Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sabbath Part 1

My Sunday School class has been reading through the book, An Altar in the World. The premise is that sometimes we are too focused on finding God in a church or other religious settings. Instead, we can connect with God in the world He created and as we interact with others whom He made in His image. It has led to some interesting discussions as we have talked about chapters like "The Practice of Waking Up to God" and "The Practice of Encountering Others."

The chapter I have been dealing with this week is "The Practice of Saying No." The main topic is the Sabbath. I plan to spend this week - Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday - blogging about some of her statements from the book and how I am processing them.

I tend to think of Sunday as the Sabbath, though I know that in the Jewish system, it runs from Friday evening to Saturday evening. Our Sundays tend to involve Sunday School and a church service and hanging out at home. While we are home, I am often trying to squeeze in whatever chores didn't get done during the week, although I prefer to use it for just reading and resting (and watching football in the fall). I know I need to rest, and I know how I feel when I set my to do list aside for awhile and just "exist." But I am inconsistent in my observance of a true Sabbath.

I tried to Sabbath this past Sunday. I think I did okay. After church I read, napped, watched football and hung out with the fam. I tried to avoid anything I thought was work - reading about writing, actual writing, working on my to do list for the coming week, blogging notes, etc.

Mrs. Taylor writes [with some paraphrase from me]:
[It is interesting - alarming - convicting to think that we] put "Thou shalt not do any work" in a different category from "Thou shalt not kill..." especially since those teachings are on the same list.... There is no saying yes to God without saying no to God's rivals. No, I will not earn my way today. No, I will not make anyone else work either. No, I will not worry about my life...."

I have been challenged by this thought that we put the observation of the Sabbath in another category from the other commandments, as if the Sabbath is more optional or open to personal interpretation.

So, here are some questions for thought and comment. How do you observe the Sabbath? When do you observe it? What do you think about this idea that it requires the same attention and adherence as the other commandments? Does your life reflect your beliefs?


  1. I observe Sabbath on Fridays right now. On Thursday night we start an intense family immersion. Usually a movie night at home on the floor where the girls can crawl all over us. Calm and fun.
    On Fridays I try to concentrate on what I want to do, not what I feel compelled to do. Joel is off that day and we may go someplace together and hang out until the girls are out of school and then we will eat together and just enjoy each other.
    In the Old Testament the emphasis was on following the law exactly which produced people who believed they were truly set apart (read this as "Better") from others. In the New Testament there is more of an emphasis on the importance of relationship (ex: two greatest commandments) which did not negate all the laws, but certainly made the interpretation and implications for how they are observed dependent on positive relationship.
    As Jesus would approach this, he would heal on the Sabbath because that is what you should do. Why let someone die if you can help? Sabbath should not be about the rule, but about relationship. And Sabbath at its core is really about renewing our covenant with God and others. Stepping away from whatever it is that may distract us from our core relationships. It is about honoring the createdness of humanity by being human, humane.
    And this should not just be a practice observed dogmatically once a week, but it should usher forth a dailiness about honoring createdness, humanity in the context of God.
    By the way, a good Jewish practice that is not talked about in Christian circles is that it was pretty much a standard that a married couple was to have sex on Sabbath. And that pretty much says it all. :-)

  2. I like the idea of choosing a day that makes sense in your life. I am such a by the book person, I totally see how things got so legalistic in the OT days. I would love a list that says this is okay, this isn't, now go and sabbath! =-) I do like the idea of relationships as the emphasis.

  3. I too am very or can be drawn to the legalistic side and would prefer a list of things that are acceptable vs. things that are not. The part that I get bogged down in is how to translate that into every day life. I had not heard, until recently, teaching that the Sabbath was to be "set apart". Growing up Sunday was Church and family but that meant we played or just hung out I never realized this was my parents way of "setting apart".

    I must admit I have been pinched every time I recall the program I heard on how important keeping the Sabbath really is to our relationship and growth. I wish I could remember the specific program I was listening to on this subject. It was a good program and had a lot of food for thought as this blog has had.

    The Sabbath for me, currently, entails finishing the tasks for the week, working, running errands and sometimes down time. I guess I look at the week coming up to determine how to spend the day. This tought process is definitely not supported. So, I would say no, my life currently is not reflecting my beliefs. Thank you to both of you for these posts! They are a great starting place to process through this particular commandment. I certainly wouldn't have considered not keeping the Sabbath as bad as murder or some of the other commandments...food for thought and research for me.

  4. Tami - thanks for sharing where you are in the journey. I agree, there is a lot to consider in how to make the Sabbath a genuine part of your life.

  5. I feel bad because I commented on this blog but then when I went to post, the text disappeared. Now that I have a blogger acct, hopefully this won't happen again. I am too disheartened to try to re-write the whole thing, but I think the main point I wanted to make is that my wife, Ericka, says that she feels closest to God when she mows the lawn (not ours (we don't have one, others'). In addition to being out in the outdoors, the smell of nature, the monotonic hum of the mower, it all gives her a sensation that she apparently has found very comforting. Does the book consider that there is some types work that can be done without losing the "eye on the prize." Painting, woodworking, carpentry are all jobs that I would imagine could be done while observing the SPIRIT of the sabbath, if not the letter of the sabbath law.

  6. Mark - I don't know what the author would say about mowing as "work" on the Sabbath, but I do know that she says we can connect with God in a variety of ways and she is an advocate for doing just what Ericka is doing! But I think as NT Christians, we should be more concerned with the spirit of Sabbath rather than the legalities. I think that is what Jesus was up to when he was shaking people up about the Sabbath.