A random survey about the Sabbath Day etiquette is likely to yield diverse results. For many people Sunday Sabbath is just part of the weekend, with implications of catching up with unfinished work
By Msgr. John Wynand Katende
A random survey about the Sabbath Day etiquette is likely to yield diverse results. For many people Sunday Sabbath is just part of the weekend, with implications of catching up with unfinished work. In effect, the slogan “24/7” has become trendy with business enterprises, educational and other institutions.
This suggests the prevalence of modern slavery that is being driven by competitiveness and greed for material wealth. While it may engender ailments like stress, hypertension and diabetes, on the one hand, it indicates lack of faith in God, the Lord of history, on the other.
Sabbath, from which the adjective sabbatical is derived, means a weekly day of rest and worship. It is embedded in the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Muslims observe it on Friday (jumu'ah), Jews and Seventh Day Adventists observe it on Saturday while the rest of Christians do so on Sunday (Acts 20:7).
Observation of Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments. It is based on the Genesis creation narrative when God rested on the seventh day after a six day’s work, instituting the Day of the Lord and holy day (Genesis 2:2-3). Christians that observe the Sabbath on Sunday base it on the restoration of a fallen creation by the resurrection of Jesus on the first day of the week, rendering it the new Lord’s Day.
Invoking Psalm 118:24, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it”, they renew the new covenant of God’s love that was established by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Jesus is, hence, acknowledged as master and true meaning of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8).
Sabbath underscores liberation not legalism. Jews had many man-made regulations about the Sabbath day. The sick had, for example, to wait until the Sabbath was over before receiving due treatment. One Sabbath day, Jesus entered a synagogue and saw in the congregation a man whose right hand was withered.
On healing the afflicted, the Pharisees accused Jesus for breaking the law. Jesus’ action was a firm affirmation that we are duty bound to do God’s liberating work on the Lord’s Day. Like Jesus, we are to do good on Sunday. This is why religious leaders keep themselves busy liberating people on the Sabbath.
Hebrews 10:23-25 instructs communal worship on the Lord’s Day. This entails developing a closer relationship with God through active participation at worship, internalising the scriptures and the teaching of the Church, writing or reading Church publications and the lives of the saints.
The Sabbath rest likewise means the cultivation of a close relationship with the family, neighbours, relatives and friends as well as participating in all kinds of social bonding. God exceptionally recommends the visiting of the sick, prisoners, the aged, people with disabilities and the lonely. Medical services, catering services, gas stations, and public means of transport, among others, that make Sunday rest easy for others, are acceptable. However, work that is unnecessarily carried out on the Sabbath bears more disaster than blessings. The best way to know if an activity is in keeping with the Sabbath is to follow one’s conscience or the counsel of religious leaders.
The Sabbath enjoins worshipers to dress formally and participate actively in the worship. The Sabbath dining table should, similarly, reflect a festive context. The Sabbath may also be applied to the planning for the entire week. Sunday worship, actually, offers a great occasion to dedicate the entire week to God. God promises abundant blessings and plentiful returns on those who would faithfully observe the Sabbath.
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