Monthly Archives: November 2008

The Do's and Dont's of the Sabbath

To be honest with you, this is where I would not enjoy being Jewish.  All the rules!!  Don’t do this…. Do this….. oh, it would make your Sabbath a nightmare….. Okay, here’s where I make my disclaimer:  I only know enough about Judaism to be dangerous!!

The book, Jewish Holidays: A Brief Introduction for Christians by Rabbi Kerry Olitzky and Daniel Judson,  really explained the Do’s and Dont’s well.  Some of the Jewish faith believe that you should center your Sabbath on God pleasing activities that secludes you from your daily routine while others follow the Old Testament Sabbath laws to the letter.  In a nutshell, it basically means setting yourself away from the daily grind by limiting what you do to include God time, family time and “me” time.   But, I think we have to be careful here.  Look at Isaiah 58:13-14.

“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the LORD’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,

then you will find your joy in the LORD,
and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
The mouth of the LORD has spoken.

I guess my days of “kicking back” eating myself silly with the homemade cookies are over!  Oh and how about the expensive and maybe not-so-necessary shopping trips?  I think that isn’t very honorable especially if I run up the credit card just so I could have something.  I think God wants us to put away the week and spend some quality time with Him.  Isn’t He more important than housekeeping or lawn care?  I am not saying you can’t do it but listen God can mow right next to you.  And he knows a thing or two about gardening.  But it shouldn’t be thought of as a chore or work.  Remember, God pleasing!  And in which parenting manual says that our kids have to do every sport known to man on Saturdays and Sundays?  I am for doing athletics but it should not be the driving force of your Sabbath.  Oh how our daily lives have blended into our weekends!  No wonder we are so tired!  Remember, God pleasing!

Now to the other extreme.  I don’t think God intended for us to be L-A-Z-Y either. Trust me I know all about rest.  Some might even accuse me of just taking in oxygen.  God knows we have been preoccupied with work and the daily grind all week.  He wants us to nap.  But he doesn’t intend for us to be lazy either.  I have been researching God’s definition of rest.  Hebrews 4 talks about resting in God through Jesus. This Sabbath-rest is still there for us to acknowledge but as faith in Christ.  This is a faith in WHO Jesus is.  It is all about being with God for the pleasure of HIS company.  I mean lets find rest by letting go of all the anxieties from the week we finished and let Him do the beginning work for the next week so we are not so anxious.  That’s rest.  Curling up with God.  Reading His best seller! Enjoying a conversation with Him! And to make it a family affair as well!  Wouldn’t that be the best?!?!

Even though I like the idea of no computer and TV for Friday-Saturday night, I know there would be a revolution at the Dettra house but adding in a lot more God and a lot less shopping (perhaps candlelight isn’t a bad idea either) would make my pocketbook happier.  I think there can be a compromise met in the Dettra household that would be God pleasing, Mark pleasing, Daughter pleasing, Son pleasing and even “me” pleasing!

Think about it!!

The Sabbath Begins on Friday Night

The traditional Jewish Sabbath begins before sunset each Friday night.  They spend all day preparing for the Sabbath meals and cleaning up around the house so that they can have a peaceful rest.  They begin with the lighting of candles just prior to the sun going down.  The candles are a symbol of joy and harmony.  Now, remember the more traditional Jews use no electricity during the Sabbath.  The candle light sets the mood.  Sounds relaxing doesn’t it.

Once the candles are lit a short blessing is said and the “toasting” to the past day and week begins.  They consume wine or grape juice as they toast.  Next comes a blessing over the children and spouses.  They partake in  a festive meal complete with singing.  The ceremony ends with a prayer of Thanksgiving.  This is repeated at lunch and dinner Saturday.

Now I realize that my details are vague and I haven’t included all the bells and whistles to the ceremony, but how wonderful, how relaxing, and how refreshing!!  The ceremony is to commensurate the idea of celebrating being alive and to give up the control over their lives.  They are to relax and refresh themselves from the world around them.

Oh wait just a minute, are we not called to do the same thing?  Are we not to celebrate being alive in Christ?  Are we not suppose to give up the control?  Now, I am not saying that we are suppose to enslave ourselves to rituals but couldn’t we modify it to help us remember to celebrate Christ on our day of worship?  I mean we light candles each and every Sunday just as our worship service begins…… see my point?

Just think of the bonds that would be made with family and friends if we ate our Friday night meal by candlelight, prayed over the week and thanked  God that it is FINALLY FRIDAY!!  Would it not improve your family communication if you talked about how Jesus influenced your life in the past week? And how about praying a prayer of gratitude for your children and your spouse before you ended your meal?  Wouldn’t that be a special Christ-like showing of love?  And what about  sit -around -and -sing -some -good -old -hymns or dance a little jig to today’s praise music?  Wouldn’t that be a blessing for God to witness?  Wouldn’t that be a Friday night worth celebrating?  Think about it.

What the Jewish do for the Sabbath

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It is always a pleasure to lead a Bible study or discussion on Sundays. I try to be as prepared as possible for any question my audience my have for me. I have been leading a study entitled “An Ordinary Day with Jesus” for several weeks now and something kinda stumped me. We were discussing the importance of observing the Sabbath as a day of rest instead of a day to play catch up. God took a day off so why shouldn’t we?

We began a really detailed discussion about when Sabbath takes place and what defines “rest.” Good question!! That was my only response. Then, I’ll get back with you. Here’s the deal. I knew from what little exposure this Arkansas Methodist has had to know that the traditional Jewish Sabbath begins on Friday evening. But what exactly do they do as for rest. So I put on my Nancy Drew mask and dove right into a research project. I surfed, asked questions, and have read for several weeks only to conclude that there are as many variations to rest as there are for work. Here’s what I found most common throughout the practices I researched:

      1. Rest is defined as a complete rest from the world.

      2. Sabbath is 25 hours long. It begins on Friday evening 18 minutes before sunset and ends Saturday night when the starts are out.

      3. There are 3 candlelight ceremonies that commence during Friday night, Saturday’s lunch and Saturday evening.

      4. You celebrate being alive by doing a stripped down version of daily life.

Interesting isn’t it. Ahhhh, but there’s more. The more traditional do not use electricity, do not turn on the TV or the computer, and they don’t spend any money during those 25 hours. Some say that any kind of “work” that brings pleasure isn’t considered “work” and can be done during the Sabbath. I really enjoyed the idea of stripping down to no spending money or working so you can create a sacred space (time) in your life to linger on conversation, fellowship, and personal quiet time with God.

As a Christian, who only knows enough about the Jewish beliefs to be considered dangerous, I would love to observe the Sabbath in that way. Oh…. well….. wait a minute…..We proclaimed Sundays as our days of worship and rest. I don’t know about you but even when I was a Children’s Minister, Sundays are filled with getting the kids to their afternoon church activities, attending my church activities and preparing for Tuesday’s Bible class. I hear friends complain that they have to go home after church to clean up and get ready for that night’s Bible small group. I hear the teenagers trying to schedule a choir practice, band practice, play practice, this practice and that practice at church knowing that mom and dad are busy catching up on their small group studies so they won’t look “bad” or “unprepared” for their small group time. Does that sound restful?  Want my opinion? The Jews may have something to this Friday night-Saturday night deal.

… be continued……..