(Pastor Cameron Beyenberg)
When I was young, one of my favorite family activities was renting movies from Blockbuster to watch later that night. We would usually get pizza on those nights and just enjoy each other’s company, laugh a lot, and have fun viewing whatever film had been released on VHS. The only thing that ruined these nights was when we would pop the tape into the VCR and the inconsiderate souls before us had not rewound the VHS after they rented it. It was awful, especially because unlike other families, we didn’t have a remote for our VCR, so I had to stand there pushing the rewind button for five whole minutes until the tape was back to the beginning and my finger had a rewind sign indented into it.
When the VHS was finally rewound, we could push the play button and enjoy the experience of the movie. When we hit the play button though, we had to be ready for the movie. We would turn down lights for better picture quality. We didn’t have to worry about smart phones then, but we definitely silenced dad’s pager… Anything we could recognize as a potential distraction, we would lay aside so we could be fully present and fully engaged.
When we focus on the aspect of play and Sabbath, this is very similar to what life is like, isn’t it? We all too often want to push play and enjoy, but for many of us we need to prepare before we play. We need to turn off certain distractions or silence the constant beeping of emails, voicemails, and phone calls. The purpose of Sabbath is that the play button of our lives would be prepared to be pushed, so we can experience life from a place of being fully rested, fully ready, and fully alive.
Sabbath is the beautiful gift that God gave to us so that we would ultimately live life from a place of rest rather than working toward a place of rest. In the creation account, we see that humanity was created on the sixth day, with the seventh day being a day of rest. God did not need rest, but He was modeling for creation what it looked like to take delight. If we understand this correctly, humanity was made on the sixth day, which would mean that their first full day was actually the seventh day. This means that the first full day for humanity was a day of rest.
what if this was how we lived?
what if we swapped our “work weeks” to be called “rest weeks”?
what if we changed the name of the weekend
to the week’s beginning?
what if our first day of the week was actually the Sabbath?
how much more rested would we be in work if we worked from that deep source of delight in the presence of God rather than trying to work toward rest?
The Sabbath is the preparation that we need to understand that we are not God, that we are dependent beings, and that we cannot, nor should we try to be and do everything. Sabbath reminds us that we are limited and when we stop and pause to remember this, it helps us when the play button of our lives is pushed. We are prepared for the full experience of life, we are more engaged and present, and we are more fully aware of who God is, who we are, and that our work isn’t where we find our worth. When we Sabbath we discover that our work is actually where we display our worth. We experience the fullness of our worth found in resting in the finished work of the Savior.
As we look through Genesis, we immediately find that our current play button has been wrong for quite some time. The writer of Genesis describes the first day in this manner: “and there was evening first and there was morning, the first day (Gen. 1:3).” If we are looking at this correctly, we understand that the play button of our lives actually begins when we are resting. This means our falling asleep is actually the beginning of our day, not the ending. George MacDonald describes sleep as “God’s contrivance for giving us the help He can’t get into us awake.”
Sabbath is given to help us understand that our resting in the Lord is the key to our working for the Lord. Our play button is meant to be prepared for the full range of speeds, colors, and experiences of life. When we are not prepared, or rested, we experience a much different type of play; we encounter the rhythms of feeling weary, drained, and inadequate; we start to believe the lies that we are not enough and we will never be good enough; and we live for the glory of our own lives rather than recognizing that the greatest glory we can give to God is by us receiving and giving His love in the ways that only we can.
When we are living a lifestyle of practicing Sabbath each week and resting in the Lord each day, we come to find that we are actually preparing ourselves for a better understanding of how our lives should look when we hit play. Sabbath is the preparation for us to live fully engaged in life, knowing what has happened, and rooting ourselves in the Presence of the One who knows what is ahead.
One of the ways in which we can prepare to play and be present in the play portion of our lives is through the beautiful practice of centering or contemplative prayer. Centering prayer originated in the 4th century from early Christian theologians and monks called the Desert Fathers. The basic practice of centering prayer is to find one word or phrase that best centers you in connection with the Lord. For many, the prayer “Jesus” is one that realigns them with God. Others will simply breathe in and out “Abba”. Whatever the word or phrase may be, it is a simple reminder that God is present, that no matter what is happening He is with us, and that we can live from the foundation of His presence rather than any other foundation.
The more one practices the art of centering prayer, the more they will find themselves turning to and tuning into the Holy Spirit when the play button of life holds more than we can handle. The more we speak out the Lord’s name, the more able we are to remain present when distractions come. The more we contemplate the beauty of our King, the more aware we are of His Presence in the midst of life’s ugliness. The more we center our lives on His wonder, the more prepared we are to fully experience life rooted in the truth of who God is and who we are.
Psalm 46:10 states “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” This passage is a pillar for so many who are in the midst of the stormy seasons of life. The authors of this psalm stand in the midst of their nation’s battles to declare a stillness, a serenity, and a centering in the fact that they are not God and only the Lord is God. This is the beauty of the promises of God: we are promised rest, we are promised peace, we are promised presence, we are promised truth, grace, hope, joy, love, and fullness of life in the One on whom we can center our hearts before, during, and after play is pushed.
This is exactly what it means to receive and live in the Sabbath lifestyle: that we be still and know that God is God. When we prepare ourselves to push play with that information, our lives will be filled with the transformation of working from rest. When we open ourselves and center our hearts on the King of kings in the middle of whatever may be happening in the present, we will recognize that God has always been present and He will continue to be present. When we root ourselves each moment in the truth of God’s grace and love, we see opportunity to live abundantly and eternally.
So, what about you this week? Have you been preparing to push play, or do you need to do some setting up for the full experience of life this week? Have you removed distractions and rooted yourself in the resting presence of our Father? Are you living and working from rest, or are you just trying to make it to the weekend?
St. Irenaeus was an early Church father who wrote many influential theological documents and impacted the Church with very insightful practices of worship and prayer. One of his famous writings includes the quotation: “The glory of God is the human being fully alive.” If we were to think of this quotation and the play button of our lives, are we living as human beings fully alive, or are we just getting through the week? Are we living from a prepared place of rest in God’s presence so that we can live presently in God’s presence? Are we giving God glory in the way that we live outside of Sunday morning worship, or are we compartmentalizing our lives into a spiritual life and a work life?
Sabbath is all about the children of God finding their source for life in the One who declares himself as life. this week, we want to encourage you to center yourself in the preparing Presence of our king. we want to challenge you to look at new ways in which the play button of your life can be pushed, so that you would be ready, rested, and engaged in whatever may happen. we want to exhort you to a higher place of living as one who is fully alive, because in doing so, we are glorifying the One who is fully alive in us.
Be still, Beloved, God is God, and you are not. You can live from resting in His work. You can start your weeks from a position of Sabbath, rather than trying to just get by. You can begin your days from the gift of sleep the Lord gives. You can prepare yourself for what is ahead and remain present, by simply preparing yourself. Resting in the Lord will give you everything you need to work, do, and be. The question is: are you ready to push play?