O Day of Rest and Gladness

This hymn was written in 1862 by Christopher Wordsworth, nephew of the well-known poet William Wordsworth.  The author originally called it simply, “Sunday.”

One Sunday morning there was a visitor to the home of Bishop Wordsworth, a man who was to lead the service in church that day. Wordsworth put his arm around him and said, “Come upstairs with me. The ladies are going to sing a hymn to encourage you in your labour for the day.” So he went, and heard this hymn, copied on slips of paper. He didn’t know until days later that Christopher Wordsworth had written it himself.

 

What is Sabbath for you?

Then he (Jesus) said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Mark 2:27

The verse above is a response given by Jesus when the Pharisees accused his disciples of doing what was “unlawful” on the Sabbath.  Their offense was plucking heads of grain (technically harvesting), and this was considered work and forbidden.  However, Jesus reminds his listeners that the Sabbath was created for the benefit of humankind — the many rules and regulations were added later by men in an attempt to define what a day of rest should mean.

The word Sabbath literally means “to cease.”  You might think of it as a sort of reset button.  Just as your computer sometimes freezes up and needs to shut down and be restarted, humans need a cue to stop and refocus.  The demands of weekly living pile up– we become overwhelmed and distracted.  We need to reboot and get our focus back, and that focus should be on God, the One who created and sustains us.

Naturally that means a Sabbath should include worship.  What kind of worship is up to you.  I’m a liturgical person, but not everyone is.  Maybe the worship style that suits you is more contemporary.  It really doesn’t matter, as long as it slows you down and puts God back in His proper position in your life.  Afterwards, well, once again, we relax and recharge in different ways.  I like to curl up with a good book, but for some people that’s “work.”  I have friends who find it relaxing to garden, but that’s a chore to me.  Some might enjoy going hiking, where they see God in the beauty of creation;  others feel their heart soaring when they listen to music.  Maybe you just want to cook and enjoy a wonderful meal with friends or family.  God made each of us differently, and it’s okay to enjoy the Sabbath rest in our own way.  Maybe your weekly Sabbath can’t even occur on Sunday.  That’s okay too.

God doesn’t need anything from us.  He’s God, after all.  It’s we who need to stop, to worship, to rest and remember why we’re here and to whom we belong.  Don’t neglect the Sabbath.  It’s a gift from God and he created it just for you!

For more on the Sabbath see this post:

Martin Luther on the Sabbath

A Sabbath Poem

From the book, This Day by Wendell Berry:

2002 #X

Teach me work that honors Thy work,

the true economies of goods and words,

to make my arts compatible

with the songs of the local birds.

 

Teach me patience beyond work

and, beyond patience, the blest

Sabbath of Thy unresting love

which lights all things and gives rest.

 

Family Faith

I wrote this article for our denomination’s publication, The Lutheran Ambassador.  It appeared in this month’s issue (February 2019) and I thought I would also share it here.  It deals with passing the faith on to our children.

People need structure.  It gives a sense of security and a framework on which to build and base daily life.  God knew this, and so from the very beginning, He  blessed humankind with a rhythm of life that would shape our relationship with Him.

“… God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation.”  Genesis 2:3

A little later, this becomes one of the Ten Commandments:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.” Exodus 20:8-10a

When our children were young, Sunday Services were simply a fixture of life.  Sometimes we didn’t feel like getting up; sometimes our daughters were cranky, or somebody didn’t feel so well; sometimes the weather was nasty; still we went, week after week, year after year.  What did our children (and now our grandchild) gain from this dogged persistence? The world might say, not much…. a meaningless ritual!  I beg to disagree and here are a few of my observations.

First of all, they came to understand that God is important, and so is His body, the Church.  The things of faith are not kept in a separate compartment, to be brought out on holidays or special occasions.  They are part of the ebb and flow of daily life.

Through the weekly liturgy, our children internalized the basics of the Christian faith.  They memorized the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed, as well as many passages from the Scripture which we recited or sang every Sunday.  They learned that we need to confess, repent, pray and give thanks regularly.  They learned that our monetary offering gives back to God a small part of what He’s already given to us. I remember hearing our daughters and our nephew “play church” as they sang parts of the service together.

Sunday services also walked us together through the seasons of the church year and the life of Christ.  There were joyous times and sad times, times to reflect and times to anticipate.  Each season had its’ own particular music and rituals. Advent meant lighting the advent candles and singing “O Come, O Come, Emanuel”, Lent was the time when flowers on the altar disappeared and songs became somber (“Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”)  Easter brought lilies and “Christ the Lord Has Risen Today” along with flowering the cross (made from the church Christmas tree) which had stood, plain and empty in the sanctuary until Easter morning.

To be continued …..