aking a proper sabbath is an art form. I readily confess that we are under no obligation to observe the sabbath. It was a shadow of a greater reality, namely that rest we find in Christ. Nevertheless, we find ourselves in perpetual need of this antiquated gift. Our Lord proclaimed that man was not made for the sabbath, but rather sabbath was instituted for man. As such, one might assume that a gift from a good and gracious God would serve to better man’s estate. Those of us who have embraced the principle of the gift would concur. Yet make no mistake, we do not labor to discover if we ought to observe this principle on Saturday (the original Sabbath), or Sunday (that day referred to in scripture as the Lord’s day), instead we seek to enjoy it in the spirit with which it was given – as a gift.
The weekly sabbath principle may be understood as one day in seven set aside to relax the body and mind, to drink deeply of God’s buffet of benefits, and to bear eternal fruit through good works (specifically rendered to those suffering injustice and poverty). It should include repentance of any known sin, for drawing near to God serves to expose our faults.
With these things being understood, let us turn our attention to the Sabbath as an art form. I consider it art more than science because a proper sabbath may be taken in as many ways as there are people to observe it. One may find great relaxation springs from a few hours of yard work, another may find it the epitome of labor. Personally, writing is a guaranteed way to heal, organize and relax my mind. Others would find writing the chief of stresses.
A sabbath should be a valiant attempt we give ourselves to those things that, at our best, would dominate our lives seven days a week. Scripture meditation, gospel reflection, and avoiding all excesses. We should thoroughly enjoy God and those who bear His image, we should find great pleasure in the work of His hands. We should worship verbally, pray fervently, give generously, relieve the pain of others mercifully.
One last thing, intentionally avoid giving thought to how others observe the principle of the sabbath. Let each follower of Christ unwrap the Father’s gift and enjoy it. But don’t let it go unwrapped.
Preachers spend hours getting ready for Sunday. Here are a few things you can do to prepare as well:
- Read ahead – Typically I preaching through books of the Bible. So there is little doubt as to where I will be preaching on the next Sunday. Acquaint yourself with the text. It is a good idea to read the entire book through a few times before we begin to preach through it. You will recognize the flow of thought, logic, gospel emphasis and metaphors that run through the entire text. Other preachers will preach thematically or topically. Most have no problem with you asking where they are going so that you can better prepare.
- Sleep well – Make sure you are well rested and alert on Sunday morning. Get a good nights sleep on Saturday night. Have a cup of coffee when you get to church. Make every effort to insure that your mind is ready to deal with a 2000 year old text.
- Don’t take notes – One of the things that the puritans were known for was forbidding their congregation from note taking. They believed that because the word of God was living and active that God was doing a work as the text was being preached. Try it, sit down the paper and pen, then listen with your mind and your heart. Keep in mind this sermon will be available on the podcast in a couple of days you can take notes then.
- Affirm – I have to confess, I like a good “Amen” I don’t know a preacher who doesn’t. It’s a biblical practice of affirming truth. Head nods are good, but amens are better. Try it.
- Spiritually Prepare – Spend some time in bible reading, confession, singing prior to hearing the sermon. Preach the Gospel to yourself before your Pastor does. It plows the heart for the seed of the Word.
- Reteach – Get in the habit of discussing the truth with your spouse, children, small group, even lost friends. Every truth is Gospel truth and can lead them closer to Christ. It’s also a good idea to communicate the truths you capture on social media. I have no problem with people tweeting during the service so long as they tweet truth.
- Spit out the bones – Remember, only the text in infallible – the sermon is not. Chew the meat, spit out the bones. Check everything by scripture. There are times when we as preachers will make comments off the cuff that we would LOVE to take back. There are illustrations and jokes that are unprofitable. If you want to get the most out of a sermon don’t stumble over the bones.