The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Pastor Jim Doepken
Seward United Methodist Church 

Paper Pulpit



Deuteronomy 5:12-15 says: “Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.”

Sabbath, while one of the commandments, is tough for us. And to understand it we’ve normally seen it as “rest-taking.” Genesis 2:2, after all, tells us that God “rested” on the seventh day of creation. We should rest, too, we say.

But, the Deuteronomy passage and its call to Sabbath really makes no mention of resting. What this passage does is tie Sabbath to the Hebrew liberation from slavery; the Exodus. By abstaining from work the Hebrews were remembering and proclaiming that they are a freed people, slaves no more.

Moving to today, we live in a country where we can easily become slaves to our work. Jobs can trap us and define us and shape our lives. It’s where many of us get our identity.

And, while I know not everyone got Labor Day off, I think it’s important to recognize that it’s a day when many persons across our country got to be free - from work at least. We’re a long way from the violent labor uprising of 1894 that led to Labor Day’s creation. We’re much more interested in the cookouts and a three-day weekend. But, when you think of it, millions of folks just had a Sabbath. Last Monday was a day they were free.

Labor Day in our neck of the woods was stunningly beautiful. I don’t know about you, but we took a family hike with friends. And, in our enjoyment of God’s good creation, away from jobs and other responsibilities of life, we were part of a proclamation that says we’re created for more than our jobs, that we’re set free in Christ.

It is my hope that you’ll be able to find your own “Sabbath rest”, remembering you are not a slave to a working world either. For you, too, are more than that.


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