How many of you are actively involved in your place of worship? What I mean by “actively involved” is that you do more than just come to services and tithe. Are you in a ministry? Are you on the Council? Do you help out with tasks and work that needs to be done? Do you help to lead liturgy?
When you are involved to the point where you are expected to be there and to help those in charge, the Shabbat can become something you have to do and not something you want to do. And if that happens, I would like to think (this is mainly for myself) that it is OK to feel that way.
I was exceptionally involved with the Messianic Temple where I worshiped in Philadelphia. I started slowly, just making coffee for the Oneg each Shabbat (we had Friday night services), then started to teach the Shabbat school (which now was taking time during the week to prepare), and after some 17 years or so I was on the Council with monthly meetings, helping to process the tithes, helping the Rabbi to lead liturgy (which included giving the message when the Rabbi wasn’t there), and I did all the construction and handy-man work needed. I also helped with the music ministry and was a member of the Dance ministry.
When the Rabbi left to start his own missionary program, those of us on the Council (4 of us) took over, and I was the one who (mostly) ran the Friday night service (liturgy and message), created the liturgy and led the High Holy Days services, and also led the bible study every Wednesday night. All the preparation had to be done during the week, somewhere between my 60 hours a week with work, commute and homelife.
I am not telling you this to brag on myself, but as an example of how much effort I, as well as many, many others, devote to our house of worship. And this was all volunteered- I never received a Shekel. Same thing for where I worship now- I am on the Council (I am the Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer- OY!) and I also help with the liturgy, music, whatever.
In my case, the Shabbat rest isn’t always very restful. Although I love serving the Lord, sometimes it is tough to get myself “up” for it. In truth, as Friday approaches I often feel anxious, and find myself waiting for it to be over.
Do any of you feel that way sometimes?
The place where I worship will probably be completely changed, if not disbanded, in the next few months. The Senior Pastor is stepping down, and the Assemblies of God will be taking over the church. It is currently (as it has been for years) a Hebraic Roots congregation, which is not the typical A of G church, but the Presbyter has been very accommodating, and we have been a sovereign church under the A of G, so they have pretty much left us alone. However, now that we are so small we don’t qualify as sovereign anymore (we cannot even meet our own bylaws for Council membership) and the Senior Pastor is going to be gone (we do not have any A of G credentialed Pastor to replace him), the A of G will reclassify us as a District church, and will put someone in charge. That means we will be having Sunday services (we will need to find another building) and (most likely) will not be a Hebraic Roots congregation. Consequently, the few remaining congregants will have to find somewhere else to worship, and I will absolutely NOT be a member of the typical Assemblies of God church. Their recent change of position regarding Israel is against God. As a stand-alone Hebraic Roots church I have no problem with the “legal” A of G association, but to worship as they do is not going to happen for me.
So, what will I do? I will do nothing. Really- no church, no Messianic Synagogue, no Home Worship groups, nothing but my own Sabbath rest from the Sabbath. I confess that Shabbat has become a bit of a burden the past year or so, especially since the Pastor has been out of town a lot and I have been running the show in his absence. I admit that I’m tired of doing it, and when what you are doing is supposed to be a joy, but it is a drag, then you need to get away for a while.
So, for me, I will be taking a Sabbath rest from the Sabbath. That doesn’t mean I will ignore the Sabbath- not a chance, but I will just be resting from running the services for everyone else’s Sabbath. Even the Priests under King David were given rest from their duties on a regular basis, so why not me? Or you?
Here’s the really hard thing to confess to you: I am actually hoping that the A of G will not replace our Pastor with a Hebraic Roots Pastor so that I can take off. If we continue as Hebraic Roots, I will have to stay because that will be (for me) a sign from the Lord that He is not done with me there. Not yet.
So, after my little kvetch about being tired, I want to say that if you ever feel that you need to take a Shabbat rest from the Shabbat, it is OK. I do believe, since the Levites were allowed rest, that God will also allow us rest from the obligations of running a service (so long as there is someone else there to handle things) now and then. I am not preaching or even suggesting you do not honor the Shabbat- that we must always do- but if you want to stay home and relax with family, or just by yourself, that is OK. In fact, I will go as far as to say it should be done every once in awhile.
We all need to change our routines now and then. There is a word for when we do the same things the same way all the time, and that word is: stagnation.