Life Skills: The Practice of Sabbath

Introduction (Keeping the Focus)
“Has anyone already started working on a practice? If you have, can you share what that is, and specifically, how you practice it?” (one or two people)

Quotations to Prime the Pump

“The burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:30b NLT


“Truly my soul finds rest in God . . . .” Psalm 62:1a NIV


“Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’ He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.” Mark 6:31 NLT


Sabbath “. . . invites us to rest. It asks us to notice that while we rest, the world continues without our help.” Wendell Berry

“Sabbath is about withdrawal from the anxiety system of Pharaoh, the refusal to let one’s life be defined by production.” Walter Brueggemann

“Resting in the presence of God, without work or speech . . . one becomes more aware of the companionship, grace, and love of God than one has been of the companionship, demands, and duties associated with other people. . . . Contemplative practices . . . are exercised more or less in solitude, making the first cluster [solitude, Sabbath, and silence] in many ways the key to the rest.” Brian McLaren

“And now we’re all tired. We dream of that day when our work will be done, when we can finally wash the dust of it from our skin, but that day never comes. We look in vain for the day of our work’s completion. But it is mythical, like unicorns and dragons. So we dream . . . . [But] God, out of the bounty of his own nature, held this day apart and stepped fully into it, then turned and said, ‘Come, all you who are weary and heavy-laden. Come, and I will give you rest. Come, join me here.’” Mark Buchanan

“As long as we are working hard, using our gifts to serve others, experiencing joy in our work along with the toil, we are always in danger of believing that our actions trigger God’s love for us. Only in stopping, really stopping, do we teach our hearts and souls that we are loved apart from what we do. During a day of rest, we have the chance to take a deep breath and look at our lives. God is at work every minute of our days, yet we seldom notice. Noticing requires intentional stopping, and the Sabbath provides that opportunity. On the Sabbath we can take a moment to see the beauty of a maple leaf, created with great care by our loving Creator. . . . Without time to stop, we cannot notice God’s hand in our lives, practice thankfulness, step outside our culture’s values or explore our deepest longings. Without time to rest, we will seriously undermine our ability to experience God’s unconditional love and acceptance. The Sabbath is a gift whose blessings cannot be found anywhere else.” Lynne Baab

Questions for Discussion

  1. Which quote really affected you (convicted, provoked, challenged, etc.)? Talk about that.
  1. How does the inclusion of the Egyptian exile image in quote #2 strike you regarding your Sabbath-keeping?
  2. “Solitude, Sabbath and silence” – which is most difficult for you to practice? Quote #3
  3. How do you “join God” on the Sabbath so that it is a valuable exercise? Quote #4

REMEMBERING APPLICATION:
Moving From Head to Heart,
Moving From Words to Deeds,
Moving from Self-love to Love of God and Others

  1. After this discussion, is there something specific, measurable, and realistic that you are going to practice in order to develop sabbath keeping as a new skill?
  2. How does the practice, as you understand it, make you more able to be a person who loves well (who practices compassion and justice)?

CLOSING PRAYER
“Heavenly Father, you do not lead us all by the same path. Here in your presence, take our yearning to speak with you and what words we have, and make of them a prayer worthy of your love for us. Lord you’ve heard the cry of our hearts and seen our deepest needs. Before we leave this gathering, we want to ask you . . . to commit each person here into your loving hands. If you have us . . . if we have you, God, we will want for nothing. You alone suffice.”

The quotes from this week come from Wisdom From the Margins. This is the book we will use for this discussion. If you can, try to read one reading daily in the book (perhaps the reading for that calendar day).


For further consideration (to do before or after the session)

Set aside at least 10 minutes, find a quiet place, settle yourself when with some deep breathing, and read through these words slowly, phrase by phrase, asking God to make clear to you what you need to hear most. (Maybe write that down on a 3.5 card.)

“Sabbath-keeping is the primary discipline that helps us to live within the limits of our humanity and to honor God as our Creator. it is the kingpin of a life lived in sync–with the rhythms that God himself built into our world–and yet it is the discipline that seems hardest for us to practice. Sabbath-keeping honors the body’s need for rest, the spirit’s need for replenishment, and the soul’s need to delight itself in God for God’s own sake. It begins with the willingness to acknowledge the limits of our humanness and then taking steps to live more graciously within the order of things. . . . I am not God. God is the only one who can be all things to all people. God is the only one who can be two places at once. God is the one who never sleeps. I am not. This is pretty basic stuff but many of us live as though we don’t know it. . . . There is something about being gracious and accepting and gentle with ourselves at least once a week that enables us to be gracious and accepting and gentle with others. There is a freedom that comes from being who we are in God and resting into God that eventually enables us to bring something truer to the world than all of our doing. Sabbath-keeping helps us to live within our limits because on the Sabbath, in so many different ways, we allow ourselves to be the creature in the presence of our Creator. We touch something more real in ourselves and others than what we are all able to produce. We touch our very being in God. Surely that is what the people around us need most.” Ruth Haley Barton


If this discussion sounds like something you might be interested in, please contact me for more details. (Bill at wm_britton@mac.com) Also, if you’re in a completely different time zone and you’re interested, also please let me know, since a second gathering time, designed for people in the Eastern hemisphere may be possible.

Daily Riches: Spirituality as Balance (Lynn Baab)

“Esther de Waal, in her book Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality, uses the language of paradox and contradiction to describe Benedict’s genius as he interprets the Gospel of Jesus Christ into everyday life. We are called to find God in this place and to seek the peace and discipline of stability, yet we are also called to grow and change and be willing to move. We are called to welcome strangers and accept them for who they are, yet we are not called to change our own priorities as we welcome them. Many, including de Waal, use the word ‘balance’ to describe the life patterns laid out by Benedict. We are called to prayer, work, study, and rest in fairly equal proportions. Each is important, but to overemphasize any one of them would be unhealthy. Benedict invites us to embrace the balance between community, where we live and work, and time alone for prayer and reflection. Benedict encourages us to engage in self-reflection without self-absorption and to strive for sincere repentance without dwelling excessively on our shortcomings. Benedict calls us to a radical obedience that sees all of life as a response to God’s voice and God’s initiative, yet we are not encouraged to strain for that kind of obedience. In fact, Benedict encourages us to accept that we will fail as often as we succeed. We are called to believe that we have enough today, in this moment, while we also acknowledge that we are looking to heaven for our ultimate fulfillment. The grace of God overflows in every moment, in every place, and in every human life, and Benedict’s balance is firmly rooted in God’s character and God’s presence with us.” Lynne Baab

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Baab mentions many areas. Where do you still need to work on balance?
  • How are you doing in terms of a balanced life when it comes to “prayer, work, study, and rest?” What does your answer say about you?
  • Do you practice “self-reflection?” Can you do that without “self-absorption?”
  • Can you seek to practice “radical obedience” but not “strive”, even for that? What would that mean?

Abba, help me as I recalibrate daily, in my balancing act with you and my world.

For More: Living with Contradiction: An Introduction to Benedictine Spirituality by Esther de Waal

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. I appreciate your interest! Please leave a comment or question. –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”