Going Deeper as We Go Wider: 8 Steps Toward Keeping Sabbath
By Doug Ruffle
I have failed miserably to keep the fourth commandment. It’s the one about remembering and observing the Sabbath and keeping it holy. If it made it to the Ten Commandments, it’s not a suggestion. It’s not a guideline. It’s important. It's the fulcrum for all ten commandments. The first three deal with our relationship to God. The last six deal with our relationship with others. The fourth commandment pivots between loving God and loving our neighbor. It shouldn’t be ignored.
And really, in the kind of “always on, 24/7” culture we breathe, the idea of resting, worshiping and being together with others for a day, should be received as the gift it is. But, it’s hard to keep this commandment.
[bctt tweet="And really, in the kind of “always on, 24/7” culture we breathe, the idea of resting, worshiping and being together with others for a day, should be received as the gift it is. But, it’s hard to keep this commandment." username=""]
You are a person of privilege today to be able to observe the Sabbath as intended. Many work on weekends, or take kids to soccer games, or do chores like laundry or yardwork when finally getting a day off.
So, how do we keep this commandment?
We can start by remembering what Jesus said about it. “The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27, NRSV). We are not called to be obsessive compulsive perfectionists. Jesus said this in the context of followers gleaning grain on the Sabbath. You must eat. God gave us this commandment to help us out, to give us some rest, to enjoy spending time with Him and fellowshipping with others (that fulcrum again).
That’s where hygge comes in. It’s a Danish word (pronounced hue-guh) referring to “a conscious appreciation, a certain slowness, and the ability to not just be present – but recognize and enjoy the present.”[i] A Danish website on the concept says,
Hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Cozying up with a loved one for a movie – that’s hygge, too. And there's nothing more hygge than sitting around with friends and family, discussing the big and small things in life. Perhaps hygge explains why the Danes are some of the happiest people in the world.[ii]
Hygge describes a cozy, comfortable time of food, fun, and very often, fellowship—though you can also experience hygge alone. It may not be specifically about worshiping God, in its Danish context. Even secular people today are desiring Sabbath time. Yet, if we add worship to what the Danes describe, we have a good recipe for a sustainable moment of Sabbath: rest, worship, community. Hygge adds a delicious ambiance to it. Picture unscented candles lining the room. Or, on a colder day, burning logs in a fireplace or sitting around a fire pit outdoors as the sun sets. Picture friends, family with glasses of wine, music playing, and good, home-made, food. Conversations can run deep as well as laughter and the sense that we are truly present to one another, living the moment, enjoying life. Everyone puts away their phones or tablets.
Here’s where the Upper Room devotional can help.[iii] This devotional has been inspiring people since 1937. Each day, a common, everyday Christian, writes a short piece that brings together a passage of the bible, personal reflection and connection to God. The Wednesday devotions are designed to be read in groups. The magazine contains an appendix with prompting questions to start conversations. Called “An Easy Plan for use in small groups,” the questions pick up on the content of the devotional and help get the conversation going. Add a prayer, a song, a meal and you have all the elements of worship and community.
All Sabbath observance takes planning. If attempting to dedicate a full 24 hours of rest, worship and community, you need to do everything else in six days so that you can enjoy the seventh. Even celebrating a sustainable moment (2-3 hours?) of Sabbath as described above requires some planning and asking others to pitch in. Isn’t 3 hours of Sabbath better than none? Why not give it a try?
[bctt tweet="All Sabbath observance takes planning. If attempting to dedicate a full 24 hours of rest, worship and community, you need to do everything else in six days so that you can enjoy the seventh." username=""]
Here’s some suggestions on how to get started:
- Invite some friends, neighbors to your home. State your purpose: “Let’s step out of the chaos of this world and step in to some sacred space and time with one another.”[iv]
- Invite those who are coming to bring a dish to share with others (a salad, a dessert, a baked dish).
- When the day and time comes, put your phone away and invite others to do the same. Place a basket on a table near the door to put the phones in.
- Keep a Sabbath Jar with a small notepad next to it. Write down your Sabbath ideas and activities on the notepad, fold it up and place in the jar. Share with your guests about the Sabbath Jar and gift them with an empty jar to take home.[v]
- If someone in the group plays an instrument, invite them to bring it along. Sing some songs together.
- Use the Upper Room’s “Easy Plan” for small groups, taking the Wednesday devotional, regardless of what day of the week you meet, and follow the prompting questions for discussion.
- Invite people to share prayer requests and have someone lead in a closing prayer.
- Enjoy the meal together.
[i] From http://hyggehouse.com/hygge.
[ii] “Hygge: The Danish art of coziness,” found 7/19/18 at https://www.visitdenmark.co.uk/en-gb/denmark-hygge.
[iii] To subscribe to the Upper Room and/or make a bulk order, call 1-800-972-0433
[iv] This idea and many more similar ideas, can be found in For Sabbath’s Sake, by J. Dana Trent (Upper Room Books, 2017), pp. 134 ff.