January 15, 2023 – Pastor Mark Albrecht
Message Big Idea – The Sabbath can be a contentious topic in Christian discourse. It can be implemented as a rigid and laborious practice. On the other hand, it can be rejected as archaic and unneeded. But Christ specifically notes that the Sabbath was made for our needs. Furthermore, we are still called to intentionally pursue Sabbath-rest. This leads to some very countercultural practices which are life-giving gifts from our Lord in Heaven.
- Take a moment to reflect (if you are going through this on your own) or share (if you are with others in a group setting): What are you grateful for today? What are you struggling with today?
- Have someone read “For One Who Is Exhausted, a Blessing” (Attached here following the Questions) by John O’Donohue (https://livinglent.org/for-one-who-is-exhausted-a-blessing/). Take a moment of silence and stillness to reflect on this poem.
- Read Mark 2:23-3:6 (Read twice – ESV and either NLT or Message)
- Take a moment to briefly retell the passage in your own words.
- What words or phrases “jumped off the page” and intrigued you the most? Why?
- What were your thoughts or impressions of “sabbath” growing up? (Maybe it was a completely foreign concept, word or idea? Or perhaps it was an inflexible practice, or an archaic idea that did not translate to anything relevant or practical today?)
- How is the idea of rest often understood within our culture?
- How is rest understood within the broader Christian context? Is it portrayed as solely spiritual or physical or mental? What are accepted rhythms of rest (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly, yearly)? How much of the secular perspective overlaps with observed Christian practice?
- Hebrews 4:9-11 states: “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.” There is certainly a new-found freedom from a strict Sabbath (Gal. 4:9-11; Col. 2:16-17; Rom. 14:1-9). Yet, there is still a call for Christians to “make every effort to enter that rest.” How do you do this regularly? Do you see the Sabbath as a good gift to be enjoyed or an obligation to be fulfilled?
- In what ways can you “make every effort” to enter that Sabbath-rest? What 24-hour period works for you? How can you plan for it ahead of time? In what way can you take a break from screens? What are some life-giving activities you can partake in? How can you make time for a special meal? What makes sense for your current life season?
Live It Out:
- What is one thing God seems to be asking you to do in response to this passage? (i.e., “I will ….”)
- Who can you tell about this “I will” statement in the next 48 hours?
- Journal about your time in God’s Word this week. Stop to listen to what He might be telling you. Celebrate His presence through His Word!
- Prayerfully submit your need for rest to the Lord. Ask Him for wisdom and discernment in seeking Sabbath-rest in your current situation. Lean on Christ as your ultimate source of physical, mental and spiritual rest.
Suggestions for Slowing Down and Resting
Before embarking on slowing down and resting, enlist the help of your calendar. It is time to make your calendar a friend and an ally in your relationship with God, in the caring of your soul. Using your calendar block off times in a day, or even an entire day, morning, afternoon to get away and rest in God. There are suggestions re: what to do below but it can really be almost anything. The key is; the attitude we bring (seeking to rest in God), the felt internal pace and place of being drawn not driven during this time, and that what we are choosing to do is life giving and life affirming.
- Slowing down. This begins with the body and in time incorporates the mind and heart. Choose to walk more slowly, answer someone more slowly (pause before answering), eat more slowly, drive more slowly, put a buffer of time before meetings, choose to stand in a longer line rather than a shorter line when at the store, do not rush to check or answer email or pick up your phone when it rings, leave earlier for meetings…. As you enter into these practices pay attention to your internal messages, feelings and seek to bring all this to God. As you learn to slow down it enable you to enter into times of rest more quickly.
- If you live life at 100 miles an hour, seeking to rest will take an inordinate amount of time to do so just as it takes longer for a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed to come to rest as opposed to a vehicle traveling at a slower rate of speed. As we slow down, we are preparing ourselves to be able to truly rest and even incorporate the practice of Sabbath in our lives. The discipline of slowing down helps us to enter into and enjoy the life giving, transforming properties of rest.
- One of the most profound ways of beginning to slow down is to choose to walk more slowly. That is a good place to start.
- Begin by stopping for a couple of minutes throughout your day to simply become aware of your breathing and remind yourself that God, the Creator and Redeemer, is with you.. It is God who breathed life into you and continues to sustain you.
- Take a mini-Sabbath (7-15 minutes) to refocus your heart and mind toward God.
- Replace multi-tasking with single-tasking. Seeking to be present to that which you are doing in the moment letting go of thoughts about the past, concerns about the future.
- Take a power rest in Jesus. Schedule 15–20 minutes of silence and focus on an attribute of God and rest, closing your eyes and being still.
- Develop a plan for extended times of rest. Ask yourself: What would be most restful for me… Walking at the beach, park, in the neighborhood? Taking a long bubble bath? Lying in a hammock? Playing with my dog? Flying a kite, hiking, taking a bike ride, preparing a meal, camping, surfing, swimming, blowing bubbles, juggling…? Finding a quiet spot for “doing nothing”? Gardening? Think through what you would do if you had an hour, an afternoon, or a day for rest. Then invite Jesus to join you during this time with you and seek to be present to Jesus throughout your time of rest.
- Endeavor to sleep a healthy length of time 6 1/2 – 8 hours.
- Take a *Sabbath – an entire 24-hour period to slow down, to rest, to be with God in the spacious meadow of time and leisure.
*Sabbath: God created us as beings who need to rest, our first full day on earth involved resting but it seems that humanity did not sense the need to rest so God made it a commandment (the longest of the 10 commandments) – mankind transformed this commandment to take a day to rest into a day of bondage to external rules that sucked the life giving properties of Sabbath right out of it. Jesus speaks into this dire situation and reminds all of the original intention of the Sabbath, a gift from God for humanity; “Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath.”
Enjoy the gift of rest. Enjoy God. Enjoy.