One of the most powerful sermons in my life was totally silent.

22 years ago, I was in the Isle of Lewis, Scotland, courting my hoped-to-be wife, Shona. I’d been brought up in the large and loud city of Glasgow, but Shona was raised in Ness, a little village at the most distant tip of the one of the most distant island in Scotland.

The island was one of the few places left in the world where everything closed on Sunday – apart from churches. No shops, no buses, no planes, no gas stations, no sport. Nothing!

Peaceful paradise
Sound like a nightmare? More like a dream; close to paradise, actually.

I was sitting outside Shona’s family home after the Sunday morning service one summer’s day, and realized that I’d never heard peace like this ever before. A deep and wide stillness lay over everything. This was what Sabbath rest was meant to be like; a community-wide shut down of all unnecessary activity.

The parked planes, the docked ferries, the locked shops, the empty sports fields, they all preached a visible and visceral message: It is finished.

God designed the seventh day of the week to remind Israel of a finished creation, and the first day of the week to remind Christians of a finished salvation.

Sabbath scaffolding
Sadly, most Christians have no idea what a community-wide Sabbath like this feels like, and have no idea what they are missing. It not only rests the body and the mind, but also the soul. The external stillness was like a scaffolding for faith; supporting and confirming the faith that rests in total peace and complete stillness on Christ alone. It was also a visible sermon to those who did not go to church, a weekly reminder of their Creator, of His demands as well as His supply.

Twelve years later, when I had been called to pastor a congregation on the island, I would often stand outside on a Sunday to buttress my own faith with the tranquility and to remind myself of the conscience-pacifying, soul-refreshing, heart-resting message of a finished salvation that I was privileged to preach.

Sadly, when I left the island five years ago, the “modernizers” had succeeded in getting Sunday planes and ferries to run, one gas station had opened, and the roads were noticeably busier. It’s still quieter than most places, but I can’t help think that the Devil was delighted to have eliminated one of the last visible demonstrations of a finished salvation from the face of the earth.

I’ll never forget the Gospel power of that first silent sermon, and I often return to the memory of these rare Sabbath hours. In the meantime, in a much noisier community, I’m challenged, as we all are, to re-create that God-ordained stillness and silence in my own home and family one day in every seven.

Are our children able to distinguish Sunday from the other six days. If so, is the message of a finished salvation and of Gospel rest in Christ communicated as clearly as possible, using all the external helps God has provided?

Am I doing what I can to help others to observe a Sabbath by avoiding any unnecessary activities and travel that would involve the employment of others or disturb the lives of others? As somebody once said, “When one person mows his grass, the whole community loses their Sabbath!”

  • Tom

    Thank you for the post.

    I come from England and I’ve been to Lewis a few times now, and I love the place. It has a stillness to it you rarely find. So rare in fact when I went to Stornoway to worship I couldn’t get over how much quieter the place was compared to where I’d been brought up!

  • Flora Compton

    A wonderful reminder of how it used to be. I grew up in a similar environment in Lochcarron in the West Highlands where the only activity on Sunday was walking to church and the elders had the courage to go and speak to a newcomer who was hanging out her washing.

    Even before I was converted this kind of Sabbath rest was a blessing. Because of how I had been taught,I never felt guilty about not studying on the Lord’s Day and greatly benefited from the rest.

    It saddens me that since coming to North America, I’ve been accused of “Legalism’ and ‘Galatianism’ and professing Christians have been in the forefront in such condemnation. How I pray that ministers would return to a proper understanding of the place of the Moral Law of God and define clearly that ” Sin any want of conformity or transgression of the Law of God”.

    • Derick Mackenzie

      I know how you feel. Modern day so-called Christianity is dishonest. On one hand professing Christians are at pains to impress upon you their great love for the scriptures, whilst on the other they blatantly ignore the parts which contradict their preferred agenda. The two offending doctrines which the professing Christian church has long since dispensed with are sin and the Sabbath day. Because of this their religion is just self deceit – a dead empty shell which will crumble away at the end.

  • Ryan

    Thank you for the post, David. I’m sure this inspires nostalgia in some, but for me it points to the great Sabbath rest we currently have in Christ and which will be even fuller than we can imagine. Thank you!

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  • Brad

    The author has a good understanding of the concept of Sabbath rest. However, please note that the Biblical, true Christian Sabbath is the seventh day of the week, sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. One can search the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and nowhere does God or Jesus change the Sabbath to the first day of the week, nor has it been abolished. Sunday is a day ordained by men. Also note that the Sabbath is the fourth of the Ten Commandments. I hope that those reading this will prayerfully consider the truth of the matter, and follow the Bible, rather than traditions of men. Let’s all learn God’s will for us from the Bible, and live in obedience as a result (not a cause) of our salvation. Leviticus 23:3, Exodus 20:8-11, Genesis 2:2-3