Please welcome today’s guest writer, Rachel Koehne. Rachel graduated in 2014 with a literature major. She currently lives in Grand Rapids, MI although frequent flights of fancy take her to Neverland. Rachel works at a public library where she basically gets paid to geek out with fellow readers all day long. Other random interests include polka dots, giraffes, list making, and dancing in public spaces. {Romans 12:2}

Q. What is God’s will for you in the Fourth Commandment?

A. First, that the gospel ministry and education for it be maintained, and that, especially on the festive day of rest, I regularly attend the assembly of God’s people to learn what God’s Word teaches, to participate in the sacraments, to pray to God publicly, and to bring Christian offerings for the poor. Second, that every day of my life I rest from evil ways, let the Lord work in me through His Spirit, and so begin already in this life the eternal Sabbath.

Some Sundays ago, my pastor led our congregation through Q&A 103 of the Heidelberg Catechism and the phrase “festive day of rest” caught my attention. I contemplated it throughout the sermon, marveling at the beauty of the words. This oft-mentioned (but seldom truly observed) “day of rest” may conjure images of either sitting on a hard chair, listening to a puritanical minister warn about the sins of excess, or alternately, napping in front of your television, sated with an overabundance of meat and taters. These ideas assume of course that a person can even set aside an entire day to “rest” in our society; I admit that at times my own Sabbath consists of hurriedly getting ready for church, arriving late and out of breath, rushing downstairs after the benediction to speak to friends before they leave, and making plans with fellow nursery attendants and teachers for the next lesson. All Jesus-y feelings from the sermon that profoundly moved me mere minutes before are forgotten in my frustration that there are no more Nilla wafers. I may then run errands or simply go home and cram in all the work I neglected on Friday and Saturday… while multi-tasking with an extremely secular binge session of Law and Order: SVU.

But ever since this sermon, my concept of a “day of rest” has been questioned and restructured… for what does it command in Exodus 20?

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 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—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.” (NRSV)

A thoroughly explained commandment, unlike the concise “You shall nots” that follow. It strikes me that God had some foresight into the amount of distraction we would have as fallen people, and that a sound explanation of this practice was necessary. And the words used! “Sabbath,” “consecrated”… sounds very resonant and legit. And I do believe that our God deserves our undivided attention once a week. So how do we turn the Sabbath, this “day of rest,” into something we not only do out of habit, but something we long to do out of love for our Savior? Do like those German boys and make it festive.

“Festive” might sound like the kind of party you repent for on Sunday morning, not the kind of worship you do on purpose for the Sabbath. But that holy, Jesus-y feeling I get from hearing God’s Word can also be described as “festive,” which the OED dictionary defines as “cheerful and jovially celebratory.” It struck me as I pondered the “festive day of rest” that Sunday becomes festive the second I realize how blessed I am to be able to worship this God of mine! Not only has He blessed me beyond measure, but I also have the ability to speak about Him freely in the country I live and hold provoking conversations about faith in my closer community. Do I not sing “it’s my joy to honor You” with the radio? How can I actually live that conviction? Music is a crucial part of my life—although I don’t play any instruments, sorry mom!—so the best way for me to have a festive spirit on Sunday is to listen to songs that remind me of my blessings, speak love, and create a longing in my soul for the splendor of Heaven.

Such a state of being can be more restorative than a traditional “rest.” Rest, to me, is a preparation of the body, mind, and spirit for work ahead as well as the consolidation of the work (or stress) that we have accomplished. Participating in the love of my family, friends, and of Jesus sustains all of me more than any Sunday afternoon nap could.

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