Sunday, December 17, 2006

Creative Approaches to Sabbath Keeping

Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." -- Mark 2:27 (New International Version)

I once heard an elderly man years ago say that Friday Sabbath nights were the loneliest nights because he couldn't turn on the television to keep himself company. He got so depressed with the silence of his apartment that he decided that once he had read his bible for a meaningful amount of time, he would then watch situation comedies. This was told me in the late 80s. Perhaps situation comedies were more family-oriented then than they are today, or perhaps he watched reruns on TBS or Nick at Night.

Yes, of course, one can always seek out a congregation where they have Friday night meetings, but that isn't always possible, or desirable depending on one's personality or travel requirements or the danger present in big cities late at night when taking mass transit. Even those with a car can make a wrong turn and find oneself in an undesirable neighborhood. So much for a restful Sabbath evening.

I am not making excuses for wanting to turn on the television on Friday nights or Saturday afternoons after you come home from church. Sometimes there are no afternoon programs and you are not in the mood to visit hospitals, prisons, hand out literature, etc. Additionally, not everyone is allowed to install a satellite dish in their condo apartment or rented apartment for the Hope channel or similar religious programming.

In the end it depends on one's conscience and what interferes with your Sabbath connection with God. Sometimes on the Discovery channel or the History Channel or on PBS there are great programs that are of a scientific, cultural or religious nature which provide meaningful content for the non-secular Sabbath hours.

Some of what I'm saying might even apply to people who live with a significant other or family. After a while even your mate or children are talked out and are itchy to do something else other than engage you or be engaged in conversation.

The bottom line is, if you feel that the only things to do are read the bible, the sabbath school lesson, the Spirit of Prophecy or sing hymns all night till its time to go to bed or time to have vespers on Saturday night, but you don't want to do only those things, what does that mean? How do you handle the desire to do more creative things? I've sometimes thought, especially in the beginning of my Sabbath keeping experience, that if it feels disagreeable to keep on singing, or reading the bible, watching the Passion of the Christ or other religious film for the hundredth time, by continuing to do so, you are not really keeping the Sabbath & you are not enjoying your life very much on a Friday or Saturday afternoon.

On the other hand, if you naturally and eagerly continue reading the bible or singing hymns or doing the other spiritual, non-secular activities I've mentioned here, then it's natural and truly the result of a live connection with the Lord Jesus Christ. But even the latter reach a point when they do long for a change whether that same day or the following week. The Sabbath, after all, keeps on coming at you week after week. Sometimes it seems like it's the same Sabbath you kept a week or a month ago, or at any rate, a continuation of the previous Sabbath day. This is both a lovely thought as well as a challenging one, especially for those of us who live alone, whether out of necessity or by choice.

My suggestions are as follows: read the bible, sing or listen to spiritual music, but when you've had your fill of those activities, do other things. Redefine what constitutes spiritual music for you. I find little time to enjoy most of my orchestral music collection during the week. Sometimes a little Mahler or Satie or Bartok on a Friday night or Sabbath afternoon adds a transcendent element to an otherwise non-eventful segment of hours. Be as creative as the Lord had made you in your life. Don't start watching the Lord of the Rings on a Friday night unless you really discern all of the spiritual and mythic-religious themes in Tolkien's work. If you're watching it just to pass the time, or to be merely entertained, it probably won't be conducive to a meaningful Sabbath evening.

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