A Call to keep a Holy Sabbath

A Call to Keep a Holy Sabbath – from Pastor John

Making Your Sunday a True Sabbath Day

Dear Mims UMC Sisters and Brothers,

The roots of the Christian faith are firmly anchored in the soil of Judaism (after all, Jesus was Jewish).  God commanded the Jews (and us) to observe the weekly Sabbath (“Shabbat”) with worship, rest, and joyful fellowship – things that are essential for our mental, spiritual, and physical well-being.  To make this focused time available to us, God commands that we stop our hectic life of work and production one day a week, just as He did after the six days of creation in the epic poem that opens the scriptures (Genesis 2:1-3; Deuteronomy 5:12-15).  If God can rest, so can we. 

And yet, humans (especially Americans) have believed that we must fill all our days with busyness and labor – to our detriment.  We are harried, exhausted, spiritually empty, and disconnected from our loved ones.  But if we were to follow God’s design and carve out 24 hours every week to focus on all that is most important in our lives, we would be much healthier and happier.

The Jewish Sabbath is from sundown Friday through sundown Saturday.  They observe many rules designed to protect the day from the tyranny of schedules and deadlines.  No work is done on Shabbat.  Sabbath in the Jewish faith was primarily focused on the home, not the synagogue.  Preparations for what is required for living on Saturday (such as meals) are completed before sundown on Friday.  Shabbat is thus a time of liberation from labor – a time to focus on adoration of God, worshiping with our faith community, physically resting and recreating, and enjoying quality time with our family and spouse (the Jewish rabbis even taught that couples should make love on the Sabbath!). 

The Christian Church also observes a type of Sabbath, although we have shifted our observance to Sunday, because it was on the first day of the week that our Lord was resurrected.  Throughout the history of the church, Christians have developed their own ways of observing Sabbath. 

Unfortunately, in the modern era, Christians have forgotten the joy of taking a day every week to stop from our hectic schedules and the demands of making money so we can focus totally on the joy of our faith and the blessing of our loved ones – a time of rest and refreshment (doesn’t that sound appealing???).

As your pastor, I would like the homes/families of our Mims UMC congregation to strive to recover at least a simplified Sabbath every Sunday.  It is not practical (nor necessary) for most of us to adopt the strict Jewish observance, but there are things we could do in our homes and with our families that can mark the day (Sunday) as a “Sabbath to the Lord.”  Enclosed in this packet are my suggestions about how we can make Sunday truly a day of spiritual renewal, family joy, and physical rest. 

I challenge you to at least try it.  I think you will be glad you did!

(Note:  This pattern is designed for a home where more than one person resides.  If you are single, adapt it as needed to make it meaningful for you.  It is also written for those who attend Sunday as the day of worship.  Those attending worship on Saturday could do this on Saturday, instead.)

A Pattern of Sabbath in the Home on The Lord’s Day

1.             As you rise, wash/bathe/shower as a reminder you have been baptized (if you have been).   Reclaim your vow to follow Christ.  Pray:  “Lord, as I enter the water to bathe, I remember my baptism.  Wash me by Your grace.  Fill me with Your Spirit.  Renew my soul.  I pray that I might live as Your child today, and honor You in all that I do.  Amen.”

2.            Gather as a family at the breakfast table for a brief ritual:  Mother lights a Sabbath candle, marking the beginning of Sabbath, saying “Blessed are You, our God, King of the universe.  You have sanctified us with Your Holy Spirit and commanded us to observe and enjoy this day of Sabbath rest.  We light this Sabbath candle to remind us that You are the Light of our lives.  May Your Light shine in us this Lord’s Day.”  (or brief prayer of your choosing) 

3.            Father (or other family member) reads a brief scripture for the day. 

4.            As the spiritual leader of the home, the Father offers a blessing on his wife and each of the children (and others living in the home).  If there is no father in the home, the mother blesses her children.  If all children are grown and/or you are single or widowed, adapt this prayer as appropriate:  “Heavenly Father, I thank You for the gift of my family, for whom I now pray and upon whom I now ask You to shower Your blessings.  By Your grace, may I always be ready to spend my life for them.  Bless my wife (name) whom You have given to me as my partner in life, sharing in Your wondrous work of creation. May I see her as my equal and treat her with the love of Christ for his Church.  May Your Holy Spirit guide and help her to find Your peace and Your grace.  Bless our/my children (names) with Your life and presence. May the example of Your Son be the foundation upon which their lives are built, that the Gospel may always be their hope and support.  I ask You, Father, to protect and bless my family. Watch over them so that in the strength of Your love this family may enjoy prosperity, possess the gift of Your peace and, as the Church alive in this home, always bear witness to Your glory in the world.  Amen.”  (extinguish the candle)

5.            Go to worship together, sit together as a family. 

6.            Join in a family meal at lunch (or supper) – no electronic devices or TV, instead, family sharing.  Invite extended family or friends living alone to join you for lunch.  Consider eating at home rather than at a restaurant so that you are not causing those serving you to work.  Consider using the dining room and nice dishes to make it a special family meal.  You may wish to prepare the meal the day before, as the Jewish faithful do.  Perhaps discuss the sermon or Sunday school lesson, and focus your conversation in ways that nurture and affirm one another in love.

7.            Engage in an afternoon activity devoted to fun with the whole family and/or with friends – an intentional time of sharing Your lives, enjoying one another, and expressing love.  Play games, go to the park, beach, or other place the family enjoys (no shopping), or spend quality time with your spouse.  Visit friends.  Or you may just want to take a nap!

8.            At supper or before bed, gather together and re-light the Sabbath candle.  Each person shares briefly about their day (what was a blessing to you?), and have each person share about what they are concerned about for the coming week. 

9.            Mother offers this evening prayer (and prayer for anything family members are concerned about in the week to come).  “We thank You for the joy of spending time with You and with one another on this Sabbath day.   We have tried to honor You on this day, but we confess that we may have failed to honor Your Sabbath as we should have.  Forgive us for the things we did today that did not honor You. Thank You for loving us so much. We need Your help every day.  We thank You for the strength and help You give us, and for the assurance that, even when we fail You, You still love us.  Now, bless our family and our home, and keep us safe through the night.  May we rest in peace so that we can rise refreshed to live for You tomorrow and through the coming week.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.”

10.       All say the Lord’s Prayer together.

11.       Plan what you as family want to do the following Sabbath to make it special.

12.       Put out the candle to mark the end the Sabbath.

I hope you find this helpful to you!

Pastor John