Living Well: Christian Practices for Everyday Life presents twelve essential practices for a Christian way of life: Caring for the Body, Celebrating Life, Discernment, Dying Well, Eating Well, Forgiving, Keeping Sabbath, Managing Household Life, Participating in Community, Praying, Reading the Bible, and Transforming the World. Written for adults, parents, and families to use in learning about and living Christian practices, each chapter presents the Biblical foundation of the Christian practice and a variety of practical suggestions for living the practice and how to make it an integral part of everyday life.
The following is an excerpt from the chapter titled, “Keeping Sabbath.” Reprinted with permission from LifelongFaith Associates (www.lifelongfaith.com)
Sabbath is God’s way of saying, “Stop. Notice your limits. Don’t burn out.” It is a day God gives us to remember who and what work is for, as well as what matters most. Sunday generously hands us hours to look into the eyes of those we love. We have time for loving and being loved. (Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook)
You don’t have to change your whole life – yet. Plan for one Sabbath at home to start. Put the date on the calendar and pray that God will help you to honor this Sabbath and keep it holy.
Consider what preparations and planning are necessary for making sure that you set aside all types of work and worry on this day. Gather your family or household together to discuss how to arrange your Sabbath for refreshment, renewal, and relationships. Select one or more of the following questions for reflection.
- How do you mark the Sabbath in your home today? In what ways are your practices like those in your home while growing up? In what ways is it different?
- In your home and in your life, what are the obstacles standing in the way of taking at least one day of rest each week?
- What, if anything, would you like to change in the way you celebrate Sabbath?
- Do you see Sunday as the best day for keeping Sabbath? Or do you need to keep Sabbath on a different day of the week?
- What can you learn from the Jewish observance of Sabbath?
1. Saying “No”: What to Exclude
You can begin shaping your Sabbath practice by deciding what should be excluded from this day and what should be included. There are three categories of things that we do well to exclude from our Sabbath. (The following ideas were developed from Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton.)
What constitutes work for us? We must commit ourselves to not doing these things on the Sabbath. We need to identify the challenge and temptations related to our work and establish clear boundaries to protect Sabbath time.
- How can you say “No” to work on the Sabbath?
Buying and selling
If we are out buying, selling and engaging in the world of commerce, it means someone has to work and we are contributing to it. It feeds our consumerism, an aspect of life in our culture that needs rest on the Sabbath.
- How can you say “No” to buying and selling on the Sabbath?
The Sabbath is an invitation to rest emotionally and mentally from things that cause worry and stress, such as budgets, major decisions, and planning the week ahead. If we observe Sabbath on Sunday, perhaps Sunday evening after dinner is a time when, from a place of rest, we can engage in some of the decision-making that needs to be done.
- How can you say “No” to worry on the Sabbath?
2. Saying “Yes”: What to Include
What is to replace all that we are excluding from our Sabbath practice? The simple answer is, whatever delights you and replenishes you. Consider the following three things to include in your Sabbath practice. (The following ideas were developed from Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton.)
Resting the body
What are the activities that rest and replenish your body? The invitation of Sabbath time is to replace the time you would normally spend working with activities that you find restorative, such as a walk or other physical exercise, eating your favorite foods, reading, and listening to music.
- How can you say “Yes” to resting the body on the Sabbath? What types of activities can you do?
Replenishing the spirit
Another invitation of the Sabbath is to pay attention to what replenishes the spirit, and choose only those activities that renew you and bring you joy. Find personal activities that replenish the spirit: silence, reading, dancing, and listening to music. Find activities for the whole family that replenish the spirit: a special meal, recreation, games, sharing stories, gathering with relatives and friends.
- How can you say “Yes” to replenishing the spirit on the Sabbath? What types of activities can you do?
Restoring the soul
Perhaps the deepest refreshment is the invitation to renew the soul through worship and quiet reflection. This is the part of us that gets most lost during the workweek, which is governed almost completely by the value of productivity. In addition to personal activities, such as silence and prayer, identify rituals or shared activities that create a spirit of reverence for God on this day such as a special meal with a Scripture reading and time to go around the table and talk about where God seemed particularly present with you during the week. Light a candle to mark the Sabbath day.
- How can you say “Yes” to restoring the soul on the Sabbath? What types of activities can you do?
3. Sunday Worship
Worship is an important part of keeping Sabbath. It allows us to acknowledge the gracious gifts of God while celebrating our role as participants in the divine process. Being part of a faith community and regularly worshiping together is an essential part of our Christian faith. In Soul Feast, Marjorie Thompson writes: “We delude ourselves if we imagine we can live the spiritual life in total isolation from Christian community, for it is impossible to be Christian in solitary splendor. To be Christian is to be joined to the Body of Christ….Life in the church teaches us that we are made for communion not only with God but with one another in Christ.”
Going to church on Sunday allows us the opportunity to worship as a community.
We stand with others who believe what we do as we take time to pray together, listen to Scripture, and be renewed through our celebration of the Lord’s Supper. In communal worship we remember that we are not alone, that as part of the Christian community we share a commitment to following the model of Jesus Christ through the gospels and liturgy.
Sunday can be a time for private prayer and devotion, a practice that can extend our Sabbath to every day of the week. Reading Scripture can help us focus on the week ahead, whether we re-read the readings for the day, look ahead to the readings for the following Sunday, or simply reflect on selected passages that speak to us.
You might want to spend time quietly reflecting on the Scripture readings; perhaps you might talk about the readings with your family or a group of friends. Some questions to consider are: What was Jesus trying to teach through this gospel? What did it mean to each of us? Is there something we could do during the week to keep the theme of the gospel in our minds and hearts?
Singing hymns or listening to religious music is another form of prayer that can enhance our Sabbath keeping. However you keep Sabbath, make sure that you take time to acknowledge God’s loving and generous presence guiding the actions and activities of your daily life.
- How can you overcome the obstacles to attending church on Sunday?
- How can you prepare for Sunday worship or extend Sunday worship in your home?
Review your ideas for Sabbath practice and consider these guidelines:
- Do our activities allow us rest in body, mind, and spirit?
- Do our activities nurture our spiritual life in some way?
- Do our activities give us time away from the temporal activities of our lives?
Resources for living the Christian practice of keeping Sabbath
Go to our project website www.lifelongfaith.com for exciting ideas, practical resources, and recommended books and websites to help you live the Christian practice of keeping Sabbath.