For four October Sundays one of our pastors challenged us to practice Sabbath. He outlined its history, as well as reasons we should practice it. He offered realistic suggestions to help us make Sabbath a regular part of our lives. And in the last sermon, he exhorted us to “do it!”
These sermons provided me (and others in my church) much to ponder and consider. Among his tips, two especially captured my attention: 1) start your Sabbath with a slow, delicious meal and 2) share that Sabbath meal with others.
Since late October, my family and I have invited different people over for dinner each Saturday night. Some are close friends, some are “new” friends, and some are acquaintances. Up to this point, most of our guests have been our fellow congregants, although we’re not “limiting” our Sabbath guests to people from our church. Just this Saturday, for example, we welcomed one of my students whose family lives out of state.
Preparing a meal to share with others, to savor that meal with others, to have conversation, and to foster community are what I look forward to each weekend. Saturday evening and Sunday morning are now, by far, my two favorite times of the week.
I had already developed a personal practice of Sabbath several years before. I take a Sabbath from my job (a professor can always be working) from late afternoon Saturday until after dinner Sunday evening. In that roughly 24-hour block, I refrain from checking my school email, from doing any school-related tasks.
My Sabbath is not, however, focused primarily on “abstaining” and/or “sitting around.” I spend time with my wife, my son, and my daughter. A family walk. A board game. I am with my fellow church musicians for six hours on Sunday mornings.
Now we have dinner guests every Saturday evening.
We want to pass on to our kids the value of Sabbath, the value of opening our home to others, of preparing a nice meal for them. It is a satisfying feeling knowing that we’re doing something critical to our spiritual and emotional health while also strengthening our relationships with others.
For someone like me, an introvert, the time spent by myself doing the grading and course preparing that a professor does, coupled with the writing and editorial work I do, is important. I find myself recharged by the time spent alone. My wife is also an introvert. To us, a group is large if there are more than 4 people. (Not really, of course.)
But from the time we were newlyweds (way back in 2002) until recently, whenever we had dinner guests over, afterwards we always talked about how enjoyable it was, about how we needed to do it more often. Yet we never made it a regular practice. Until now.
I only wish we had started this practice earlier.