One Friday evening I decided to have a Shabbat dinner for our single parents to teach on the values of the Jewish traditions of worship in the home. For Jewish folks the Sabbath observance began on Friday at sundown and ended on Saturday evening providing a sanctuary in time.
We put tablecloths on the tables, set out water bowls with floating flowers, candlesticks, and a bowl of water and a towel for hand washing. As folks came into the room the look of surprise and the anticipation of something special lit up their faces. The beautiful traditions of a Shabbat dinner set the heart and mind right for worship and contemplation of the Lord. Wayne Miller, in his book, Sabbath, describes the effects of lighting the candles and watching them burn, “Light a candle, alone or with friends. Let each of you speak about those things that are left to do and as the candle burns, allows the cares to melt away. Do not be anxious about tomorrow, said Jesus. The worries of today are sufficient for today. Whatever remains to be done, for now, let it be. It will not get done tonight. In Sabbath time we take our hand off the plow, and allow God and the earth to care for what is needed.”
Miller goes on to say, “If we do not allow for a rhythm of rest in our overly busy lives, illness becomes our Sabbath-our pneumonia, our cancer, our heart attack, our accidents create Sabbath for us.” I know we do not want to hear this, the fact that God sometimes uses these things to get our attention. He does this because it is hard to get our attention.
Are you thumbing your nose at your human limitations, behaving as though you are beyond needing a Sabbath?
Most of us don’t know how to incorporate the traditions of a Shabbat dinner, or to welcome a whole day of Sabbath in to our lives in the midst of a culture that knows nothing of setting aside a day to rest and delight in God. “The truth is, Sabbath keeping is a discipline that will mess with you, because once you move beyond just thinking about it and actually begin to practice it, the goodness of it will capture you, body, soul and spirit. You will long to wake up to a day that stretches out in front of you with nothing in it but rest and delight. You will long for a simple way to turn your heart toward God in worship without much effort. You will long for a space in time when the pace is slow and family and friends linger with one another, savoring one another’s presence because no one has anywhere to go, “ wrote Ruth Haley Barton, in Sacred Rhythms.
As you develop the practice of taking Sabbath rest you will find you will long to light the candles and read Scripture and thank God. You long to feel the quiet and peace settle over your house and family as you enter into a new way of being together with God. The Sabbath observance has a set-apart quality when time itself changes, when you settle into a kinder, gentler way of life where your hearts soften and open up to God. You will find out what it is like to feel joy and hope and peace flow back into your body and soul.
May you find out what it is like to see your home and children through the Sabbath eyes of enjoyment. I encourage you to test the waters to find out what it is like to have rest turn into delight, and delight turn into gratitude, and gratitude into worship.
How could you not love a day like that?