We are made in God’s image. He said so in Genesis Chapter 1. The very last thing He did was slap us together, both male and female. Then He took a moment and surveyed all that He had created in those six days:
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. – Genesis 1:31
He called all of it very good. Including mankind, and uh.. womankind too.
We open up to chapter 2 and what is the very next thing God does?
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. – Genesis 2:1-3
But… God doesn’t need rest, does he?
He’s not sitting in a rocker on his porch, sipping a freshly-squeezed lemonade, wiping his brow with a handkerchief, relieved the job is done. He simply stopped working. He was done creating, and everything God had done prior to that was very good.
So He puts aside that last day, calls it special. He said this is the day to stop moving. Stop doing. So what do we do with that day? We reflect back on the goodness of God. We call the day Holy. It’s a day to ponder God and all his wondrous works. We go to church to be reminded in all the many ways throughout the service, how He is good and what He has done for us, who He once called very good.
But, we are not really good any more, are we? In the very next chapter of Genesis, mankind falls hard. Humanity takes God’s very good creation and kind of re-creates something of its own with its sin. Something that stains what God has done. By the end of that chapter, God has provided us a path of redemption through his Son, the offspring that crushes the head of the serpent, but the stain on the original creation, like coffee on a white garment, never fully comes out. It’s always there.
Because of that stain, we don’t even rest well. This is probably why so many churches can’t seem to stop working. The seventh day, made for rest and reflection, ends up being kind of a catalyst for the beginning of the work week. It’s treated almost as a starting point. We get practical ways to live in the world, reminders of how not to mess up again. We are told to be good examples because you are the very representation of God in the world. You need to be the best you can be, so you can show the world that it’s all worth it, and they’ll want to follow you to church.
Sunday appears to be when you get your marching orders.
But that’s not how it’s supposed to be.
God intended the sabbath for rest. To contemplate His goodness in our lives. We shouldn’t be coming to church to get new marching orders. This is the day you should be reminded of Jesus’ marching orders for your benefit. It’s a reminder of how much he loves you and how he proved it at the cross.
Here’s why that’s important.
God is the Creator, and he created us. We were created by Him in His image. Throughout history, we have shown ourselves to be chips off the old block. We create. We’ve created magnificent architecture and works of art. We’ve created through our collective vision for better living, places to learn and to heal. We’ve even created things to enjoy, like sports and other forms of entertainment.
Because of the flaw original sin inserted into God’s creation, We’ve created other things as well. We’ve created weapons and governments designed to destroy and oppress. We’ve created ways to make the world harder to live in with various types of pollution, and some might argue, unnatural cycles of weather. We’ve even created perverse forms of entertainment and pleasure.
We have a tendency to create good and bad things, even in our smaller bubbles of life that directly affects us and others. How we love others. Whether we treat our families and friends well. How we even interact with strangers. Do we create encouragement in them or disappointment? Can we treat anyone in a way that deposits a little hope in their spirit?
The tendency here is to stop and remind you to go out and create good things, and be deliberate in doing positive things for those around you. Yes, go do that. Do a lot of it, but that’s not what this is about. Those are still marching orders. Marching orders are easy. That’s why people do it. It’s easy to remind people of the law. It can be harder to remind people that we need the Gospel. Not just the one’s outside of church, but you and I as well.
So, if I’m honest, and maybe you’ll agree as you reflect on your own life, even my best effort is a mixed bag. If I had to reflect on my past week on what kind of things I’ve created or fostered in my life and around my life, I can’t say it was all good. I’m not even sure I can say it was mostly good.
From Monday on, I’ve definitely slipped up, messed up, even sinned in my attitudes and interactions with people. Even if I reduced it to my thoughts, I know they weren’t as pure as I’d like them to be. If there were good parts, I probably spent a little too much time patting myself on the back so I don’t feel so bad.
So God takes six days, creates something incredible, calls it “very good” and rests.
We take six of our days, creating a mixed bag mess. We come to that Sabbath day often broken, tired, weary, full of self and less of God, with a hint of faith remaining us. We are the walking wounded after a week in the world.
The last thing we need is a bootstrap sermon, telling us to stand up, get it together, and then kicking us out the door to prove we can have a better Monday. We also don’t need a rah, rah you are a super-special, friend of God who should be leaving a trail of rainbows and gummy bears in your wake wherever you go. You don’t need affirmations of positive self-images. Stop looking in the mirror. That person can’t help you.
Sunday is a day of rest and reminders. It’s a day of confirmation. This is the day you get to admit to yourself, to God, and to those around you, you are not that good. This is why you come in broken, beaten down by Saturday’s survey. Sadly, this is why people sometimes won’t walk into church. They feel too broken. They are waiting to have a better “creation” week. As if they can now come to God with something to offer him, that will make them more acceptable in His eyes.
But Sundays are for the unacceptable masses, the ones who have nothing to give.
Sundays are the day to rest and receive encouragement. No marching orders. You receive absolution for your sins. forgiveness for all your bad creations. You receive a word that says, “God loves you despite all of it.” You receive his body and blood that sanctifies and cleanses you. You receive a benediction from God that tells you to go from here, already blessed by God for your week. You leave church hopefully encouraged to bring your newly created messes back with you next Sunday.
Sunday is the last day. It’s the day of rest. This is the day to have God shake off of you what you came in with, all six days of it. Sundays are there to remind you of the white robe of Christ you already wear, because after six days, we can forget too easily. Sunday is made for looking at God and being grateful.
If you can’t leave grateful, you haven’t heard the good news.
That’s what Sunday is for.
Please find a place of rest this Sunday.
For the sake of your soul that needs it.