Daily and Weekly Sabbath

May 27th, 2012
Image © by LovingEarth | Flickr | Used under Creative Commons license.

It is Wednesday afternoon. The leader of the three-and four-year-old choir has just called in with the flu, the tables need to be set up for fellowship supper, the Sunday bulletin should be proofed, and you still need thirty minutes to prepare for the night’s Bible study.

All you want to do is scream!

But, taking a few minutes in the sanctuary with God, you begin to refocus. The choir can go to the playground, three youth arrive early and agree to set up the tables, a retired school teacher is just a phone call away to proof the bulletin, and you can close your door to work on the Bible study.

God worked six days and rested on the seventh, called sabbath. This rhythm of life that God created allows us to be centered on God. When we are centered on God, we are open to hearing God’s voice and direction. To be effective, sabbath needs to be practiced daily as well as weekly.

Daily Sabbath

The daily spiritual discipline of sabbath is about taking time to put God first and opening our minds, bodies, and spirits to God’s path. Daily sabbath means we need to find a few minutes each day to breathe in God. In this breath we slow down not only our bodies, but also our minds. In slowing down both body and mind, we are able to open our spirits to God’s direction.

The daily practice of sabbath must be intentional. As busy people, finding time to breathe in God daily is not always easy. Faithful Christians are aware of the presence of God in everyday life, but daily sabbath is more than an awareness of God; it is a practice that centers our lives and creates a deeper relationship with God.

The practice of daily sabbath includes, but is not limited to, devotion time. Daily sabbath is a decision not to always have to be “productive.” In American society we are taught that we should always be doing “something” that leads to a “something.” God commands us to observe sabbath. This means that for a time each day we should stop—stop doing, stop worrying, stop producing.

If we truly learn to stop, our bodies will begin to expect and need the rest, and our spiritual lives will deepen. We will be more able to consider the options around us, to see God’s work in the ordinary, to serve God more fully.

Daily sabbath time should be in a location where you will not be disturbed by others, so God will be at the center of your attention. The location may be a church sanctuary, a swing in the garden, or a chair on the back porch. It can even be found in a slow walk around the yard or neighborhood. Most important, your daily sabbath time needs to be in a location where you are comfortable enough to move quickly into a connection with God, because the time is short.

When allotting time for daily sabbath, begin with a short period of time and build up from there. It’s surprising how much benefit can result from a relatively short time; for instance, five minutes a day beyond your regular devotion time can open your spirit to God’s for the whole day. When you are accustomed to the shorter time, you may want to try lengthening it to as much as thirty minutes.

Weekly Sabbath

Daily sabbath is enhanced when the spiritual discipline of weekly sabbath is practiced. Weekly sabbath is the setting aside of one day a week that belongs to God. Traditionally in the Protestant church, weekly sabbath is practiced on Sunday, the day recognized as the day of resurrection. This day reminds us of the love Christ demonstrated on the cross and through the resurrection.

Weekly sabbath involves a decision not to work. Work, however, can be defined differently by each person. For some, gardening is a chore; others see it as time spent with God.

Weekly sabbath is also about breaking routine. This means doing things differently on sabbath from how they are done during the rest of the week—for example, sharing a meal with family and friends, participating in corporate worship and the study of scripture, or even something as simple as choosing not to wear a watch.

A Deepening Relationship with God

Sabbath, whether daily or weekly, should be about forming a deeper personal relationship with God. An important part of this relationship is an active prayer life.

Prayer, like any conversation, must include both speaking and listening. We need to take time to express our concerns, our needs, and our wants to God. We also need to take time to listen to God. Listening to God requires that we be quiet and still, so that we can hear God’s voice.

Sabbath is about having an active, creative relationship with God. The spiritual discipline of sabbath allows us to set aside time that is devoted to God’s creation. As Christians we are also able to create with God in relationships with others and in our actions in the world.

The spiritual discipline of sabbath is not only about stopping and taking time for God. It is about creating a life rhythm that is commanded by God. This rhythm allows the body and mind to rest.

By resting on the seventh day, God set a pattern for rest in all of creation. Plants have dormant periods when they do not grow. Bears hibernate during the winter. People need rest too. And yet in this busy world, taking time for rest is often the last item on the “to do” list.

Rest is more than sleep; it is a slower pace of life that is focused on God. Sabbath represents “down time” that our bodies truly need and deserve. Sabbath is about deciding not to push ourselves to the limit but, rather, surrounding ourselves with the presence of God.

Living out sabbath, whether daily or weekly, means that we need to change our life routines and refocus on actions that put God first. In making these changes, our relationship with God will deepen. We will gain confidence in our prayers. We will be revived in spirit and in body.

The practice of sabbath involves a corporate relationship with God. As Christians, every time we practice the discipline of sabbath, we are joined with the saints who have gone before us. We are joined with those around us. And we join with those who will come after us.

The spiritual discipline of sabbath, practiced daily and weekly, is an act of faith that leads to a deeper personal and corporate relationship with God. How and when we practice this discipline is a personal choice. But no matter what the choice, if carried out faithfully it will lead to a rhythm of life that can begin to bring us into alignment with the spirit of God.

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