How do we Keep the Sabbath Now?

“Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy.”  As we move to online and recorded worship because of the COVID-19 Outbreak, it seems a good time to review what we believe about having a “holy” day or time.  Let’s start with Luther: “We should fear and love God, and so we should not despise his Word and the preaching of the same, but deem it holy and gladly hear and learn it.”[1]  You’ll notice the focus for us is on the purpose of the time or day, not simply the time or day itself.  For us giving the Word opportunity to work on us both individually and corporately is at the center of the 3rd Commandment. Sabbath, the hearing of God’s word, are ways we make our selves an easy target for the Holy Spirit.  Coming together in public worship and having my connection to Christ strengthened by Word and Sacrament is the lifeblood of my faith.  I pray it is for you too.  

Therefore, not being able to gather publicly is going to be tough. One member told me yesterday that when they heard of the cancellation of our communal-in-person worship, they broke down and cried.  It’s almost like an experience of exile. What did God’s people do in exile?  They focused on the word to keep their identity going strong.  What will we do?  We will focus on reading and hearing God’s word and we are fortunate that many of us have the ability to use the internet to stay connected—and we plan to offer as much worship, preaching, and teaching as possible to help you get through this time. 

Let me extol you to give the word more time in this exile.  Certainly keep a time on Sunday to listen or watch worship and tune in to our Lenten Wednesday services as well, but let’s actually give time to the word each day.  This is what we should do in Lent anyway! Your staff is hoping to be very creative in giving you resources and encouragement in this area.  We also will help you stay connected to each other and help those in need as we enter this tough journey. 

Indeed, we can remember the Sabbath day even though we must refrain from public gatherings.  How do we keep it holy? I’ll finish by going back to Luther: “How does this sanctifying take place? Not when we sit behind the stove and refrain from external work, or deck ourselves with garlands and dress up in our best clothes, but, as has been said, when we occupy ourselves with God’s Word and exercise ourselves in it.” [2] 

[1] Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 342). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

[2] Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (p. 377). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.

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