Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sabbath #2

First, some more reflections from Sunday, the first in the series. Isn't it fascinating that we have a hierarchy in our understanding of the ten commandments? Killing and Stealing are at the top of the no-no list. Then comes adultery... and the list varies slightly in order for everyone from there, with having no other gods (like materialism),lying, honoring father and mother in some vague order. Most who claim faith in any fashion would feel at least a twinge of guilt for taking the Lord's name in vain and coveting. But for many of us, Sabbath does not even make the list! Yet, only the commandment to have no other gods/avoiding idolatry has more verbiage than Sabbath. It is nearly the longest passage in the ten commandments, and in Scripture length and repetition communicate importance. If an average person were stopped on the street, would Sabbath even make the list of commandments mentioned?

Now, onto some more Sabbath practice suggestions....

Wayne Muller has written an outstanding book called Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in our Busy Lives. As I am preparing for week 2 of a sermon series on Sabbath, I offer you some of his ideas for Sabbath practices. He closes every chapter with suggestions.

His suggestion for using Sabbath candles: "Find a candle that holds beauty or meaning for you. When you have set aside some time- before a meal, or during prayer, meditation, or simply quiet reading- set the candle before you, say a simple prayer or blessing for yourself or someone you love, and light the candle. Take a few mindful breaths....let the hurry of the world fall away."

For Creating time and space: "Sabbath can only being if we close the factory, turn out the lights, turn off the computer, and withdraw from the concerns of the marketplace. Choose at least one heavily using appliance or device- the telephone, television, computer, washer and dryer- and let them rest for a Sabbath period. Whether it is a morning, afternoon, or entire day, surrender to a quality of time when you will not be disturbed, seduced, or responsive to what our technologies have to offer. Notice how you respond to its absence."

Sabbath Meal: "Prepare a Sabbath meal, alone or with friends or family. Shop for the ingredients, choosing those that bring you the most pleasure. This food is not so much for survival as for sheer, savory delight. Put on some music, turn off the phone. Take as much time as you like to feel, taste, smell each ingredient, every spice, bread, and vegetable. Decorate the table with flowers, colorful placemats, and candles. Say a prayer. Give thanks, remembering all the people who grew, harvested, packed, shipped, and sold them for you. Give thanks for the bounty of the Earth. Enjoy."

To experience Sabbath moments of God's presence throughout the week: "In the Buddhist community of Plum Village, Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk, periodically rings a Mindfulness Bell. Upon hearing the bell, everyone stops, and takes three silent, mindful breaths. They are free to continue their work, awakened ever so slightly to the Sabbath pause of mindfulness. We can choose anything to stop us like this- the telephone ringing, a stoplight when we are driving, whenever our hand touches a doorknob, before we eat or drink. Choose one common act during the day to serve as a Sabbath pause. Whenever it arises- whenever you touch a doorknob or hear a phone ring- simply stop, take three silent, mindful breaths, and then go through the door or answer the phone. See how it changes you to take these tiny moments every day."

If you are taking Sabbath days during this sermon series, please do let me know. Comment on your first experiences and/or send me an email.



  1. This is wonderful and comes at a "teachable moment". Thank you.

  2. Really, really trying to take this Sabbath to heart.

    Anyway, I liked your suggestion of taking a seemingly innocuous act and using it as a reminder to reflect.

    So I decided that whenever I spoke one of my children's names out loud, that I should take a moment to give thanks to God for entrusting these wonderful children to my care. So here's what I've learned:

    1) I say my kids' names a lot

    2) It's very difficult (but not impossible!) to say your children's names in anger when you are giving thanks for them

    I most definitely do not remember to do it each and every time - but sometimes I do, and it is indeed a calming moment.