Keeping Sabbath - Ways to Practice - Ideas

The Pharisees said to Jesus, "Look, why are your disciples doing
what is not lawful on the sabbath?" Then he said to them, "The sabbath
was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath;
so the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.".

— Mark 2:24, 27-28

•   Let Sabbath time shape the way you begin and end each day. In the Bible (Genesis 1), each new day begins at sundown. The first part of each day begins in restful darkness, preparing for the gift of light and activity. As Eugene Peterson notes, "I go to sleep to get out of the way for awhile." God and nature go on without us, and we join the work in the morning. The Jewish Shabbat observance, which begins on Friday evening, honors this biblical view of time. How might "beginning" the day in the Genesis way change your attitude as you start and end your day?

•   Invite an observant Jew to explain how his or her family keeps Sabbath and what this practice means to them. Adapt Jewish Shabbat prayers to welcome the Sabbath on Saturday evening. Jews bless the ending of Shabbat by giving children something sweet so the taste of Sabbath peace will linger on the tongue. Offer this kind of blessing to someone on Sunday evening.

•   What's good to say "yes" to on the Sabbath?
-   Joyful worship.
-   Feasting, playing, taking delight in nature and in one another.
-   Freedom that contributes to the freedom of others and to the well-being of the natural world.
-   Something different from what you do regularly all other days.

•   What's good to say "no" to on the Sabbath?
-   Committee meetings, even for church. Schedule meetings on other days.
-   The marketplace. Try not to spend money on the Sabbath. Refuse to let the marketplace govern life this day.
-   Sadness and mourning. "The Sabbath does not 'do away' with sadness and sorrow," writes Pinchas H. Peli in The Jewish Sabbath, "it merely requires that all sadness be 'tabled' for one day so that we may not forget that there is also joy and happiness in the world and acquire a more balanced and hopeful picture of life." Even mourning is suspended in order to rejoin the community for Sabbath. "The Sabbath, by its very being, comforts and heals."

•   Rest from commerce. Name 3 things you might do to "rest" from commerce on the Sabbath.

•   Rest from worry. What activities summon worry or anger in you - paying bills, doing tax returns, making "to do" lists for coming week, thinking of things or people who irritate you? If you knew you could refrain from those worrisome activities for 24 hours every week, how would it change your week? How might it help you let go of slights and grudges?

•   Rest for creation. How can we spend Sabbath practicing a way of life that is good for creation? What might this do to us during the other six days?

•   Rest from work. What would this mean for you and for your friends and family? Do you know anyone who is required to work on Sundays? Name what Sabbath might mean in this person's situation. How can you help him/her find joy in Sabbath?
In Leviticus, "Jubilee" was an extension of the sabbatical principle to national economic policy. Learn more about the practice of Jubilee, ancient and modern. Check on the progress of Jubilee USA Network (, a movement calling for cancellation of the unpayable debt of the world's poorest countries.

TAKE BACK YOUR TIME DAY is a nationwide initiative to challenge the epidemic of overwork, over-scheduling and time famine that now threatens our health, our families and relationships, our communities and our environment. See

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© 2006-2011 The Valparaiso Project on the Education and Formation of People in Faith