In the book of Exodus, Moses returns to Mount Sinai and receives from the Lord the 10 Commandments. These teachings are given as a way to order the Israelites in their daily living. The Israelites, like us all, were trying to figure out what it meant to live into the new freedom they had found. They escaped slavery from the Egypt. We, through Jesus, have escaped slavery from sin, death, and the devil. What now? In these 10 commandments, the Lord offers these words: Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. Exodus 20:8.
This past Sunday, Prince of Peace–along with lots of other congregations in our area and across our nation–cancelled worship. It was a hard decision and not one made lightly. Gathering together as the people of God is something that is at the very core of our identity as Jesus followers. In this day and age of disruption from non-essential tasks we cry out that our worship and gathering together to praise God is among the most essential things that we do as Christians. Worshiping together is part of who we are. And yet, I cancelled worship. Now what?
This is why I share with you this teaching from the Word. In the roots of our faith is this call to Sabbath. For hundreds and thousands of years, faithful Jews have had a day of rest. Sabbath calls for a restricting of activities and cutting out all the extras. There is certainly a deeply spiritual element to this–Sabbath is a place where the faith is instilled. But, the Sabbath was also about rest. It was about investing time in those closest to you. It was about slowing down. Sabbath is about self care in the midst of the world that moves at break-neck speeds.
Deanna and I just looked at our calendar for the week. It was bare. Other than a Doctor appointment, everything has been cancelled. No practice. No honors induction. No after school activities. Nothing. We have been forced into a Sabbath time. Sabbatical is something that professionals receive in various positions and institutions. It provides them a break from their days to focus, to rest, to sharpen skills. What if this Coronavirus is an opportunity for us to take a sabbatical. Forced rest. Renewal time for family. A place and space to learn a new hobby or skill. Maybe this time is a chance for you to start writing that book you’ve always wanted to write.
For sure, there is a lot to be worried about and a lot of added stress. In truth, I wanted to get this email out to you about 4 hours ago, but setting up a home school for our 6 kids has taken more work than I care to explain. There are lots of disruptions in this time of quarantine. Instead of dwelling on the disruptions and the fears–celebrate sabbath. Invest some of this new found time in reading God’s word together as a family. Pray a little more with your family. FaceTime or make a phone call to check on a friend. And then, game plan what you can learn, study, and grow for the next couple of weeks. There are lots of opportunities and possibilities. Embrace them. It will be good for your soul.
We didn’t gather for worship on Sunday. Lots of reports are recommending not doing so in the foreseeable future as well (No decision on this has been made yet–I will keep you up to date). Several important things to remember from our faith in these times. First, scripture is clear. The church is not a building–it is the people of God. You are the church–not the building at 257 Highway 314. You–better yet–Y’all are the Church. Christ doesn’t dwell in a building–He dwells in the hearts of us believers. And yet, through the years it has been the desire of God and of us to gather together to worship and praise. For the people of Prince of Peace we gather at our building. It is our worship place. In these days, our worship is not about a place but time. What does it mean for the people of Prince of Peace to worship during this time. Not gathered together–but together in a time that is unique, different, and uncharted. For years I have urged people to make time for Sabbath keeping. We don’t need to make time for it today. The virus has forced us into this time. Don’t squander the opportunity before us. Lean into Christ. Trust His goodness. Rest in His everlasting arms.
In the mean time, keep reaching out. Connect with loved ones, neighbors, and friends via digital means. And know that you are loved. And Our God is bigger than our biggest problems.