Sabbath dinner presents challenges and blessings if it is done weekly. And though most church families do eat together, feasting is setting the bar higher. So here are a few thoughts about how we can overcome some of the obstacles while we learn to apply the principle of eating our bread with joy (Eccl. 9:7).
1. The table is central to our worship and to our lives in our homes. Sabbath feasting is a victory celebration. Christ has won! We win! Celebrate!
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Application: Do it now.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Challenge: Â The temptation is to put it off until another year. Donâ€™t be afraid,Â donâ€™t compare it to others, just do it by faith. Yes, it will be a lot of work. But it is good work.
2. It is not enough to just be eating. There must be joy, rejoicing. Better a meal of vegetables where there is peace than feasting with strife. Our Sabbath celebration is an overflow of joy, not a burden under the law of another rule.Â Â Â Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Application: Create an atmosphere conducive to feasting.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Challenges: Forsake the Martha attitude.We are rejoicing in the Lord. It’s a party!
3. Sabbath feasting is good preparation for worship, whether you actually sit down to celebrate on Saturday, or prepare on Saturday for Sunday.Â Â Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Application: This is the high feast of the week. Make it the best meal of the week.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Challenges: There will always be schedule interruptions. Learn to be flexible. Rearrange the time to help people make it. Donâ€™t load them up with guilt because their activity conflicts with the dinner. If you set people free to come, they willÂ come. If you try to motivate them by guilt, they will hate it.
4. A feast is different from a regular weekly dinner. We have wine, the celebratory drink.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Application: Begin to serve wine. Get little wineglasses for the kids so they canÂ have a sip, or give them sparkling something or other.We begin the meal with aÂ toast and everyone is clinking, especially the little kids.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Challenge: You donâ€™t know where to begin. Maybe you donâ€™t like wine.You have an obligation to like wine! It is the biblical celebratory drink. Jesus made a lot of it. So if you don’t like it, justÂ start with something sweet andÂ work your way up. Get input, suggestions. You don’t have to be a wine expert, and I’m not suggesting we slosh around in the stuff. Just a glassful.
5. This is going to cost some money.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Application: Weekly feasts do cost money, and they take planning. Â You will need to beef up your inventory of table supplies, napkins,Â wine glasses, high chairs, silverware. What better reason?
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Challenge: You will wonder if it is worth it at first. You might want to cutÂ corners. Donâ€™t give up. Persevere. It really will become a cherished part of the rhythm of yourÂ week.
6. Sabbath feasts will look different from year to year.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Application: A table of six adults is different from one with 12 adults and 10 kids. Take it easy and enjoy yourself. Itâ€™s a party. Donâ€™t expect to be polishing silverÂ every week. Accommodate your family and your own limitations.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Challenge: Keep working to accommodate. Replace the broken glasses. Find easier ways to pull it off. Donâ€™t give up. Join up with other families for a potluck.
7. Sabbath dinner is about the children. Make is glorious for them. Your grown kids will love it too.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Application: Of course your menu and set up will reflect the age of the kids. You want to consider them when you invite guests. I sprinkle candy down theÂ middle of the table sometimes, or put a few pieces at each place. And if we have ice cream for dessert, I have lots of different kinds of sprinkles for them to shake on top.When yourÂ children are grown and are bringing your grandchildren to the table, make it the kind of party that yourÂ married children will love too. Parents love to see theirÂ children having a good time.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Challenge: It might be a big mess sometimes. Well, maybe every time. Find waysÂ to get everyone to pitch in so you are not overwhelmed.
8. This is going to take some work.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Application: Get help to pull this off. Talk with your husband to establish a game plan. Set aside time on Saturday for prep. Can you hire a helper? Can the kidsÂ help? ?
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Challenge: Donâ€™t get a head of yourself. If you canâ€™t devote the day to this, you need to keep the menu simple, the prep simple. You can still light a candle andÂ celebrate together.
9. The Sabbath is beautiful; the table should reflect the beauty of holiness.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Application: Make it beautiful, inside and out whether you use china or paperÂ plates. And though I donâ€™t use china (I use buffet plates, simple white ones), I do think paper can be used sometimes, as the exception, not the rule. And they can be pretty ones.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Challenges: You donâ€™t know how; you donâ€™t have the equipment; itâ€™s too much work. Donâ€™t think you have to iron the damask each week. I have an inventory ofÂ Â colorful oilcloth which I spread down our 18 foot table. It looks great with crystal wine glasses and flowers and candles, and the wine spills can be wiped up withoutÂ a trace. I save the damask for Easter or Christmas. But do what you like, use whatÂ you have.
10. Watch your expectations!
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Application: Donâ€™t set yourself up for a fall. (Expecting too much in the way ofÂ Â manners, appreciation, helpfulness, whatever.)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Challenge: Youâ€™ve worked hard all day! Itâ€™s easy to forget that this is for everyone else, not for you. Keep a servantâ€™s heart. Ask God to bless your workÂ and make it a sweet celebration. Pray ahead of time. Donâ€™t be blindsided by aÂ mishap. This is family life, not a performance.
11. Think generationally. Your children/grandchildren will have many happy memories of this and they will imitate you in generations to come. Covenant Media sells a lovely cookbook called A Return to Sunday Dinner. Not only does it have some great menus, it also is full of remembrances from many Â people about the Sunday dinner they grew up with. Sabbath feasting is a way of having a huge impact on future generations, your descendants. Donâ€™t squander your opportunities!
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13 thoughts on “More on Sabbath Feasting”
Re #8, this is also an excellent opportunity to involve single ladies in the church. Single women may be limited by space or finances as to how much hospitality they can provide on their own, but families can offer them a great opportunity to be involved in hosting.
very helpful nancy…thanks.
This is such a wonderful post — I’m almost reluctant to comment with this, for fear of raining on the parade. This may seem really silly to ask, but it has come up, and I’d like to make it go away legitimately, not just by dismissing it. How do you get around the legal issues involved in letting young children drink wine at the table? I’d love to include them in this, and of course I have no fear of it being abused in my home in that setting, or of anybody “ratting on us.” Yet I don’t want to teach my little ones a disrespect for civil law by just doing “whatever I want, as long as I don’t get caught.” (My 6-yr-old is particularly shrewd, and has already asked how it’s okay for her to take wine in communion at her age.) How do you work this out? Thanks.
Thanks for bringing this up. We checked on this when we first started our Sabbath dinners and my husband got a legal opinion about the Idaho state law. He was told that in our state parents can serve their children wine in their presence at the dinner table. But you should check the law in your state before you do so. Also, Idaho allows for communion wine served to children for religious purposes. If the Idaho law forbade parents serving their children a sip of wine with dinner, I doubt we would make a big issue over it. But if the state forbade our children from taking the Lord’s Supper with us, I’m pretty sure there would be a stink.
This question of legality intriued me. So I found and offer this link, Underage Consumption of Alcohol.
As a woman who troes to keep the Sabbath holy, and who tries to prepare a wonderful meal for Sunday dinner, I do need to ask how one gets away from the fact that this is still “work” on the Sabbath for a woman. I can do some planning and prep on Saturday, but there is still work to be done cleaning up the dishes, and all that– unless I use paper plates, bowls and casserole dishes or simply put kitchen cleanup off until Monday. On high holidays, such as Easter, I always minimise my work by cooking the lamb on Saturday, carving it and simply letting it sit in its juices until Sunday, putting it in the oven to warm while we are at church. Most things can be planned this way, and I don’t mind that at all. I’m just wondering whether the mother gets as much “rest” as the rest of the family and how the head of the household should address this?
Just a few thoughts regarding your question. Yes, Sunday is a day of rest. That means you don’t do your usual work of laundry and grocery shopping or waxing the floors. But we sometimes get in our mind that Sunday means a day without lifting a finger, so we feel cheated when we don’t achieve it. And quite frankly, that’s just impossible for mothers unless they are staying at a resort hotel somewhere. Having such a standard is a set up for disappointment. So, rather than feeling miserable that you never have a work-free Sunday (no dishes, etc.), I think it’s better if we think of keeping it simple and letting some things go until Monday. But not everything. Our family celebrates on Saturday night, which keeps our Sunday less congested. My favorite after-church menu is cold cuts, cheese, some good bread, maybe some fruit or a salad. But even with a simple menu, you still have to wipe up the crumbs, and probably change some diapers, and wipe faces, etc. A mother still has many things to do on Sunday that would fall under the heading of acts of necessity and mercy. So I think we should take it easy as much as we can while extending mercy to our families and friends who are celebrating with us. I don’t think it is wise for moms to compare their own work load on Sunday to the rest of the family….that could lead to resentment. Mothers have the blessed responsibility of ministering to the whole family. So, if you are feeling strung out on Sunday, by all means rethink what you are doing. But don’t have a false standard of what a day of rest looks like. Celebrating the Lord’s Day is a kind of work, but I think it is an entirely lawful kind of work. If we are going to take one day in seven to worship, to fellowship, and rejoice around a table, it will require a different kind of work than what is needed through out the week. But it is a good work, and if it is done with a rejoicing sabbath spirit, I think it can still be restful to our souls.
EFGrant, As a mom of three very young children, I can sympathize that Sundays often feel like MORE work than the rest of the week. The rest of the week, if we don’t make it to the shower until noon, that’s fine. If the kids get their shirts dirty, that’s fine, too. On Sundays, showers have to be prompt and the kids have to STAY clean (at least until after worship!) and this is work! Planning a big feast all by myself on top of that is just more than overwhelming. I was very distraught about this until I talked to a dear friend who said that at my stage in life, sometimes a Sabbath feast is just that because that’s what we decide to call it. Maybe we just put a couple candles on the table or sing our favorite communion hymn as our prayer, but we are setting it apart. When my daughter is grown and can help and my sons are married and have wives that can help, we can get one of those ginormous Amish built tables the Wilson family has and REALLY have a feast–but not if we don’t start building our traditions and setting Sunday apart now. If you have family or friends that would share in the preparation and celebration–great! If not, look to the future and the blessing your vision can have upon your children and grandchildren–and know you’re not alone!!
They’ll never remember if the roast was cooked in the oven or the crock pot–or even that it was a roast, probably. But they’ll remember that mom lit the candles and that meant it was special.
I took your advice to “do it now!”
And also decided on Saturday evening, because I am in a much better “servant-heart” frame of mind on Saturday than on Sundays, after church, during which time I usually feel like I barely make it through peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before we all head off for naps! I think, if we get this fully implemented and up and running, having a nice Sabbath meal on Saturday night could well help put us in a better frame of mind for worshipping on Sunday morning. We’ll see.
Thanks for the thoughts and advice… this entry was especially helpful for encouraging me to rethink what a Sabbath rest means for a wife and mother of 4 young children, and to not be resentful of service to my family on the Sabbath.
I’m enjoying reading through your entries.
Thank you for writing this. I love the idea of a Sabbath dinner, but it honestly sounds like so much work (on my “day off”!) that i’ve been dragging my feet. this post is a load of grace for me. i’m still adjusting to sundays as a work day for my husband and trying to find ways to make it different from every other day. any advice on that?
i saw a chalkboard oilcloth and thought of you. sounds like fun for the little ones to write on, and lots of creative options…
Thanks for that link, Brandi. I know what one family’s getting for Christmas!
Nancy, my husband and I want to start sabbath feasting. Please help me by explaining your sabbath feast procedure. I just need ideas. What time do you start and end? Do you sit with young kids or separate? Do you have certain traditions, liturgy or speeches, that you always use? Is it just your family or also church family? Do you invite people that you may be awkward with, but who need care or do you keep it to intimate people?
Sorry I entered an incorrect web address in my previous comment.