Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Your Sabbath Day Sign




This past Sunday I was tasked with teaching a lesson in Relief Society on keeping the Sabbath Day holy.

This goes without saying, hopefully, but we've all been hearing a lot about this topic in the last little while.  In our ward alone, we had an RS lesson about it, a Sacrament meeting and 5th Sunday lesson about it...just last week.  (I shared some insights I had about the Sabbath day here.)

So, although I've had a lot of experience exploring this commandment personally (and growing spiritually from observing it!) I was a little perplexed with how and what to teach for this lesson.

After all, I wasn't given an actual lesson, I was coming up with the lesson on my own.  I didn't want to go down the road of giving a detailed description of helpful hints...instead, I wanted to highlight the blessings of keeping the Sabbath day...in other words, I wanted to give people a reason to keep this commandment.  As if the reasons haven't been spelled out for us already.

What follows is sort of an outline and a rough re-telling of how the lesson went. I hope it's helpful to someone out there.

On Saturday night, I went on Facebook and lamented that I wasn't sure how to teach the lesson...You, my friends shared some helpful stories with me, and I used some of that!  So thank you!

I wrestled with it as I studied all night, and rolled around in bed for a bit.  Then at about 4am I woke up with these thoughts about different kinds of signs...so that's how I started my lesson...

I printed off these different kinds of signs:

1. a Facebook like symbol
2. a "closed on Sunday" sign outside of a business
3. a blinker in use on the back of a car
4. a simply/modestly dressed woman

Before the lesson, I passed the pictures out to four sisters and asked them to contemplate the sign they had been given and then to take a few minutes to explain to the class how these signs affect others or how they are perceived by God.

I had the ladies sit in front to make up our panel facing the class.  
They each did a great job.  The first shared a personal experience when she had to decide whether to "like" something on Facebook and how that went and how it affected two people in her family when she did so.  The second talked about the restaurant being closed on Sunday, and we had a good laugh about how good the food was, but certainly they took a hit to their business by closing on Sundays.  The third sister talked about how a blinker indicates what direction you're heading in...also symbolic of our life's direction.  We talked about how sometimes we signal in one direction, but head in another direction and how that affects those who follow behind us.  The fourth sister talked about what sign the modestly dressed woman was exuding about herself and her confident appearance.

It was a fun way to ponder the purpose of the "signs" that we give and to segue into this idea of the sign we choose to give to the Lord through our actions on the Sabbath Day.

We all easily made the connection.

I had one sister read Ezekial 20:12-13...and then a couple more verses.  This is the scripture Elder Nelson quotes in his talk "The Sabbath is a Delight," but if you continue reading the next few verses, it puts the idea of the Sabbath as a sign into context....the context being that the ancient Israelites were not willing to give the right sign.  They were not willing to keep the Sabbath, and as a result, the Lord says, they were not brought into the promised land.  And future generations were kept from entering as well.  This, we know, is not the only reason, but in this chapter it is given as a major reason.  At this point, I had the sister reading come up and hold up a sign I had prepared.  It said, "We do not wish to keep the Law of the Sabbath. - Ancient Israel"  On the flip-side of the sign, it read, "Message received: "We are not ready to enter the promised land and to receive thy blessings."

We talked about how long they roamed and contemplated what kind of sign we in our day are giving to the Lord.  Are we telling him that we are not yet ready to receive the blessings that He has waiting for us?  We might not be ready, and maybe that's ok...but let's not wait 40 years to be ready.  Let's learn to keep the Sabbath day holy now or as soon as we can.

Then I read this quote by Mark E. Peterson:  "No law in all scripture has been more clearly defined than that of the Sabbath.  From the time of Genesis to our own day, there has been no subject spoken of more directly or repeatedly than the Sabbath.

"It is one of the laws most dear to the heart of God.  Yet it is noted far more in its desecration than in its acceptance and proper observance..."

"Our observance or nonobservance of the Sabbath is an unerring measure of our attitude toward the Lord personally and toward his suffering in Gethsemane, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead.  It is a sign of whether we are Christians in very deed, or whether our conversion is so shallow that commemoration of his atoning sacrifice means little or nothing to us."  ("The Sabbath Day," Ensign, May 1975, pp. 47, 49).

I asked if the class thought that the degree to which we keep the Sabbath day holy has any affect on other people.

Then we read from the Bible Dictionary on Sabbath day observance:

"The importance of a sacred day for man to rest from his temporal labors, contemplate the word of the Lord, and assemble for public worship is a major item in a person’s spiritual development. Furthermore, a decay in the national religious life always follows any tendency toward carelessness in the matter of Sabbath observance. The existence of a weekly holy day is a most important safeguard; it leaves a constant reminder to the individual of his need for spiritual sustenance and his duty before God, and serves as a witness to the world that there is such a thing as revealed religion.
The change from observing the last day of the week to the first day of the week is not so important as is the concept and principle of the Sabbath. In either case, the Sabbath was symbolic of the mighty works of God: the creation of the earth, the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
We discussed these two themes...

1. that observance of a Sabbath day is a "major item in a person's spiritual development".

2. that the existence of a weekly holy day is a most important safeguard to a nation's religious life.

At this point, there were comments about how strictly the Sabbath was observed in the early days of settling this continent, during the Revolution and such...in contrast to today--a day dubbed Super Bowl Sunday.

Someone brought up that we would do well to remember the brethren's recent advice to "avoid lists" of do's and don't's.  Which I've shared experiences in the past that has confirmed that this is correct, but I wonder how many of us are using this "new" push/direction as a way to excuse doing things we really know we shouldn't on the Sabbath day.  

I asked if this idea of sending a sign to the Lord through our Sabbath observance is a "new" idea or not.  Obviously, it is not, since we just read it out of Exodus.  I stated my opinion that just because we are being asked to not rely on lists for what to do on Sunday...doesn't mean that lists don't/shouldn't exist.  Each of us should be actively going about the spiritual work of making our own personal lists that we choose to live by, regardless of what others might do.  Also the advice to "send a sign" does not mean that we suddenly ignore all that has previously been stated by prophets about keeping the Sabbath Day holy.

Then I played this quote by President Hinckley: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Zw_fTBhVlU



I encourage you to watch it (it's about 1 minute long).  In this clip, President Hinckley laments that Sunday is "becoming the play day of America..."

He also issues this poignant warning to us as a people, "Our strength for the future, our resolution to grow the church around the world will be weakened if we ignore the Lord in this important matter....We cannot disregard with impunity that which He has said."

I think this was another one of those things about the Sabbath that many of us had not thought about.  Not only does our Sabbath observance affect our spirituality and that of our nation, but it will greatly hinder our efforts to share the gospel if we disregard the things God has said about it.  Ouch.  This whole sharing the gospel thing is a major goal for the saints of Pennsylvania, so this warning hit us right where it hurts!

Of course, if we think about it, the opposite must also be true, if there are blessings we desire, we need to keep the commandments upon which those blessings are predicated.  And we are promised in scripture that the "fullness of the earth" will be ours if we keep the Sabbath Day holy.  So basically...any blessing after which we seek can only be helped by keeping the Lord's day holy.

I wasn't able (as with most lessons) to share all that I had researched and prepared, but I was pleased with the high level of participation by the sisters, and although it was a lesson I had to really work to figure out, I think we covered what the Lord wanted us to realize about His Sabbath Day.  

I did share a few stories which readers shared with me...one about a woman who's children's disabilities keep her family from going to church regularly, but that she has them dress up on Sundays when they can and take the Sacrament as delivered by members of the priesthood in her ward...and that is her personal sign to the Lord. A sign that is just between her and the Lord and her and her children...which most signs are truly meant to be....personal.

I passed out cards and asked the women to write down what message/sign they want to give to the Lord through their Sabbath Day observance and then to write down one thing they will do to send that sign to the Lord.

I ended by sharing one story that I read in the scriptures while preparing for the lesson...a story I won't soon forget.

In Luke 23:55 through 24: 1-9, we read about a group of women who followed after the body of Christ to make sure it was properly prepared for burial/entombment after his death.  They prepared spices to use on his body, but seeing that the Sabbath was upon them, they stopped short of their task and waited until the next day to look after Christ's body.

That "next day" was Sunday (since their Sabbath was on Saturday), and when they came to the tomb, they found that his body was not there.  They were met by two angels who explained that He was risen.  These women became some of the very first witnesses of the Resurrection of the Savior BECAUSE they observed the Sabbath Day as they knew it.

We all want to be witnesses of Christ and we can be.  We can receive these same wonderful witnesses of Him, but sometimes we make things harder than they have to be.  Sometimes receiving a witness is mainly a matter of being in the right place at the right time.  Keeping the Lord's commandment to observe the Sabbath can help us do that.

There are lots of great scriptures on the Sabbath which you can read listed in the Bible Dictionary under "Sabbath."

2 comments:

  1. Sounds like a great and creative lesson on keeping the Sabbath day holy. Wish I had been there!

    =)

    ReplyDelete
  2. lovely lesson and great thoughts. I love to index and do research on familysearch plus watch Tabernacle Choir broadcast before our church start at 11 am and afterwards. And even nap to restore and rest me physically and spiritually!

    ReplyDelete

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