Sabbath: The Ancient Practices
by Dan B. Allender
Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2009
What would you do with a day dedicated to delight? That is the question that Dan B. Allender poses in “Sabbath,” one of the books in the “Ancient Practices Series” edited by Phyllis Tickle and published by Thomas Nelson. Allender’s take on the Sabbath is unique. While other books on keeping the Sabbath tend to focus on dedicating the day to God or resting from work, Allender expands on that, stating that “the Sabbath is a day of delight for humankind, animals, and the earth; it is not merely a pious day and it is not fundamentally a break, a day off, or a twenty-four hour vacation. The Sabbath is a feast day that remembers our leisure in Eden and anticipates our play in the new heavens and earth with family, friends, and strangers for the sake of the glory of God.”
Allender acknowledges that it is difficult to dedicate one day to experiencing joy and beauty and delight. It might be hard to dedicate one day in a lifetime to that, much less one day each week! Yet, Allender invites us to make a concerted effort to do so. Allender examines how we treat time in this over-stressed twenty-first century world and encourages us to take a second look at the value of taking that weekly Sabbath to sanctify time. He also discusses the value of feasting and of play. It will take some preparation on the other days of the week, but we need to open our hearts to the gift of the Sabbath.
One chapter that was very insightful was “Sabbath Play: Despair Surrenders to Joy.” Allender explores what it means to regret and despair. “Both regret and worry assume there is no God, or at least not one who loves and pours himself out for his children. . . Despair shows itself in cynicism, conventionality, and consumerism.” Sabbath invites us to set those feelings aside. Gratitude and joy are to be the dominant emotions of Sabbath.
The only criticism of this book is that Allender didn’t seem to place much value on attending religious services on Saturday or Sunday. My sense is that he tried to make this book accessible to all people of faith, even those who consider themselves to be “spiritual but not religious.” Overall, however, Allender offers considerable food for thought.