Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Special, Ordinary, and Casual Sabbath Days

One thing that has helped me in keeping our weekly Sabbath pattern is the understanding of the difference between special, weekly, and casual. I get tired out just by reading the biblical descriptions of a Jewish Sabbath, let alone trying to replicate them. We certainly want to remember in our family that the "Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mk 2:27). Our purpose is to set apart one day of the week as particularly dedicated to God as a reminder and an affirmation that every day of the week is dedicated to Him. To me it's very similar to our tithe: we give the first portion of our money to the Lord because all of it comes from Him and is in our stewardship care that we may honor Him with every dollar. Yet not every weekend is the same in our family and we wouldn't be doing a service to anyone to insist on a level of formality that pulls us away from our relationships with other family members and friends.
I suppose when Sabbath or Lord's Day is mentioned the first picture that comes to mind for a lot of people includes china on the table and absolutely no secular activities for a whole day. This might be our ideal but it only happens once a year when our Sabbath is upgraded significantly for a Seder meal. If we tried to dress everyone up and pull out our nicest dinnerware every time we have a Sabbath meal, I don't think we would have a Sabbath meal more than a few times each year. I'm sure it will become easier to dress up the meal more as our children grow old enough to help make it happen. But it is more important for us to have a more casual special meal to set apart the next day as the Lord's Day than to set the standard too high and fail every week.
Our ordinary (which really means a couple times a month) Lord's Day opening meal is enjoyed in jeans and t-shirts, sometimes even with paper plates. We prefer to celebrate with guests, or as guests ourselves, but actually celebrate it with just our family about once a month. The menu includes wine or juice, bread and maybe cheese, a vegetable, a starch, a main dish, and a dessert. We read the prayers from the Prayers for the Lord's Day booklet before the meal and spend the evening together. The details change from week to week but this is the basic format for what we expect our Saturday evening to look like.
Sometimes even our ordinary Lord's Day meal isn't appropriate: we're camping or it's a holiday weekend or we're invited to a wedding on Saturday night. Whenever there's an opportunity (i.e. while camping) we gather as a family and say our normal prayers but without the meal. Sometimes there isn't an opportunity for even that but when our "normal" is to dedicate every Sabbath to the Lord, then there's flexibility for leaving out the particular prayers that we use most weeks.
We have the flexibility to adjust our celebration of a weekly Sabbath according to our schedule because we've identified why we have one and what we hope to accomplish with it. As long as those goals are being accomplished then the details become less important. The criteria for a successful setting apart of the day shifts from the Pharisaical rules Jesus was so critical of to the much more productive question, "Did we accomplish our goal of dedicating the day to the Lord?" That is a goal that is attainable whether we are dressed to the nines with china and crystal or pausing for 5 minutes in shorts and t-shirts before roasting our hot dogs and marshmallows over a campfire.
Linked to Works for Me Wednesday and Modest Monday and Simple Lives Thursday


  1. This is something I have been really working on! I have to rest, God designed it for a reason. I am not very good at it, though. So He is teaching me :) I did a post about it recently..

    1. It's so easy to skip over a verse we don't understand or haven't seen applied in the lives of other terrific Christians in our lives. I commend you for applying those verses to your life and actively choosing to carve out time for a weekly Sabbath for yourself.