they upheld the value of a day off until Sunday became a national holiday under Emperor Constantine in 321 AD.
Today it is anchored in the Basic Law, and we should not give this freedom back so easily when so much is being watered down today.
So if you can, plan a 24-hour rest day a week.
If we don’t do this consciously, then it won’t happen. And if we want to live it that way, then we also need a certain amount of planning in advance. That I do everything beforehand that I don’t want to do on the rest day: working in and around the house, studying, etc.
For the Jews, the Sabbath begins on Friday evening at sunset.
Usually two candles are lit. Later there is a big meal with family or friends. There are several church services on Saturday. At the end of the Sabbath on Saturday evening, a candle is lit again because work is now allowed again.
With this ritual there is a conscious beginning and a conscious end to the Sabbath. And that can also be helpful for calming down. To realize that now I want to calm down externally and, above all, internally, to stop working, to focus on Jesus, to have time for others and for myself. I already talked about it last week.
And then I can fill the Sabbath with everything we saw earlier that is in God’s mind for that day.
In my phase as a schoolboy or student it looked different than it does now. I really tried not to study, at most I went through everything again in the evening for the next morning and that was it.
For me, this is both a commandment and a relaxed approach to this day. Today as a family we spend a lot of time together or with other families. The day should also be good for our children. They too should get something from God’s rhythm. But they can also learn that mom and dad can have a little time out for themselves or God and do something different during this time.
It is therefore natural for me to go to church services. Sure, I’m a pastor now, but even before that it was part of it. We always said:
If you celebrate late in the evening, you can also go to church early in the morning. If I expect to meet God there, then there is no better place.
Some people need a good book to really relax, others do sports or go for a walk, others visit good friends. Maybe it’s your turn to simply exhibit all media in the spirit of the rest day. Leaving the TV or computer off and not checking Facebook or Instagram to see who has posted everything again.
Last Sunday I said Jesus would say throw away your phone. By that I don’t mean throwing it in the trash, but simply putting it aside so that you can live this triad of relaxation for yourself, time with God and time with each other. Give your eyes a rest.
It is important that we get to know ourselves and develop a feeling for how to calm our soul and body. In this way we gather strength for six new days of work.
Have you ever heard a song that wasn’t played in rhythm?
Your ears prick up, it sounds wrong and we would like to say something, or a cardiac arrhythmia – a pretty unhealthy thing that needs to be treated immediately.
Without a day of rest, our life is a life that is not in God’s rhythm. This is unhealthy in the long run, I’m going to ruin and the others will feel it.
However, those who rest and take time to realign themselves with God are usually more productive, achieve more, and receive blessings from God.
It’s like a melodious melody, God’s rhythm for a successful life. God gifts us with a day of rest.
I wish us all a blessed Sunday!
Bible references with kind permission: ERF Bibelserver