Issues and Answers

How To Keep The Sabbath...And Enjoy It, Pt. 1

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript

Participants: Shelley Quinn (Host), May-Ellen Colón


Series Code: IAA

Program Code: IAA000414

00:01 You know, I have a saying: Rules without relationship result in
00:06 rebellion. Religion can be filled with rules but it doesn't
00:11 draw us closer to the Lord. Relationship is full of
00:16 salvation and satisfaction. Stay tuned and learn more.
00:22 Music is playing.
00:42 Hi, I'm Shelley Quinn and we're so glad that you're joining us
00:47 today for Issues and Answers. You are, I believe, really going
00:51 to enjoy this program because we're going to be looking at a
00:55 familiar topic in a different way. What we'll be looking at is
00:59 the Sabbath and how to have a Sabbath that's not dominated
01:04 by rules, but a Sabbath that is dominated by relationship, a
01:09 Sabbath that you will really enjoy, a Sabbath that will bring
01:13 honor to the Lord. Right now it is my distinct pleasure to
01:18 introduce you to our very distinguished guest
01:21 Dr. May-Ellen Colon. Dr. May Ellen, we're so glad that you're
01:24 here with us today.
01:26 It's a real privilege and pleasure.
01:28 Now you are the assistant director for Sabbath School and
01:32 Personal Ministries of the General Conference of the
01:34 Seventh-day Adventist Church, right? Right. That's a mouthful
01:38 but you're also the author of a book From Sundown to Sundown:
01:43 How to Keep the Sabbath and Enjoy It.
01:47 We're going to be talking today and even a few programs more
01:54 about your journey in learning how to get away from just
01:59 ritualistic rules to really finding meaning in the Sabbath.
02:04 But what I wanted to do before we actually begin is let's let
02:08 our audience know a little bit about you. Tell us just a little
02:13 bit about who you are and just kind of encapsulate your
02:18 personal story quickly.
02:21 Well, I grew up in the church in a low income project and so
02:26 the church actually became the center of my happiness. Anything
02:31 that happened in my life happened at the church because
02:35 my neighborhood didn't offer very much. So I grew up rather
02:39 devoted and also to performance. You know, I wanted to show my
02:44 loyalty to the church and so I tried to follow the program, get
02:50 with the program, so to speak and that meant being careful
02:55 that I did observed the rules and the expectations. It wasn't
03:00 until I got to college when I really realized that it's not
03:05 how I look and how well I'm doing, because a person that is
03:08 well organized and self disciplined can be better at
03:11 performing certain rules and expectations than someone who is
03:14 probably more laid back. So when that approach is taken
03:19 it's more about the person. When I really realized I was a
03:24 sophomore in college Morris Venden came to our college and
03:27 he shared this message all week of which the bottom line was
03:32 grapevines don't bear grapes, in order to be grapevines, but
03:37 because they are grapevines and the same with apple trees, the
03:41 same with cherry trees. When it comes to Christians, Christians
03:45 don't do good works in order to be Christians but because they
03:49 are Christians. Exactly. I relate to you so well
03:53 May-Ellen because I grew up also fairly poor after my father
03:57 was killed. We were poor. But I also grew up having no sense of
04:04 identity in a way. I felt that I has to be perfect to be loved
04:11 at home. Perfection was rather much demanded. I was taught
04:15 in a denomination, the church I went to, that God demanded
04:20 perfection. He was going to spew you out of his mouth if you give
04:23 him anything less than and so I was very performance oriented,
04:28 always trying, not outperform others, but trying to do my very
04:33 best to be accepted. I had a love affair with the Lord and
04:39 the church was also my center, but I didn't really have any
04:46 security. So that's kind of where you were till Morris came
04:49 along. Yes, Yes. Now you met your husband at college and tell
04:55 us a little bit about what your experience has been as a married
04:59 couple. Well when we got married by then
05:03 we said we really would like to go overseas someday and be in a
05:06 foreign mission. We thought well, we both feel pretty good
05:11 about cultures that aren't ours, in fact, I basically married
05:17 across a culture because my husband is from Puerto Rico
05:20 and he married across, he married a gringa as they say,
05:23 and so we had already experienced that idea.
05:27 So we put our name in the secretariat at General
05:31 Conference and we got several calls during the several years
05:34 after that. We had calls to various places, but it was never
05:37 the right time; either we had just gotten transferred to
05:40 another church or something. He was pastoring? Yes he was
05:44 pastoring and he went back and forth between departmental work
05:47 and pastoring. But finally in 1988 it was the right time and
05:53 we said, We're going to have to do it now or we may never do it.
05:56 Our children were 4 and 6 and we said, Okay, we're going Lord and
06:01 a call came, well two calls came at the same time, but the
06:05 one we took was in Abidjan, West Africa. It was then called the
06:10 African-Indian Ocean Division. My husband dealt with the health
06:16 ministries and spent some time in the ministerial department,
06:20 too, as one of their associates. We were working together as
06:24 directors of family ministries for the division.
06:26 Now when you were in Africa did you find that they practiced
06:31 certain things about our religion, if you will, I guess
06:38 religion, or doctrinal truths, I believe they have the same
06:41 doctrinal truths but were there different practices specifically
06:43 on the Sabbath? Well I noticed... We had a lot
06:49 of folks from Europe there also as missionaries and some
06:52 from the Philippines and it seemed like there were different
06:55 attitudes and different how-to's in keeping the Sabbath in their
07:02 particular homes and also we'd travel to other countries, too,
07:06 to get from home to Africa and we just noticed different
07:10 patterns in different parts of the world of keeping the
07:14 Sabbath and they be opposite to each other but yet they were
07:20 condoned in that particular culture. It got to be confusing.
07:22 So I said, There's got to be a way to find a guide that cross
07:28 culturally will help straighten this out in my mind at least.
07:31 So I had my antennas up then to look for some way to decide
07:39 cross-culturally how to keep the Sabbath and live it.
07:43 You know, in Mark 2:27- 28, Jesus said this. He said,
07:50 The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.
07:54 So God made the Sabbath as a gift for man, but then he goes
07:59 and he says, Therefore the Son of Man is also the Lord of the
08:03 Sabbath. I think sometime that what we forget is what this
08:09 Sabbath is all about. Your little boy said something to
08:12 you... I know that I interviewed you on the Today program. You
08:16 shared a story that happened actually before you went to
08:19 Africa when you were in church and you were singing a song
08:23 Sabbath is a Happy Day. Your little boy tugged on you as a
08:27 4- year-old and said, No it's not Mama. Now that was the
08:31 beginning of a journey that got your feelers up and now you're
08:35 looking for ways to make the Sabbath more meaningful for
08:39 your children. Because you were a minister and his wife you were
08:42 very busy on Sabbath days. But how did you go from this
08:47 personal search of trying to make it more meaningful for
08:52 your family to writing actually a dissertation for
08:56 your doctorate and then writing the book, From Sundown to
09:00 Sundown: How to Keep the Sabbath and Enjoy It.
09:02 Well after he said that we tried to be more intentional even
09:06 though we had a busy day often of meetings and visiting other
09:09 people. When we went to people's houses one of us tried to sit
09:14 with the children and not just visit with the adults, maybe
09:17 look at a story book or something with them and we tried
09:21 to carve out at least a time slot during the Sabbath even if
09:25 it was a busy one to be with them; just something simple
09:29 even if it meant sitting on a blanket out in the yard or in
09:32 the middle of the field, just to focus on them. Then when we went
09:36 to Africa as we went around the Africa-Indian Ocean Division and
09:40 did seminars on family ministry, we had one series of seminars we
09:44 did on family wellness. One of those wellness features of a
09:49 family that is well is that the family is spiritual. So we were
09:53 doing that particular seminar in Rwanda. As we were talking
09:57 about how to make your family more spiritual and have family
10:02 worship and all of that, this little lady raises her hand and
10:07 says, Sabbath is a very unhappy day for my family with all my
10:12 children. It's just so difficult and it's not happy and I end the
10:16 day more tired than when I started. How can I make it
10:20 better. Do you have some suggestions how to live it
10:24 better? It caught me by surprise. That was not part of
10:27 the script. In fact, the others jumped in and then the seminar
10:31 turned from family worship to how to enjoy Sabbath; that was
10:35 what the rest of the time was used for.
10:37 So what you're saying to me or what I'm picking up is that
10:42 people had lost the meaning of why God gave us the Sabbath.
10:47 It was almost like a day that was taken away from us by a
10:53 demanding God instead of a gift of love given to us by a loving
10:58 God, you know, and the folks were having...
11:00 Oh that's excellent. I cannot tell you how many people that I
11:05 know that fit into that category people who feel like that this
11:10 is a day that a demanding God has stolen out of my schedule
11:14 rather than looking at it as a gift from a loving God saying
11:17 This is the day for you to come vacation with me, right?
11:21 Yes. If we could somehow reframe it, but that's being intentional
11:27 reframing. So that little lady really got my attention, because
11:32 I could have answered to her what was the right day. I was
11:35 pretty good at proving what was the right day and the doctrinal
11:38 theological background, but how in the world do you live it?
11:41 The answers I gave her were, I feel, shallow as I look back,
11:45 and so I said, I'm going to make a seminar to help me. One of my
11:50 classes in my doctoral program was to make some kind of a
11:54 resource for your field, my area was religious education. So I
11:58 said, I'm going to make a seminar for the Sabbath.
12:01 So I did research and interviewed different people and
12:04 came up with a seminar on how to really live the Sabbath. I took
12:08 that all around Russia when we were over there...
12:10 More importantly, you actually put it into practice at home.
12:14 That was my journey and it helped me to put it, I'm glad
12:18 you brought that up, it helped me in my own family to live it.
12:22 I have a double motivation because I can't be out there
12:26 preaching this if I'm not doing it myself.
12:28 May-Ellen, that is so true because this is something...
12:31 I can't really teach anything with any anointing or with any
12:34 conviction if I'm not living it in my own life, right?
12:37 Yes. It has to be something that I love and part of me, not just
12:41 a head thing that I know.
12:43 So through your experience, taking it from the head to the
12:48 heart, not just the head but the heart.
12:49 And then the hand after that. And the hand, that's good,
12:52 the head, the heart to the hand. Your experience, tell us how did
12:57 you determine what things you would practice on the Sabbath?
13:02 You know, as I was teasing to this program I happened to
13:06 comment to you that rules without relationship result in
13:10 rebellion and I know so many people, including my husband
13:15 when he grew up, that the rules about Sabbath were so
13:19 restrictive and it was on the Sabbath you can't do this, you
13:23 can't do this, you can't and Sabbath was a day of don'ts,
13:27 a day of restrictions. So how did you determine what practices
13:34 your family would enjoy on the Sabbath?
13:37 Well, again it was a journey. After I did that seminar well
13:43 it came time to do the dissertation and I realized
13:48 well Sabbath is a very good religious education issue since
13:51 that was what I was working on and it's a very key one I think.
13:55 So I said well I'm going to do a dissertation on this issue.
13:58 So I started. You know, you have to do a review of literature,
14:02 that's chapter two usually in some dissertations, and so I
14:05 said, I'm going to study the scripture with my Sabbath
14:08 how-do-I-live-the-Sabbath eye glasses on. I started doing that
14:13 and I found different patterns of different texts, stories and
14:19 texts and things that give hints on how I could turn this into a
14:24 practice. They helped me to get some principles. For example,
14:28 when I read about Jesus, there were seven healing miracles that
14:33 are recorded in the gospels. Nice number. Yes, seven Sabbath
14:37 healing miracles. So I realized that's a principle. So healing
14:43 has got to be a principle that we live by on Sabbath because
14:46 Jesus healed. I looked at other things. I read about the places
14:52 where it said God rested. I ended up with around 15
14:56 different patterns or principles as I studied the scripture.
15:02 Now some people may find 10, some people may find 12, but
15:06 for this dissertation I ended up with 15.
15:10 So now explain to us what... because different people have
15:16 assigned different values to different words, so what is the
15:20 difference between a principle, define a principle compared to
15:26 say a rule. Well, one of my favorite
15:30 teachers at Andrews, John and Nellie Youngberg, I had both of
15:33 them, John used to say: Rules are many, principles are few,
15:39 rules sometimes change, but principles never do.
15:44 So a principle is a universal, timeless foundation to help
15:51 guide our practices and we can apply these principles.
15:57 You know, there's room within the principles, for example that
16:02 I have delineated about the Sabbath keeping, within each
16:05 culture there's room for individual application within
16:09 that culture. So principles are more foundational and they are
16:13 for all time, for all people, and they are in the scripture
16:15 when we are addressing this subject and then each culture
16:19 that takes that principle; Oh the principles of healing, how
16:22 can I apply that in Spain or how can I apply that in Zambia.
16:28 Or the principle of rest; how can I apply that. You find
16:33 your cultural application of that, but you try to be true to
16:37 the principle. You said to me before we came
16:39 out here that rules are kind of like, what did you compare to,
16:44 a soccer field? Explain that because I liked that.
16:47 Oh, well, if you have a soccer field or a basketball court
16:52 there are lines. You know, you have an option of either
16:55 throwing an old sock in each corner and say that's the
16:58 boundaries or you have some clearly delineated lines that
17:03 are drawn. If you don't have the lines, you know, we can get
17:09 into a real hassle about where the ball went and whose foot
17:13 landed where and who was out of bounds and all this, and then it
17:17 becomes a very legalistic game and it takes the joy. But when
17:21 you have some clear principles to follow then you can play the
17:27 game and enjoy it. In fact, Marva Dawn, one of my
17:30 favorite authors, maybe some of you have heard of it, she wrote
17:34 a book called Keeping the Sabbath Wholly. She is a
17:40 Lutheran writer I believe and she said that if we have
17:44 intentionality on the Sabbath, intentional principles we follow
17:50 it frees us from legalism and we can enjoy the game.
17:57 Amen and hope that the rules aren't so many when you
18:00 understand the principle, you can have the practice of that
18:10 principle, how can I say this? The practice of the principle
18:13 when it's really in your heart, you don't have to have so many
18:16 rules. Yes and you know something,
18:18 if you operate... now we're going to take the principle to
18:21 the next level about reflecting a certain characteristic of God
18:26 through every principle... I'll talk about that in a minute,
18:28 but when you operate above the rule level on the principle
18:34 level and every principle reflects a certain
18:37 characteristic of God, the way I've broken it down in this
18:40 particular book, the standards are higher than ever, they are
18:45 higher than ever! Would you agree it's the
18:47 difference like little children need rules about don't touch
18:52 the stove, it's hot, don't do this, don't do that, but as a
18:56 child becomes more mature they understand these things are hot,
19:00 you don't have to worry about these rules, is that correct?
19:03 It's in their heart and it's theirs and they have the
19:06 motivation and then they go beyond just the bare minimum.
19:12 I like what you said; you mentioned that when you went to
19:16 scriptures this time in preparation for your literary
19:20 review in your dissertation, that you had your, so to speak,
19:24 Sabbath glasses on. You were looking for Sabbath principles.
19:30 Now you actually kind of had, if we could say, three lenses in
19:35 those Sabbath glasses. Why don't you set that up for us.
19:38 Okay, so far we've talked about the rule level or the
19:42 practice level and we talked about the principle. I guess we
19:45 can call those a lens too, and we talked about the principle
19:49 lenses that we looked through to help us decide how to live the
19:54 Sabbath and now there's something even better than that
20:00 to follow, oh well, I shouldn't say better but helpful,
20:03 extremely helpful. Whenever I want to make a decision on how
20:10 to act or how to live sometimes I try to find a hero to emulate
20:15 and that gives me... that's the value of reading biographies and
20:17 so forth of noble people. So as I think of God he has certain
20:25 characteristics, I just love him when I think of these
20:29 characteristics. For example: He is a healer, he is love, he
20:38 wants to relate to us and have an intimate relation with us
20:43 and so forth and so forth. He's affirming and on and on.
20:48 I realized when I thought of God some of these principles
20:53 that I had dug up for my dissertation apply to God.
20:57 You know this is how God is. So these are principles that he
21:02 goes by so that's the third lens; what characteristic of God
21:06 do I want to emulate when I live the Sabbath or any other
21:11 life style? Let me make sure I'm
21:14 understanding you. So the principle reflects some
21:20 characteristic of the person of God. So when you are looking
21:25 at this thing, you can either say, I'm looking at my rule,
21:30 is this really part of the principle, is there a good
21:34 principle to this rule? Does this reflect the person of God?
21:39 Or you can start from the other side and say, I'm looking at my
21:43 God; now what is the principle about the Sabbath that reflects
21:48 his character and knowing that what will be my practice, in
21:52 other words, my rules? Is that correct?
21:54 Yes, and those are three lenses that we can either test the rule
21:57 we already have, you know, what's the principle and what's
22:01 the characteristic of God or we can say, All right, I want to
22:04 keep the Sabbath, where do I start and you think of different
22:08 characteristics that God has. You know, we should have this
22:12 for all of our lifestyle practices, but the Sabbath is
22:16 the day above all days that we should certainly use this model.
22:21 So when you start looking through these lenses, if you
22:25 will, the lens of the person or character of God, the lens of
22:29 the principle and the precepts under that, this helped you to
22:34 see the Sabbath in a new way and we have that graphic on the
22:38 screen right now so our viewers can see those three P's, the
22:41 person, the principle and the precept overlapping there.
22:44 Now May-Ellen, where did you get this concept of these three
22:50 lenses. I just happened to read a book
22:53 by Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler called Right From
22:56 Wrong and it was a book about how young people can make
23:02 principled choices and some of the struggles that they're up
23:05 against. I thought, Wow, a light bulb went on; this can apply
23:09 to the Sabbath issue that I've been studying and to any
23:12 Christian lifestyle issue. The Sabbath sometimes for some folks
23:17 is among one of the harder ones to live. In the dissertation, I
23:21 was just dealing with principles and rules, you know, living at
23:25 the principle level and I found those principles. Now I said,
23:29 now I can add another dimension to make Sabbath all about him,
23:33 it's really all about him, and principles really don't explain
23:37 it enough to how to really...
23:39 Not until you understand that they are representative of the
23:43 character of God. Yes and this book gave me the
23:47 the idea when you want to make a lifestyle decision, in this
23:50 case it's the Sabbath, what we're talking about, you think
23:54 about a person you love, that you honor, that is one of your
23:57 heroes and what is he or she like? So I started thinking
24:01 about God in relationship to those principles I'd already
24:04 found and I found a characteristic of God that
24:09 matched every one of those principles that I'd found.
24:11 You know, for example, I had the principle of healing. Well God
24:16 is a healer. And the principle of resting on the Sabbath; well
24:20 God rested on the Sabbath and Jesus modeled it when he was on
24:24 earth. And the principle of just
24:25 honoring that rest. You had a story in the book. We have
24:30 just a few minutes. I don't know if you can tell it very quickly,
24:32 but there was a story about a friend who was a realtor and
24:36 whether or not to show a piece of property on the Sabbath. Can
24:39 you set that up for us?
24:40 Yes. A friend of my named Kathy told me this story, it's in the
24:44 book too that I wrote. She was busy arranging some artifacts in
24:49 her house and then her son was on the phone with
24:51 her aunt who was trying so hard
24:53 to sell some property in North Carolina and the realtor had
24:57 just announced to her that she was going to show this property
25:00 on Sabbath. And the aunt said, What can I do, I'm not even
25:04 going to be there. Maybe it's just knit picking. You know, it
25:08 was a rule that she said well I don't want her to show it
25:12 but I'm not going to be there, so what does it matter? So Kathy
25:16 started sharing with her. Apparently she had read the same
25:20 book I had. So you have these three lenses to look through to
25:23 test any decision we're going to make so that you can really
25:27 see what you want to do. So she said, Okay aunt. She took
25:32 the phone. Yes it says and if we have the diagram up here
25:36 you'll see the first thing she mentioned: It says in
25:40 Exodus 20:10, Don't allow your stranger who is within your
25:44 gates to work, and you know that was her work, which was showing
25:50 property. But she said, we can rationalize that away; Oh I'm
25:54 not going to be there and so on and it's just a small thing
25:58 and so there has to be another way to decide what to do. So
26:02 Let's go on to the principle level, the second lens and that
26:07 is, well of course obeying not to let your stranger work within
26:11 your gate, obeying the Lord as a response for our love to him,
26:16 but also trusting him to take care of what I leave undone on
26:20 Sabbath, which in this case would be not show property.
26:24 Trust him in what I leave undone on the Sabbath.
26:27 So there are two principles, two scriptural principles
26:29 How does this reflect the person?
26:32 Well, Jesus was an example of trust and obey. In Gethsemane
26:38 he said, Not my will but thine be done. He modeled that
26:44 trusting God with the outcome even if the decision was
26:49 difficult. So that would be the third lens. So she shared that
26:54 with her aunt. You know, Aunt, this is a decision. You know,
26:59 it's all about God; are you trusting him, can you trust him
27:04 to sell that property. So she didn't show it on the
27:07 Sabbath. She didn't. What happened? Well she sold that
27:10 property plus another one.
27:12 Praise God. So when she reflected the character of Jesus
27:17 obeying and trusting in his Father and God did take care of
27:21 what she left undone on the Sabbath.
27:23 And it made her aunt feel so good that it's about God.
27:27 It's an about God decision, not just a little knit picky rule
27:31 level. You know, this time has flown by
27:34 and we're going to ask you to come back and we're going to
27:36 really delve into some wonderful Sabbath practices and wonderful
27:43 Sabbath traditions. May-Ellen, thank you so much
27:44 for being here today. You're welcome.
27:46 I hope that you have enjoyed this time with May-Ellen Colon.
27:50 She's the author of From Sundown to Sundown: Keeping the Sabbath
27:56 and Enjoying It. We are seeing that the Sabbath is all about
28:00 him. It's a gift, a day that he has given to us and this is a
28:05 day that he wants us to call a delight. Now I pray for you that
28:10 God be with you always.


Revised 2014-12-17