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: Weariness of Soul (Christina Rossetti, Wendell Berry, Thomas Aquinas and Rainer Maria Rilke) *

“O Lord, who art as the Shadow of a great Rock in a weary land,

who beholds Your weak creatures
weary of labor,
weary of pleasure,
weary of hope deferred,
weary of self;
in Your abundant compassion, and unutterable tenderness,
bring us, I pray You, into Your rest. Amen.”
Christina Rossetti

“The mind that comes to rest is tended
In ways that it cannot intend:
Is borne, preserved, and comprehended
By what it cannot comprehend.
Your Sabbath, Lord, thus keeps us by
Your will, not ours. As it is fit
Our only choice should be to die
Into that rest, or out of it.”
Wendell Berry

“Grant to me, above all things that can be desired, to rest in You,
and in You to have my heart at peace.
You are the true peace of the heart, You are its only rest;
outside of You all things are hard and restless.
In this very peace, that is, in You, the one Chiefest Eternal Good,
I will sleep and rest. Amen.”
Thomas Aquinas

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.”  
Jesus in Matthew 11:28-29

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you  “weary of labor, weary of pleasure, weary of hope deferred, weary of self?” Are you simply profoundly weary in your very soul?
  • Have you found “rest for your soul” – or are you simply gritting your teeth and “doing what has to be done” – and asking God to bless?
  • Can you allow yourself to “die into that rest” that Jesus offers and then live out of it? Can you “learn from” him how to rest? What would that mean for you?

May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back. – Rainer Maria Rilke

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For More: This Day: New and Collected Sabbath Poems 1979-2012 by Wendell Berry

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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. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

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

Daily Riches: A Weariness of Soul (Christina Rossetti, Wendell Berry, Thomas Aquinas and Rainer Maria Rilke)

“O Lord, who art as the Shadow of a great Rock in a weary land,

who beholds Your weak creatures
weary of labor,
weary of pleasure,
weary of hope deferred,
weary of self;
in Your abundant compassion, and unutterable tenderness,
bring us, I pray You, into Your rest. Amen.”
– Christina Rossetti

“The mind that comes to rest is tended
In ways that it cannot intend:
Is borne, preserved, and comprehended
By what it cannot comprehend.

Your Sabbath, Lord, thus keeps us by
Your will, not ours. As it is fit
Our only choice should be to die
Into that rest, or out of it.”
– Wendell Berry

“Grant to me, above all things that can be desired, to rest in You, and in You to have my heart at peace. You are the true peace of the heart, You are its only rest; outside of You all things are hard and restless. In this very peace, that is, in You, the one Chiefest Eternal Good, I will sleep and rest. Amen.” – Thomas Aquinas

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.”  
Jesus in Matthew 11:28-29

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Are you  “weary of labor, weary of pleasure, weary of hope deferred, weary of self? Are you just profoundly weary in your very soul?
  • For you, is the life of faith like a well in you springing up, after refreshing you, to bless others – or are you simply gritting your teeth and “doing what has to be done?” (and asking God to bless)
  • Can you allow yourself to “die into that rest” that Jesus offers “and find the rest for your soul” that he promises? Can you “learn from” him how to rest? I know what this means I must do. What would it mean for you?

May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back. – Rainer Maria Rilke

__________

For More: This Day: New and Collected Sabbath Poems 1979-2012 by Wendell Berry

_________________________________________________

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