Sabbath has been a constant in my life from childhood. Everything about it in the beginning was odd until I got used to it and then it was familiar and after that it was like muscle memory—something that happened with little thought and predictable results. It wasn’t until I had some freedom to make decisions about how I would spend my Sabbaths that it became more than simply rote.

I can clearly remember the time and place in which the freedom to walk through the fields on the Sabbath like the disciples and to pluck from the world all that would give me nourishment, first occurred. I was a high-school teenager in Northern California in the summer of 1968. My grandparents had left me home alone for the weekend with the agreement that I’d go to Sabbath School and church as always.

My friend, slightly older than I, suggested we hitchhike after church from PUC, where we lived, out to the coast and back through the Napa Valley. It would be our missionary journey: we would witness about Jesus to anyone who picked us up. I remember the shock of realizing it was my decision to make, the thrill of the unknown, the anticipation of the open road, and the adventures that awaited us. So, we said a quick prayer and set out. We agreed that we’d welcome rides from hippies in VW vans but refuse rides from creeps in Cadillacs and Buicks.

It being the Sixties and the Summer of Love, there was an abundance of VW vans with cheerful young people only a couple of years older than us. They would stop, we would hop in, and the conversations about God, drugs, rock ’n roll, and politics would begin. It was exhilarating being far from home, traveling on tickets punched by the Holy Spirit.


I would like to be authentic.

To be authentic is to be true to oneself, to one’s essence. It is to discover the original version of yourself, since authentikos is Greek for “original.”

Albert Camus, French existentialist, resistance fighter against the Nazis, and Nobel Prize winning author, gave me one example of authenticity. For him, it meant taking responsibility for one’s actions in an absurd universe. We freely choose our actions, and we take responsibility for the consequences. In the absence of God, we make ourselves. We breathe in freedom, and we exhale authenticity.

As I understand it, I must aim to be authentic. However, unlike Camus, I know I can’t achieve it by myself, nor can I readily recognize it in myself. My actions toward others are a measure of my responsibility: authenticity is the echo coming back to me from my relationships.

Unless we are completely self-consumed, we seek the acknowledgement of others. We want to move through life with confidence that we can affect others positively, that in some real sense we belong here. We know we are not self-sufficient; we are not islands unto ourselves. Neither are we pure versions of ourselves. We are, to some extent, the partial product of anyone who has influenced us.

I grew up with the Sabbath, its rhythms and restrictions so deeply embedded in my conscience that my body obediently followed. Sabbath, for many of us growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, was not a celebration. It was a day in which adults did whatever it took to guarantee we didn’t do our own pleasure on the Lord’s Day. The Sabbath was the fourth commandment, the hinge of history, upon which the very reason for the Seventh-day Adventist Church turned. An authentic Adventist observed the Sabbath dutifully, if a little grimly. According to the lore, all those saved who were not Adventists would keep their first Sabbath on the trip to heaven, a baptism through ritual observance.

Authenticity is one of those states of being that needs its opposite. We’re always measuring it against the inauthentic. We begin with what we think is authentic and the corruption of that is inauthentic. In a practical sense, one does not exist without the other. This means we carry around two standards in our heads, one constantly rubbing against the other. Behind the authentic is something difficult to define but recognizable when experienced. To see it, really see it, is to know it. It’s no Olympic torch, it’s more like a flickering flame seen best in the darkness.

The Sabbath and the Second Advent are the connective tissue that joins this global Adventist body together. We are beings who both influence and are influenced, and the crossover between these two complicates and deepens our understanding of who we are and where we fit in our communities.


The sulfur lights in the railway yard burned with a yellow intensity, but the fog softened and dispersed their gleams like smoke. We picked our way over the train tracks toward buildings that fronted a street. My three friends and I had crossed the English Channel on the ferry that December night to disembark at Calais.

It was close to midnight, and we had no place to stay until morning, but a guy we met claimed to have a key to the rail cars. We could sleep in one of them and be out before morning. It was briefly tempting: it was freezing and damp and we were tired. But we said no, partly on the theory that anyone who would break into rail cars isn’t to be trusted, and partly because it just seemed wrong to start our European adventure with a minor crime.

Besides, it was Friday night, the beginning of Sabbath, the 13th Sabbath of the church quarter. Back in the States, our friends on their Adventist campuses would be celebrating with agape feasts. So, we found the one shop still open and bought baguettes and Fanta—an orange soda—and the four of us sat in the stairwell of an apartment building and had our own Communion service.


I praise the Adventist pioneers who first came up with the name “Seventh-day Adventist.” It’s a stroke of genius, a three-word title and description that tells you everything essential about this church whose purpose, however imperfectly, is to live toward the kingdom of God-in-Jesus.

I distinguish “essential” from “fundamental.” I am perplexed how 28 beliefs, most of which we share with other Protestant denominations, can still be characterized as “fundamental.” That’s a lot of fundamentals. I would rather try to live with “essentials,” and the Sabbath and the Second Advent fit that bill perfectly.

They are like magnets whose force fields keep the poles apart. Flip them around and they snap together. We live within the tension between the two, a tension that provides a robust philosophy of life.

The Sabbath roots us to this Earth. It calls us to care for the created order as God’s gift to humanity. The Sabbath is a powerful symbol of liberation from materialism, from slavery to false gods and authorities, and as resistance to the power of evil in this world. It is a time of rest, an analgesic for the soul.

The Second Advent builds on the hope embedded in the Sabbath and assures us that, while all our efforts toward peace and justice are necessary, they are penultimate to God’s ultimate action of cosmic and earthly liberation.

This Earth is our home; being with God is our destiny. The Sabbath is our portable cathedral, as much a place of worship in a stairwell in Calais as it is a feast of connection with others on the roads through Sonoma to Bodega Bay to the Napa Valley. No matter where we are, if we are in the Sabbath, we are home.

I am simplifying my life. For many years now, when asked, I reply that Sabbath and the Second Advent are the shoes I walk in as I try to follow Jesus. The other 26 Fundamentals are givens as far as I’m concerned. What I live with daily are these two essentials, as authentic as you can get for a follower of Jesus of the Adventist variety.

If you feel for any reason pushed out of this church, ask yourself what real-time and eternal consequences it would have in your life. You will still carry the Sabbath with you; it can be your sanctuary. As long as there is time, the Sabbath will be your dwelling place, the tent in which God-in-Jesus is truly God-with-us.

And the Advent of Jesus still to come is the hope that is within us. Not tied to our own achievement or merit, not even unfolding according to a rigid algorithm of biblical calculation, but coming when it is the kairos, the right time. We may live to see it or we may not. It doesn’t matter. We are here now, and the kingdom is within us. This is the grace that blossoms from the essentials.

Barry Casey has published in Adventist Society for the Arts, Brevity, Faculty Focus, Lighthouse Weekly, Mountain Views, Patheos, Spectrum Magazine, The Dewdrop, and The Purpled Nail. His collection of essays, Wandering, Not Lost: Essays on Faith, Doubt, and Mystery, was published by Wipf and Stock in November 2019. He writes from Burtonsville, Maryland. Email him at: [email protected]