on celebrating the Sabbath

The other day I listened to this very interesting podcast, an interview with a woman who has written a book about the Sabbath.

(Parenthetically, I love that in the internet age, I can listen to a local Utah radio station all the way from Chile, and even though I’m a BYU fan, I love KUER, which is the University of Utah’s NPR station, and sometimes I have to remind myself that I don’t actually know Doug Fabrizio in real life. What? You never pretend that the radio people are your friends? Also, I just went to their website to link to the podcast and noticed that IRA GLASS is coming to Utah! You should definitely get tickets to that. Also not my real-life friend, Ira Glass is the host of This American Life, and if you aren’t listening to that, please start now.)

In discussing the Sabbath, the author Judith Shulevitz shared some experiences she had growing up in the Jewish faith, and explained how she loves the Sabbath, even though she is not a practicing Jew. She drew a distinction between the Jewish practice of the Sabbath, which in her experience was celebratory and joyful, like a weekly holiday, and the puritanical Christian idea of the Sabbath, which is considered more proscriptive. This naturally got me thinking about our Mormon practice of the Sabbath.

In my experience, Mormons are stricter in their Sabbath observance than (most) other Christians. We typically don’t shop, eat out, swim, or play sports on Sunday. Like many other religious observances, this practice can vary from family to family — for example, some Mormons I know watch TV on Sunday and others do not.

The idea that Mormons are in the “Thou Shalt Not” school of Sabbath-ry rather than this somewhat idealized celebration by Shulevitz’s Jewish friends rankled a little. We can make Sunday a day to look forward to, can’t we?

One of our problems as Mormons is that between three hours of church each Sunday, and having a lay clergy (which means the members do all of the work) Sunday turns out to be somewhat exhausting, especially for families with young children. However, exhaustion notwithstanding, I genuinely look forward to Sunday, and I know plenty of other Mormons do too. It is a day of renewal, and a day unlike other days.

I have found that my children don’t always love Sunday, which makes me think I need to do more to help them enjoy it. My five year-old asks me every single Sunday who we’re having for dinner, and I think she’s right to ask. Sharing our Sabbath with another family and having a special meal does make the day seem celebratory and “set apart.” It also interferes with my ability to put my sweats on after church.

Can we make Sunday a day of rest and also a day of celebration? Tell me how you’ve accomplished this. And do you like to have someone over for Sunday dinner? My mother did almost every Sunday but my sister Anne and I have noticed it seems to be a dying art — can it be revived? Should it?

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5 thoughts on “on celebrating the Sabbath

  1. valerie

    I’ve had the pleasure of sitting at your Sunday dinner table. Thank you. And ironically Jeff just said today, we need to start inviting people over for Sunday dinner now. (He was just released as YM Pres.)
    Great post Elizabeth! And BTW, the Valulis’ are in our ward and we LOVE them! Fun connection.

    Reply
  2. Katy

    We have made it a goal to have someone over twice a month. It is not always easy and we don’t always make it, but we try. IT is definitely a dying art, and something that I don’t find that comes naturally, my mom seemed to make it look easy. I need to simplify my expectations and try for something like just dessert, instead of an elaborate meal that leaves me exhausted.

    Reply
  3. Robin

    I love the idea of having someone over for Sunday dinner, but with our late church schedule right now (2:30-5:30 PM. Yikes!), it’s pretty much impossible. Crock pot dinners just don’t seem appropriate for company. Also, we seem to have a lot of family dinners and events on Sunday, which keeps us from having non-relatives over as much.

    I agree, I think that formal dinner parties have declined in popularity. I kind of wish it were a regular thing to go and dine at your neighbor’s house every couple of weeks, like they do in the old novels. I think it would make for a lot closer relationships between neighbors. Or that ladies got together for tea in the afternoons…now we’re so busy running the kids from place to place that we don’t ever have any quiet time to just sit with friends and talk.

    Reply
  4. Nana

    Well said, Liz. We do need to celebrate the Sabbath and somehow teach our children that it isn’t only restrictive.

    Reply
  5. Sarah

    I love having people over for Sunday dinners. Even though Sundays aren’t always “relaxing” I love that I feel no obligation to get things done. There are no trips to the store, and I hate cleaning on Sunday. And I know this is somewhat hypocritical, but I don’t let my kids watch t.v. on Sundays, but when they go to bed I usually turn something on!

    Reply

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