Father Darren’s sermon on the importance of keeping the Sabbath Day Holy
Christians are often creatures of habit, and when our children were born, Beth and Dan, some 26 years ago, we decided that we would pray with them every night when we put them to bed. Even though they could not really know anything other than our presence was next to them. So, we would say some short prayers, and I would always finish with the Lord’s Prayer.
But because it was near bedtime, I was also getting myself conditioned for bed. We would get halfway through the Lord’s Prayer, and I would start to yawn, because I used prayer to prepare myself for rest before bedtime too, which is why we did the same to prepare the children for their rest too.
We carried that on until we got to the point when they said Dad, we can do this for ourselves now!
The Importance of Prayer
But sitting with prayer and doing it as something that is not just a habit is really important because, yes, we have our daily times of worship when we approach God, which is really helpful. Still, sometimes it is good approaching God differently in prayer. Approaching him in a way that brings new life to the way we pray and engage with him, the way we enable him to be able to speak to us anew and afresh.
Because we are creatures of habit (as I said in my opening), Christians have things that we do at set times of the day, and our prayers on a Sunday are exactly the same. Likewise, we come together at the same time and place as we pray through the year’s seasons.
But although God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow He always wants us to be new and fresh with him.
Sabbath Day Rest
Today we come together in this place on the Sabbath, which should be a restful day. A day when we should let our cares down and place them into God’s safekeeping.
One of my favourite hymns (and included in the YouTube link below sung by the Choir of York Minster) is Dear Lord and Father of Mankind. Verse three of the hymn says;
O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity
Interpreted by love, Interpreted by love!
Letting God be in Charge
Gathering together in church on a Sunday to offer our prayers and adoration to God should be a time when we say to God, you are in charge, we are not.
When we say; ‘we come into this place to sit and be still with you and for you to engage with us. We don’t come here in charge of the world. We don’t come in charge of anything other than knowing you are our God, and we are present with you here’.
A lot of it is about control because, in our lives, we like to be in control of every situation. This gives us confidence and security. But Jesus taught us that is not what we should do when it comes to God. We cannot be God, we cannot be in control of everything, but God can.
Being a Christian and especially in prayer, is about trust. Trust in God to be God and do the things we cannot.
On the seventh day, God had created everything, and then he rested, and so the Sabbath is there for us to rest in God. Not to be in charge of our lives. Not to feel that we have to be productive. But to be and relax and become children of God once again. To sit and be with him – just as Jesus did by the sea of Galilee.
The hard thing for us is that we are all conditioned to be productive to do something, and Sundays have become another day when we are called to be productive.
Challenge and Conclusion
I want to challenge you to not be productive on a Sunday. To not see it as another day where you need to accomplish something. But a day when you can just give thanks to God, come forward in prayer before him. Receive him in bread and wine and allow God to be God and to be in charge of your life, to be in charge of the world, and to say Lord I trust you, be in charge of me, be in charge of my life.
When we realise that we are not God, it really helps. When we realise that we cannot be in control of everything, it really helps. And when we know in our hearts that God is in charge of everything and that we love him and he loves us, then we can sit and be still and rest in Him.
Our time here upon earth is limited. When I come into this church, it gives me great reassurance when I look over at the board opposite the entrance with the names of my predecessors over the previous 800 years. Because when I see that, I know my time here is limited, but God’s is not.
God is present with us here and now and will always be with us in this place and all eternity. Taking our time to rest with God is one of the most important things we can ever do. Because one day, when we breathe our last, we will then spend all of eternity resting in the love of God.
So, see Sundays as your preparation for eternity, your Galilee, being in God’s presence, resting with him and giving thanks for all that he does. Perhaps spending some time in prayer thanking God for who you are and asking for what you need to draw closer to him.
Sunday is a day to give thanks for all that he has made us be and for loving us so much that he gave his only son, Jesus Christ, to save us from our sins and bring us into His eternal Kingdom.
Father Darren Collins is the Rector of St Etheldreda’s & St Lukes Churches in Hatfield, Hertfordshire www.stetheldreda.org and Team Rector of Bishops Hatfield.