Finally – spring is here! The ice and snow have melted, the sun is shining and the air is warmer, the birds are singing. It feels like the whole earth is taking a deep breath and re-emerging from its winter slumber. In a similar way, our Lenten Sabbath journey also finally brings us to the joyful celebration of Easter. But what does Easter have to do with Sabbath-keeping?
A little history might be helpful here. In the first centuries of Christianity, many of the earliest believers were Jewish Christians. Since Jesus said that “he came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it” and most certainly kept the Sabbath himself, these faithful Jews continued to follow the Fourth Commandment and keep the Sabbath on Saturdays. Thanks to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, however, Sunday also became an important day in the week. Early Christians gathered together after work on the first day of the week as well, to worship God, celebrate the Lord’s Supper and share a meal and fellowship with one another. Then in 321 C.E., Emperor Constantine declared Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire and established Sundays as the official day for both rest and worship. Ever since, Christians have both kept Sabbath and celebrated the good news of our faith on Sundays.
However, the connection between Easter and Sabbath is much more than a scheduling issue. For the Jews, Sabbath is the culmination of their week, the day to be renewed in their faith and identity as God’s children. Sabbath is a weekly reminder of how God provides for all their needs and gives them strength for the coming week. Sabbath is a preview of life in right relationship with God, one another and all the earth, the culmination of all our hopes and God’s plans.
For Christians, the good news of Easter morning takes our Sabbath celebration to the cosmic level. In his death and resurrection, Christ has conquered sin and death and offers new life to us and the whole world. When we gather for worship, when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, when we rest in God’s grace and goodness, we also are renewed in our faith and our identity as God’s resurrection people called to proclaim the good news of new life to all the world. Our Easter Sabbath celebration is a foretaste of God’s kingdom on earth. As we keep the Sabbath, we look forward to the promise of God’s endless Sabbath day and eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The point of any Lenten discipline is not just to do something different for six weeks and go back to life as usual. It is to deepen our faith and grow closer to God. As you have thought more intentionally about the Sabbath, as you have stopped, rested, embraced and feasted during Lent, how might you continue this life-giving practice beyond Easter? We have gathered a wonderful collection of Sabbath resources in our Church Library – please check them out and use them to continue your Sabbath-keeping and growing in faith. Keeping the Sabbath leads us to be Easter people, people of resurrection and new life.
We hope you will join us for all of our services during Holy Week – Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter – that we can join together in proclaiming the good news: ‘Tis the spring of souls today! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
See you in church,