Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarrelling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgement on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgement on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honour of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honour of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honour of the Lord and give thanks to God.
We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
Why do you pass judgement on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God. For it is written,
‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God.’
So then, each of us will be accountable to God.
It is Saturday morning at the hospital and I notice a young man standing patiently near the front doors. I observe his clothing and hair, signs that he is part of the local orthodox Jewish community, and guess that he is waiting for someone to trigger the automatic door mechanism so that he can follow them in. There is no manually opened door to this building, and he is subject to the discipline of Sabbath (shabbat) and will not press the button or trigger the motion activated centre himself. Nor will he ask me, or anyone else to do so. He will not ask someone to do the work he cannot do, and so is stuck here waiting. We acknowledge one another, I trigger the door, and he walks in behind me.
To the young man, all days are not alike. He will keep this sabbath holy, and all others, though this may cost him opportunities, career progression, may lead to days of heartache when a telephone call cannot be made, and four mile walks to support the wellbeing of a loved one in hospital. He is observing the day in honour of the Lord. I spend this day running between wards to visit patients and families. Sunday is more of the same. I spend Monday curled up under a blanket, grateful that I remembered to buy cereal on Sunday and don’t have to go out.
Did I live any of these days to God? I am not fully convinced in my mind. Do I think my employer or the public will like me more for burning the candle at both ends? Would I be any less busy as a minister or elder preparing for Sunday’s worship? I don’t remember it that way. If we ever rewrite the seven deadly sins, let “busyness” be the seventh, for sabbath rest is a challenge to stop, notice, and remember that we are accountable to God for how we live.
“Let my prayer rise before you like incense”
The singed smell of worship
overlaying the smell of burned rubber
from our relentless days.
“Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord”
that I may refrain from over-committing
“Keep me from the traps laid for me”
the temptation of work that might get left undone unless I do it.
“In you I take refuge, do not give me over to death”
nor the bone-grinding labour that robs life of its joy.
Responding to Psalm 141.