Stewardship of Life


Keeping Company and Keeping Sabbath

Posted in Just Living by Sharron R. Lucas on January 4, 2010

So tell me…how do you keep Sabbath?

Ask that loaded question and you’ll get a variety of answers and perhaps even a few odd looks. Sabbath is not a clear concept or uniform pratice in our culture; in fact, I’d wager that most folks don’t have a clue about what one is supposed to do to keep Sabbath. If you enter keeping Sabbath into your favorite Internet search engine, you’ll end up with over one million entries–enough to make one tired just thinking about it.

For Jews, keeping Shabbat is key, yet even among the various branches of Judiasm, how Shabbat is kept varies. Ask most Christians, and going to church will be a frequent response. Others will remember not shopping, not working, and perhaps not even turning on the stove. Older generations remember Sunday afternoon visits to family and friends. Whatever one’s background, if keeping Sabbath is a part of the tradition, it usually involves some aspect of worship and rest, a breaking of the regular routine. Remember, even the Creator took a break after speaking creation into existence.

If you’re still interested in those million plus entries, I’ll save you some work and recommend an article by Dorothy C. Bass entitled “Keeping Sabbath: Reviving a Christian Practice.” In this thoughtful essay, Bass offers some good background and history, provokes thought, and concludes by calling Sabbath observance, “One day to resist the tyranny of too much or too little work and to celebrate with God and others, remembering thereby who we really are and what is really important. One day that, week after week, anchors a way of life that makes a difference every day.”

So tell me, Sharron, how do you keep Sabbath?

Hmmmm…. I’ll admit right up front that keeping Sabbath has long been a struggle for me given my history as a chronic multi-tasker and over-achiever, and especially since my mid-career change from private school English instructor to Lutheran pastor. After all, Sunday is a work day for me now. I could work eight days a week if I could figure out how to do it.

But all work and no Sabbath makes Sharron a dull girl, a less-than-effective parent, and a scattered and smothered shepherd (while also contributing to increased stress levels, rising cholesterol, and early burn-out). 

In short, we all need Sabbath, no exceptions. I’ve been thinking a lot about what Dorothy Bass said about Sabbath being one day to “…celebrate with God and others” and how that anchors a way of life. Heaven knows, most folks today need an anchor to keep from being swept away by the undertow of busyness and consumption.

But back to your question about how I keep Sabbath. I’m working on it; it’s an ongoing process, and it’s not always easy. Let’s just call it lifelong learning. When I keep it well, I do something like what I did yesterday. I kept company. From hosting my annual parish open house to taking in a movie with one of my daughters, I enjoyed time with family and friends. It was a day of simple pleasures blended with relaxation and fun. In the process I was reminded of God’s goodness and design for our lives. We are not meant to go it alone or to live in isolation. We are created to be in community. Yes, we need rest. Yes, we need God. We also need each other—to laugh, to love, to be together. For me, keeping Sabbath and keeping company are an integral part of just living.

So tell me, how do you keep Sabbath? And how do you keep company?

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