Sabbath

WHAT

We read in Genesis 1:31-2:2, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the sixth day. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creation that he had done.”

As the sixth day of creation draws to a close, God looks at all that he has created and he celebrates its goodness. As he enters the seventh day, God finishes or ceases his work. Indeed, the Hebrew word for Sabbath is shabbat, which means to stop or cease. Then God blesses the seventh day and marks it as holy or set apart from all the other days. We glean from this that Sabbath is the discipline of setting apart one day a week for rest, worship, and play.

WHY

Sabbath is a day to cease, a day to connect, a day to celebrate. Sabbath is a gift to a finite humanity (and all of creation) that needs these creational rhythms of rest, worship, and play in order to flourish. And, as Pharaoh seems to indicate in Exodus, there are ALWAYS more bricks to make. Eventually, as those made in the image of God, we have to set aside the day and declare that it is different from the other days. Not because we’re lazy as Pharaoh insists, but because we need the moments to step back from our work, even when we love what we do. …and we need the moments to abide deeply with our God. …and we need the moments with family, friends, and ourselves that make our souls declare “it is very good.” Out of Sabbath, if we do it well, we enter the next week full of fresh energy and joy.

HOW

Just as the first Sabbath began on the previous day, so too does our practice of Sabbath. Sabbath begins with preparation or planning. We work diligently so that we can take a day. However, we don’t just plan to cease working, we plan how we’ll connect and celebrate. So, there are three primary questions that can spark your Sabbath practice:

  1. What is physical, spiritual, and mental rest for you? What activities should you cease in order to truly Sabbath? Perhaps email, housework, or lawn care is on the list of things that feel like work for you. These would be things to cease.
  2. What is worship? What activities and gatherings will help you connect with God? Perhaps this is a worship gathering if your Sabbath is on Sunday. Perhaps it’s an extended time of prayer, Scripture engagement, prayer walking (running or hiking).
  3. What is play? What activities help you, like God, declare that life is “very good.” What helps you celebrate and delight in your small portion of creation? Perhaps it’s hitting a nearby trail, or going for a run, or making a meal, or woodworking, a game night, or a bonfire with loved ones.

Answering these three questions will help you plan your Sabbath as an individual, couple, or family.

FIRST STEPS

Step 1 | Schedule: As an individual, couple, or family, mark the day on the calendar.

Step 2 | Plan: Craft a plan for what Sabbath could look like for you as an individual, couple, or family. This could be as simple as three lists that identify what is rest/work + worship + play.

Step 3 | Prepare: Prepare for the day. Finish major tasks that could pull you away from Sabbath. Run errands. Clean. Unload the dishwasher. Whatever needs to be done to prevent the “uggh…sigh” moments.

Step 4 | Sabbath: Cease. Connect. Celebrate. Enjoy the day.

BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS:

The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel
Sabbath: The Ancient Practices by Dan B. Allender
Catch Your Breath: God’s Invitation to Sabbath Rest by Don Postema
The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath by Mark Buchanan
Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now by Walter Brueggemann
Keeping the Sabbath Wholly: Ceasing, Resting, Embracing, Feasting by Marva J. Dawn