Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sabbath Rest

Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in Our Busy Lives

When was the last time you didn't feel busy? Like you really had time to do everything you needed and wanted to do, including catching up on sleep, writing some letters, and just sitting with friends or family to chat? It seems that when we ask each other, "How are you?" the most common response is now always, "I'm so busy." Wouldn't it be a shock if you asked somebody how they were, and they said, "I don't have enough to do?"

We are now entering into a season of the year that sometimes even feels more busy than our already busy lives. There is Christmas shopping to accomplish, shelves and trees to decorate, cookies to bake, meals to prepare. Where, in the midst of all this busy-ness, will we find rest, renewal, and delight? When will we listen to God's command, "Honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy?"

During our congregation's Advent suppers December 3rd and 10th, we will eat together, light the Advent candle, and pray Holden Evening Prayer. We will try to let the evening meal and worship be restful, and delightful. We will encourage each other to find ways to rest and take Sabbath. I invite you to join us for these meals, so that we can talk together about Sabbath rest, and grow together in the practice of it. If you are seeking rest, fellowship, and joy, I promise that these Advent meals will help you in your search.

In preparation for Advent, I'm re-reading a little book on Sabbath by Wayne Muller (Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in our Busy Lives, Bantam Books, 1999). He writes, "The traditional Jewish Sabbath begins at sundown, the Christian Sabbath with morning worship. In both Sabbath time begins with the lighting of candles. Those who celebrate Sabbath find that in this moment, the stopping truly begins. They take a few breaths, all the mind to quiet, and the quality of the day begins to shift. Some say they can feel the tension leave their body as the wick takes the flame. Others say they often weep, so great is their relief that a time for rest has come. This is the beginning of sacred time."

Consider introducing a short Sabbath into your family life this Advent season. We will model the candlelighting, meal and prayer at church on Wednesdays, but you might consider practicing Sabbath as a family each Sunday evening the four weeks of Advent. This means that on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, you will need to get everything done that you sometimes leave until Sunday evening. Then, when you are ready, prepare a very simple meal, and get four candles. Each Sunday evening, sit down together as a family, and light one candle the first Sunday, two the second, and so on. Say a simple table grace, such as, "Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen." Then eat together, and share your highs and lows from the day. Eat slowly. Make sure all your televisions, cell phones, game devices, and computers are off. Unplug the phone. Just rest together. Pray. Re-read the Scripture lesson for the day.

This might sound very religious and not practical, until we remember this quote from Ecclesiastes 4:6, "Better is one hand full of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind." Some scholars who have read and studied the Good Samaritan story notice, for example, that the only thing that makes the Samaritan different from everyone else who doesn't stop to help, is that he had enough time to help. This is also true today. People who stop to help others on the highway stop because they are peaceful and restful enough that they have time to help someone in need. Maybe one of the best things we can do to help our neighbor is to be less busy. Maybe loving our neighbor means getting less busy and observing Sabbath.


  1. Amen, Clint. Besides loving Holden Evening Prayer, I've found that no matter how busy I am at LTSG, I go to compline every night it's offered and try to make it to Lectio Divina the 3 mornings it is offered. It makes a huge difference regarding rest and perspective. Excellent post which I'm going to share. Peace.

  2. i followed a link from ivy's blog which led me to this post... good stuff in that reflection. very in tune with what i wrote for my december newsletter...

    here's to slowing down and to being! *cheers!*

  3. Thanks for the comments, I'd be interested inr eading that newsletter column...

  4. Spot on Clint. You didn't miss a beat with this post. I hope more and more people will take time for rest and renewal as you suggest.

  5. Thanks for all the comments. I'd be especially interested to hear what practices you all make use of to mark the Sabbath rest.