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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Unburden Yourself

Porters carrying back-breaking loadsphoto © 2005 meg and rahul | more info (via: Wylio)
    Thus said the LORD to me: “Go and stand in the People's Gate, by which the kings of Judah enter and by which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem, and say: ‘Hear the word of the LORD, you kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who enter by these gates. Thus says the LORD: Take care for the sake of your lives, and do not bear a burden on the Sabbath day or bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem. 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 17:19-22 ESV)
I've never been one of those work-is-forbidden-on-Sunday kind of Christians. First and most obvious of all, Sunday is actually not the Sabbath. The Sabbath is Saturday, as any Jewish person can readily tell you. (The reason Christians meet on Sundays is because Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday; the early church took to worshiping on that day and we've been doing it ever since.) Second, in the society we live in, it can be very difficult to function if you are dogmatic about the whole no-work-on-Sunday thing. Ever fill out an application to work in the service industry (most teenagers' first jobs) and fill in that you won't work on Sunday? Not always a wise choice! And hey... what about your pastor? I'll bet he comes to his job on Sundays!

I don't want to get into the whole ceremonial law vs. moral law thing where it comes to Old Testament rules... at least, not in this post. Thomas Aquinas blogged that one many years ago, anyway. :) My belief is that many things that were physical but ceremonial in the Old Testament are, in the era after Christ's sacrifice, metaphors for spiritual things. Whatever side of the working-on-the-Sabbath debate you fall on (Saturday, Sunday, no work, a little work, whatever), for a moment I want to think about a metaphorical application of carrying burdens on the Sabbath.

I get nervous about things sometimes. I get fearful if the bills aren't paid, if I have a responsibility that I'm not sure I'll be able to fill, if there's something coming up that I'm not looking forward to. Everybody gets stressed out from time to time. Those things are burdens. When Peter paraphrases Psalm 55:22, "Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you..." he changes it a bit: "...casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7 ESV, emphasis mine in both cases) A worry or anxiety is metaphorically a burden.

If "burden" is a metaphor for an anxiety, then what does the Sabbath represent? The Sabbath is a time of rest, of being in and enjoying the presence of the Lord. Hebrews chapter 4 tells us that the Sabbath rest is still present for the people of God, but it is entered into by faith in Christ Jesus, and is a rest from the impossible task of trying to do enough good things to be good enough for God. When we enter the presence of God, we enter that restful place, because we can only enter God's presence through Christ.

Your "burdens" are your fears, your concerns, your anxieties. The "Sabbath" is, metaphorically, your position in the presence of God because you have accepted the sacrifice of the Cross. Don't bear your burdens on the Sabbath. When you walk into church, don't bring your anxieties and fears and try to hang on to them. For that matter, in Christ we are continually in a Sabbath; don't try to bear your own burdens any time. Let God give you the emotional rest to match your spiritual state of rest. Cast your burdens and anxieties on Him. And get some rest!

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