Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. (Ex. 20:8)
It would be a monumental understatement to call March a crazy month. Our family is in the midst of a major change: preparing to start a new call in southern California beginning May 1, which involves selling our current home in New Jersey; purchasing a new home in California; engaging in good and gracious leave-taking from my current congregation that I’ve served as solo pastor for eleven years, from the seminary that I’ve taught at for two years, from a wonderful community of lifelong friendships, from a delightful presbytery of ministry colleagues … all the while still preaching and teaching weekly, being a husband and parenting daily, moderatorial trips and duties frequently, and attending to realtors and mortgage lenders constantly.
I’m pretty good at multitasking, but the onslaught of life and ministry came like a freight truck with the dramatic velocity and voluminousness coming in one swoop. And unfortunately, because legal contracts with buyers, sellers, attorneys, and realtors require time-sensitive responses and careful documentation, postponement of things was not an option.
Hanging in the hallway of our home these past eleven years is a framed photo of the Ten Commandments. I pass by it every day. From the time when they were one-year old, both of my sons were taught the Decalogue, as we would stand in front of that frame and look at the words and I would read it to them. There, in the midst of de-cluttering the house and determining what would come with us and what could be discarded, stands the framed Decalogue. Every night in March, my wife and I would lay in bed, recount the day, review the following day, pray, and then, let go….as is humanly possible, and divinely enabled.
Here’s where the fourth commandment on Sabbath-keeping becomes so powerfully relevant, salient, personal, and necessary. The Decalogue is at its core a direct expression of the triune God’s own self-revelation and self-giving—expressive of the very character of God. God is opening up His heart and life in the Decalogue. The Fourth Commandment beckons us to let go, into the tender, creative arms of Almighty God. Into his hands, at the start of the day, at the end of the day, and the time in-between, we cascade our hopes, our fears, our stresses, our anxieties, our efforts, our planning, and the entirety and minutiae of life—into whose care we belong.
Sabbath-keeping daily has enabled us to remain sane through the craziness. More accurately, the triune God who summons us to rest in Him, to place our trust and confidence in Him, anchors us to His heart. And in this, the Lord has helped us daily to look forward to another day, to know of his accompanying presence, and to look to the night when we can offer our thanks and praise for the work and rest he affords through and through.
It’s hard to believe that in eleven weeks we will gather in national council as the 221st General Assembly (2014) in Detroit. With its arrival comes much preparation, planning, and processing. As with our family/life/ministry transition from New Jersey to California, I approach the upcoming General Assembly through a healthy, robust theology of the Sabbath. After all the speeches are made, the overtures and reports presented, the Tweets tweeted, the votes counted, the joys celebrated, the anger expressed, the gripes heard, the prayers shared, the bread broken, the cup drank, the water poured, the Gospel preached—we will begin and end the days right where we began … in the arms of the Almighty God, the One in whom I remain unshakably confident and in whose rest I labor and pray every day.
Dear friend, remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.