Burdens and Sabbath

I’ve been thinking a lot about rest lately. No, more accurately, God’s been talking to me a lot about rest! A couple of weeks ago I had to miss our gathering, but was filled in that one of us had suggested we meditate on a passage from Jeremiah. As I was reading it again this weekend, one line stood out:

“And do not carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath
or do any work, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your fathers.” –Jeremiah 17:22

The passage is talking about honoring the Lord by honoring His commandments. Jeremiah exhorts the people to rest from working. The poetic picture is that if they would cease from carrying burdens on the Sabbath and not carry them through the gates, then what would come through the gates instead would be kings and princes who would sit on the throne of David. That’s the historical context. Please pardon me—I’m going to take a personal idea from it in just a bit.

My favorite day of the week is Saturday. It has become my Sabbath and is the most restful part of my week. In addition to being a literal day off from work, it’s also the night our house/simple church gets together. We meet in one couple’s house, share a meal, and share the body and blood of Christ in symbolic meal as well as in worship, prayer, exhortation, and fellowship. As we gather in Jesus’ name, He fulfills His promise to be among us. We invite and welcome Him to lead and minister to us, His people.

Another passage that has been rolling around in me lately is:

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” –Mark 2:27-28

Jesus is always Lord, but on Saturday nights specifically, Jesus, the Son of Man, is the Lord of our gathering. We experience Him as the Lord of the Sabbath. I experience Him as the Lord of my Sabbath. The Jeremiah passage says not to carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath. As we meet from house to house (Acts 2:42), we carry the burdens of our week into the house and into our gatherings. But we should not carry them back out with us. We should not leave with heavy, wearisome burdens that are hard to bear, grinding down on our shoulders (Matthew 23:4). Jesus is the one who shares his yoke and who gives us rest (Matthew 11:28-30).

When we love each other as Christ loves us, we have great grace, love, mercy, and tenderness for each other. In that kind of love, we can be both bold and humble enough to share with our sisters and brothers what is weighing us down. We become open to rest. We begin to enter the Sabbath rest made for the people of God (Hebrews 4:9).

This past Saturday had a tangible example of this. A number of us have been feeling the frustration of our jobs not aligning with our senses of vocation. Our jobs seem to be in the way, and we, myself included, have been feeling the daily grind grinding into our joy and sense of purpose. This week we ended up sharing what pieces we knew of our dreams. We encouraged one another in what steps however small we could be taking right now, right where we are. There were also some common themes to the dreams, which was exciting.

We went into our house church that night burdened by discouragement in where we were at, but left with rest in our souls. We left with the Lord of the Sabbath residing in His rightful place as Lord of our lives—Jesus, descendent of David, as King of our lives. We traded our burdens for rest, and in the rest, Jesus reigns.

Growing Persecution of Christians

Persecuted ChurchI have been following the news feed of Christian Today, an organization in the UK. They report the following: 

  • Four churches targeted in attempted firebombings in Indonesia.
  • Pastor beheaded in Tanzania.
  • More than 50 Christians detained in Sudan.
  • India: attack on revival meeting sends Christians underground. 

Reports of this kind attract my attention because of the way we have been doing church for the past twenty-some years, namely in homes or other “off the grid” locations.” Of course, we don’t regard churches that don’t meet that way as somehow inferior, rather we suggest that there is more than one way to live in Christian fellowship. Moreover, in some parts of the world such small, below-the-radar meetings are a necessity. 

With respect to the headlines above, particularly the 4th one, the challenge of living as a Christian village in the world may call us to smaller, less obvious expressions. They have their advantages. When we think of “a church” as a relatively small gathering of, say, 12 to 20, then it doesn’t take much to start one — not much trouble or money. And considering that one Christian preacher has said, “the most effective tool of evangelism under heaven is the planting of new churches,” it very well may be that learning to meet this way is vital, especially if the church faces persecution. 

Fortunately, the Spirit is not intimidated by the seemingly insignificant. Indeed, He has often used persecution to advance the gospel when the church is forced underground. Let’s pray for our brethren who are experiencing threats of harm that they will grow in faith and influence in spite of the circumstances. 

(Also posted at http://tween2worlds.us)

The Community of the Table

Consider…the Lord’s Supper. There is not the slightest doubt that the early Christians celebrated it while sitting (or reclining) around tables. The Eucharist itself was part of a real supper, a full meal, love feast or agape; meal. These were caravaners gathered as the community of the Lord, celebrating that community, and demonstrating community. The service took place while looking in the eye a brother or sister you knew by name (and more than just by name), breaking bread with him or her, and even exchanging the holy kiss.

~Vernard Eller (The Outward Bound)

Building community in Jesus

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