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Sabbath opens doors
They are frequently called biblical holy days or feasts of the Lord. Pesach, or the Passover, perhaps the best known of these holidays, is noted on most of our calendars and begins this year at sundown on Wednesday, April 8. For most present-day Christians, this and other holy days outlined in the Old Testament have been regarded as traditional observances exclusively celebrated by the Jewish community.
There is a new melody reaching the ears of some Christians as they seek to incorporate biblical truths into their everyday lives. Traditional Jewish melodies can, with greater frequency, be heard during praise and worship phases of Sunday worship services. And the Feasts of the Lord—God’s holidays are becoming regular holiday celebrations in a small but growing number of Christian homes as well.
Christians who celebrate Old Testament holidays believe there is no escaping the inherent Jewishness of their faith. They point to Christ’s early followers, who not only considered themselves to be Jews who had found the promised Messiah, but who comfortably continued to enjoy their traditional Jewish celebrations.
What do Christians accomplish by participating in these celebrations? According to Barney Kasdan, author of the book, “God’s Appointed Times,” and leader of a large congregation of Messianic Jews and Gentiles in San Diego, anyone who celebrates God’s holy days will enjoy their historical Jewish roots with greater depth. Additionally, they will learn new insights into God’s nature as well as His plan for mankind.
Kasdan’s book begins with an explanation of Shabbat or the Sabbath, the first holy day revealed in Scripture. He claims that by celebrating the Sabbath, one will learn much about human rhythms and the necessity of managing weekly schedules.
The historical background, according to Kasdan, can be found in Leviticus 23:1-3 where the Lord tells Moses that he and his people have six days to work but “the seventh is a sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly.”
Today many Christians take time out of their work schedules to rest and attend worship services on Sunday, the first day of the week, the commemorative day of Christ’s resurrection. Like thousands of years before, modern-day Sabbath celebrations involve a traditional meal, rest, prayer, worship and fellowship.
The obligation for people to keep the Sabbath is given frequent mention in the Old Testament. And the codification of things prohibited on the Sabbath was made during the years between the end of the writing of the Old Testament and the beginning of our common era. It is here that the inevitable controversy, if there even need be any, begins. While it was Jesus’ practice to attend the synagogue on the Sabbath Day, He taught that the observance was made for man’s benefit and not for God. It was not wrong to do good or to heal or even to pluck grain from the ears of plants if one needed food on that day.
Barney Kasdan seems to agree. Not only, he points out in his book, did Jesus prophetically claim to be the Messiah during a Shabbat Day sermon, but He attacked the needless rigidity associated with Sabbath keeping at other moments during His ministry.
“The most important element is the spirit in which we observe the holy day,” he writes, “and Shabbat can be observed in a multitude of ways, depending on one’s convictions and desires.”
It is this kind of discussion that excites me about faithful living. Many of us would never consider giving up our Sunday worship times. The fellowship, the Sunday School programs and the opportunity for corporate worship are a part of who and what we are as human beings. It fuels, restores and cements our sense of family and faith.
But for those of us who have never been able to connect with the church scene, practicing the Sabbath with other messianic believers may be the opportunity to open the door to a relationship with the loving, living Creator. Additional ideas can be gathered by visiting www.kehilatariel.org and reading Kasdan’s book, “God’s Appointed Times.” Additional church activities here in Oak Harbor and in other parts of Whidbey Island are well publicized on local church Web sites and here in the newspaper. It’s a wonderful time of year to join activities as many newcomers frequent church this time of year.
May your choices be made with joy as you seek to enliven and deepen your experiences with God. Let’s be adventuresome. Let’s get up and move!