Online Sunday Service:
Practicing Sabbath Rest
Photo credit: Lungelo Hadebe
In this reflection we will be exploring the practice of Sabbath rest. As an opening prayer, listen to this beautiful song "Enter the Rest of God", by Brian Doerksen:
Spend ten minutes in quiet prayer, resting into the presence of God, the I Am present one. You can use the following timer as a guide.
You could use this guided prayer as a way of coming to rest, taken from the previous "Coming to Rest" reflection:
End this guided prayer time with listening to the music "Return to me"
I encourage you to find ways of practicing Sabbath rest in the next few weeks. Here are a few ideas:
If this is possible for you, try to set aside at least one day a week where you consciously choose to rest and return to Being.
Try to set boundaries from the usual places where you find your identity, including email and social media, and any other areas that feel heavy or duteous.
It is also helpful to have as little time constraint as possible, to allow yourself a taste of timelessness, so that you can encounter what is eternal.
Try to do what feels light, freeing and playful.
Try to set aside a morning or weekend for a retreat, where youintentionally choose to clear and protect the time from the usual clutter and noise of life, and rest deeply in being.
Explore having a regular daily practice of quiet prayer or meditation, and for some this could include gentle walks in nature, or other ways of taking regular breaks from the doing mode – as Thomas Keating describes it, contemplative practice is an opportunity to take a holiday from ourselves. We consciously choose to let go of all the outer demands and identities, and allow ourselves to rest in simple being in God
Set a reminder of some sort to remember to return to this place of repose throughout your ordinary daily life, and allow this to seep into your usual activities, so that youoperate from this deeper more free identity.
Remember that this place of rest is always there within each of us, available to us if we remember to return there with our attention.
Listen to the following piece of music as you read the poem beneath:
Blessing for one who is exhausted:
by John O'Donohue
When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.
The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.
Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.
The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.
You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken in the race of days.
At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.
You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.
Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.
Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.
Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.
For further reflection:
Below are some of the readings from the talk and some additional readings for you to reflect on further:
"The Sabbath is about rest, about laying down our burdens, about unhooking from the compulsions of the to-do list. On Shabbat we build a temple in time and take refuge there. According to the twentieth-century spiritual activist Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, ‘Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal’...
At the closing of Shabbat we gather again and light a special braided candle, symbolizing that sacred and ordinary time are intertwined.”
Beatrice Bruteau writes that Sabbath “is the fundamental disposition of leisure which makes possible the experience of contemplation”… “The most important thing in initiating a contemplative attitude toward life is being still and open. I see it as involving various levels of relaxation and silence, the kinds of not-doing that are so essential to the contemplative life.”
“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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
The Message paraphrase:
“I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
"Sabbath living orients us toward that which, apart from rest, we will always miss. … It’s easy to spend most of your life breaking Sabbath and never figure out that this is part of the reason your work is unsatisfying, your friendships patchy, your leisure threadbare, your vacations exhausting. We simply haven’t taken time. We’ve not been still long enough, often enough, to know ourselves, our friends, our family. Our God.”
"Bodily relaxation and surrender is a profound form of faith. It is an act of trust in God and in God's world as a trustworthy and safe place to be. In spite of all the scary things that can and do happen, we can let down our guard. We can open the gate of our heart to discover not a threatening force to overtake us, but a love that longs to have its way with us and set us free."
"With practice, contemplative resting unfolds into relaxing into being—God’s Being. Moses asked what name he should call God, and the voice from the bush said, “I AM WHO I AM … This is my name forever, and this is my title for all generations” (Exodus 3:14–15). I am who I am—a statement of ineffability, of transcendence infused into existence, a name of being. God says, “I just am—existence, unending, unconsumed.” This image and these words point to an experience in which linear time collapses into the radiant present moment of God’s Being. Eternity is held in God’s Being. How do you apprehend God’s Being? Just be. Trust in being; beneath and between and beyond all efforts and strivings and mistakes is the eternal ground of God’s Being, imaged in your own being."
We pray for
another way of being:
another way of knowing.
Across the difficult terrain
of our existence
we have attempted
to build a highway
and in so doing
have lost our footpath.
God lead us
to our footpath:
lead us there
where in simplicity
we may move
at the speed
of natural creatures
the earth's love
beneath our feet.
Lead us there
we may feel
the movement of creation
in our hearts.
And lead us there
we may feel
the embrace of
the common soul.
Nothing can be
loved at speed.
God lead us
to the slow path;
to the joyous insights
of the pilgrim;
another way of knowing:
another way of being.
- Michael Leunig
We would appreciate any donations so that we can continue making resources like this available at no cost.
A very warm thank you to all of you who have donated so generously.
To see a list of additional resources click here...
If you are not already on our mailing list you can subscribe here...
If you are interested in ordering a copy of Sharon's book, Contemplative Living, please email Bonnie Kaplan Kaufmann who is handling deliveries: