Eric Butterworth Speaks: Essays on Abundant Living #35
Delivered by Eric Butterworth on August 3, 1975
The Fourth Commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy...”, has done more for the observance of religion in Judaism and Christianity than any other...for it appears to set aside a special time for religious study and worship. So it has been made a sin not to go to “services.”
The Bible Sabbath is based on the 7th day of creation, which was actually Saturday. Christians, all but the Seventh Day Adventists, have their Sabbath on Sunday. Many changes were made when Christianity was absorbed by Rome. Many of the days received new names, following Roman traditions. Thus, the real identity of the Sabbath Day has been obscured. Actually, Sunday as a church day was developed by the Scotch and Puritans... and this has evolved in America into the idea that going to church on Sunday is a “badge of conventional respectability.” The Sunday 11:00 a.m. time of service, which for many is “God’s hour”, was actually set to accomodate farm people, for it is half-way between milking times.
The commandments were created by Moses as guidelines for primitive people. Even as a parent builds a fence around the yard to restrain the child...and then progressively eleminates it as the child matures and understands the reasons for self-discipline...so Moses created restraints—”thou shall nots”—which need to be progressively broken into the underlying spiritual principles.
The key to the 4th Commandment is in the meaning of the word “shaw-bawth”, which means “rest, intermission, desist from exertion.” The emphasis is on work and rest, outpouring and infilling—the rhythm of life. As a piano teacher uses a metronome to help a child to develop a sense of rhythm, so practice of the Sabbath may help us to put importance on rest for health and on periods of prayer for recreation. However, the Sabbath practice needs to be adapted according to the times and the culture. To become a slave to the Sabbath for itself is like being tied to a metronome.
Jesus was criticized for doing healing work on the Sabbath and for permitting his disciples to gather food. It is difficult for us today to realize the nature of the infraction of Jewish law. In Numbers 15:32-36, a man is brought before the elders and condemned to death by stoning. It was Jesus’ breach of the Sabbath that was one of the prime charges against him by the Pharisees. Jesus saw the Sabbath in a more spiritual light. He said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” He was seeking to promote the idea of the Sabbath on a level of consciousness, not just a day of the week.
In the Creation story...on the seventh day “God rested.” Thus, it was held that man should rest on every seventh day. However, the Creation deals not with time, but with stages of unfoldment. The process outlined is just as applicable to building a house as creating a world. The seventh day of Creation, metaphysically implies, “When you have put your mind, heart, and hands to a project...having done all that you can...then let go and let God breathe life into it that it may become a living form.”
Now Sunday is an important day as a metronome of balance. We all need to take time to infill. But it is not enough to simply have Sunday away from work. People may be demanding about having Sunday off, and then get into projects equally as draining... or even moonlight on another job. Let your Sabbath, whether on Sunday or in a meditation intermission, be a fast from worry, anxiety, tension. Let it be a time of spiritual re-creation.
We need to take time to get ourselves in tune with the inexorable rhythm of the Universe. Reflect on the ebb and flow of the tide...the rising and setting of the sun. And when you feel the beat of your heart, then recall the constancy of the diastole and systole of the heart. There is a contraction and dilation of the heart 75 times a minute as long as you live. How can this organ work so hard and for so long? Following every contraction there is a vital period of relaxation. Studies have revealed that out of every 24 hours the heart is totally still for 15 hours. It is this rest schedule that enables the heart to go without stopping for scores of years. The heart, thus, has its contant Sabbath.
When you finish a job or difficult problem, you may heave a sigh. It is a symbol of relief and release from tension. This is a kind of Sabbath. Beyond the sigh comes an inhaling process that could symbolize an infilling of the Spirit. To keep the Sabbath holy is to do all your work in the awareness of inner power, and thus to have frequent silent parentheses to remember your inner resource of strength, inspiration, and substance. A successful businessman has a prayer time in his office every morning at 10:00 a.m. His secretary takes no calls and all business must wait while he experiences his ten minute “Sabbath”. Yet, the man never goes to church, and regularly plays golf on Sunday. Some religious friends consider him a “sinner.” Actually his church is an inner experience that he observes every day and not just on Sunday. Charles Fillmore says, “Within every person there is a church service going on all the time. At any time we can enter in and experience it.”
“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” Make it a whole part of life...not just an escape from life. Keep the awareness that the whole of God is always inwrap-ped within you. “To everything there is a season...” A time to plan and work and create and achieve. And...a time to let go and let the divine flow animate and vitalize the fruit of your labors.
© 1975, by Eric Butterworth