Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Day Set Apart

I was thinking this past Sunday about the practice of making the Sabbath holy. I had the idea that I would try to make the remainder of the day a time of rest. (I started thinking about it on Sunday--there's the first clue that I wasn't going about it right, but better to enter into the thought process late than never, yes?) I've heard enough sermons or read enough articles to know that the Sabbath is about more than putting my feet up; it's to be a day of "resting in the knowledge of who God is...." That's a beautiful phrase, one you can spend a portion of your Sabbath mulling. And I guess that's what I really wanted to do on Sunday. I wanted the God part of the day to go beyond church, to spill into the whole day. And then the kids want to play with so-and-so, and Luke needs new shoes for indoor soccer, and so life gets in the way.

What does it really mean for our family to observe the Sabbath?

For some, just making a habit of going to church every week is a beginning. For others, it may mean more.

I've heard/read lots about it. I've heard how a husband and wife actually observe a 24-hour period on separate days, because it works better for them. He takes it from Sunday afternoon into Monday afternoon, she takes it on a different day. Something about that doesn't sit right for me. When do the kids do it? But don't I sound all high and mighty...after all, we don't do it at all. I mean, we sort of do. We keep Sundays low-key. On purpose. But I think lately, I'm hungering for something more meaningful.

Maybe it's because I've been studying and reading Old Testament scriptures lately, I'm not sure, but I've just been wanting to get everything God has for me, and the idea of Sabbath is where I landed. I got out my copy of Mudhouse Sabbath, by Lauren Winner. She grew up in a Jewish home, converted to Orthox Judaism and then later became a Christian--she tells that story in her book Girl Meets God--but this little book, well, here's what she says:
"This is a book about those things I miss. It is about Sabbaths and weddings and burial and prayers, ritual Jews and Christians both observe, but also rituals we observe quite differently. It is about paths to the God of Israel that both Jews and Christians travel. It is, to be blunt, about spiritual practices that Jews do better. It is, to be blunter, about Christian practices that would be enriched, that would be thicker and more vibrant, if we took a few lessons from Judaism. It is ultimately about places where Christians have some things to learn."

She is quick to point out that practicing these disciplines does not earn us our salvation, but they are part of the way we are followers of Christ--disciples. I wish I could just quote the whole first chapter, but I can't. I wish I could find something that would just list out exactly how I ought to practice observing the Sabbath, but it doesn't work that way. I think what I get most from rereading Lauren's thoughts on the Sabbath is that it is not a day for me, it is for God, a day given to and spent imitating God. And it requires some preparation on my part. And so, how will this actually work, putting this into practice in our family setting, in 2008? Not sure yet, but I'm giving it some thought.


Sheila said...

You are echoing my heart, Julie. The longing for something more meaningful, enriching, vibrant! I have a suggestion for how you can get started on this quest.
Prepare for Christmas:ADVENT! There are lots of ways to make it personal as well as a opportunities for your family to grow closer to God and to one another. Just a thought.

--julie said...

thanks for the idea, Sheila! It might be a perfect way to establish a routine...

Alan and Judy said...

I can relate to what you're thinking. I used to think that there should be more to Sundays. We would go to church, feel pretty good, be thinking about the worship service or the teaching we had receieved. Then we would have dinner, followed by something really spiritual, like turning on the football game. It always felt to me like we should be doing something more set apart, but it never materialized.

I had a friend in high school who was not allowed to do much of anything on Sundays, and I don't think it helped her or her siblings be more enthusiastic about their relationship with God. I agree with Sheila that whatever you do needs to be meaningful, enriching, vibrant, not some thou-shalt-nots or we gotta do this, it's Sunday.

Maybe it would help to take some time as a family to reflect on what each one learned in Sunday School or church, teach each other a new song you learned, something like that. And maybe you could do what the Old Testament Jews did, and prepare all the food the day before so you wouldn't be cooking on the "Sabbath". Maybe the kids might have some ideas, too. Let them know what your thinking is on this, what your concerns are. They might surprise you. (There is historical precedence for that!)

The real Sabbath Rest, which we New Testament believers are to enter into, is not a day, but a way of relating to God, resting in what He has done and putting aside our own works as a way of trying to earn His pleasure. But setting aside a day a week to reflect on this and celebrate it is a great idea. Keep us posted.

Love, Mom and Dad