Sunday 14 September 2008

The Great Peace of Sabbath

Decisions far and near

Commuting for just about 4 hours a day means that weekend nights are not as available to fritter away even if one were propped up with artificial stimulants.

I had just cried off going to the Swingin’ Safari restaurant [1] which would have been a trip to The Hague from Apeldoorn, no problem with that, there are direct trains, but the thought that I would not be back home till the witching hours having left home at dawn did not appeal to me.

Besides, I am not your best car passenger, I prefer a Flintstone car ride [2] of manpowered acceleration than the daring-do of a car pretending to be in a Formula-1 race and I have been a few without being able to protest too loudly since I do not drive.

Missions revisited

Out of the blue came a phone call that flashed up a number and name I had not called for 5 years and I took the call with full recognition of the caller to find out that this contact had been instigated by visitors from the UK who were missionaries to non-Christians and those who through conversion had been ostracized from their communities.

They were once in the Netherlands till the laws on missionary work changed unfavourably about 6 years ago, so they moved to the UK where their work has been a blessing to many untold.

In the end, I was invited to dinner where my friend had whetted my appetite for roast lamb, potatoes, corn on the cob and other taste-bursting accoutrements, I could not refuse.

Sabbath Shalom

I arrived just before 19:30 having push back their dinner some 90 minutes, but it was handshakes, hugs and kisses as renewed our fellowship and friendship as well as an introduction to a family that had grown from just 2 to 5.

We were going to have the Sabbath meal [3]; so we sat at the table solemnly, lit the two candles, broke bread, poured the wine and the water and we sang the Sabbath Shalom song after which the blessing came at the end with Jewish chant.

We then got up, fell on each other’s necks, kissed and blessed each other and commenced our dinner.

The loss of Christian roots

At which point I lamented the fact that most of Christendom had lost its Middle-Eastern roots of community, fellowship, sharing and love.

We had become informal, indifferent, individualistic and literally independent of each other where togetherness, fellowship and the ability to share our deepest feelings with trusted co-religionists could help lift the burdens and find real solutions.

It began the discourse about the role of religion in humanity, the need to ensure that man is not sacrificed on the altars of customs, traditions, sacraments and creeds noting that Jesus clearly said the Sabbath was made for man [4] and not man for the Sabbath.

The gospel is the focus and viewfinder

We learnt that Christianity is still about the mission that Jesus Christ had to the world and that was clearly documented in the Gospels, meaning that it should remain the filter through which we view the Old Testaments and the Epistles – one could see how in many cases the Epistles had almost become post-Gospel and close to leaving the message about the man, Jesus too far away to be noticed.

Another issue was the way Christianity had evolved into Churchianity, people now say, that is not how we believe in our church rather than this is what the Bible says in relation to what Christ would or might have done.

Practical Christianity

In all the discourse, the most important thing was that we had congregated in fellowship for strengthen our friendship and communion part of which including sharing love, food, ideas and prayers – A most fulfilling evening it was; the core point was simply how to make Christianity practical, relevant and worthwhile without any religious encumbrance.

As I signed the guestbook again, I was able to flip pages back to when I first signed the book in March 2003, besides the missionaries from the UK, this couple whose mission with the youth [5] leaves one seriously unfulfilled in religious vocation, probably run the most welcoming and hospitable home in the Netherlands, they are a blessing to anyone who crosses their path.

In my view, that is the purpose of the Gospel.


[1] Swingin' Safari – Home

[2] The Flintstones - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[3] BBC - Religion & Ethics - Sabbath:

[4] Mark 2:27 - The Sabbath was made for man – World Council of Churches

[5] YWAM Amsterdam

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