The Sabbath Dining Room
We are going to spend two weeks on the dining room, with the first consideration being the observation of the Lord’s Day as it relates to dining. This is because how we honor God (or not) in an overt way drives or defines how we honor Him (or not) in our day-to-day activity.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings (Lev. 23:1-3).
The creation of a new heaven and new earth necessitated the establishment of a new sabbath to accompany it. Just as God created the world in six days and nights and then rested on the seventh day, so Christ recreated the world in three days and nights, and rose again on the first day (Heb. 4:9-10). This is why a sabbath rest remains for the people of God. Since the first century Christians have been marking and feasting on this weekly Easter (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2).
Our text shows us that the Old Testament sabbath was intended as a feast, not a fast. But the same thing carries over into the New Testament as well. And it has to be said that wrong-headed obedience to this command as resulted in sabbatarian fasting, which is a form of sabbath breaking. Paul tells the Corinthians that they are to keep the feast while getting rid of the yeast of malice and wickedness (1 Cor. 5:7-8). Jude tells his readers that the presence of false teachers was a blemish in their feasting (Jude 11-12). Among other things, this assumes that Christians feast on the Lord’s Day.
death and Resurrection
We know that we worship in church because Jesus died and rose again. We know that we are forgiven for all our sins for the same reason. But we often do not recognize how deeply this gospel truth is imbedded in the world. Consider the dining room table, set and ready for dinner. Virtually every type of food on the table is there for our life, and has died for our life. The only exceptions I can think of would be the salt, the ice cubes, and the water. In other words, all food was once alive and was killed so that we might continue to live. Because we have allowed ourselves to become disconnected from the entire process we tend to think of food as simple generic “food,” and not as life surrendered.
This confusion is an easy one. When they were all very little, one of our children asked my wife if farmers grew their own food. When an affirmative answer was given, the question came back, “Don’t they know how to cook?” But “food” does not mysteriously appear at the grocery store all shrink-wrapped—it grew, lived and died somewhere. Whenever we give thanks, we are thanking God for the gospel.
taste & CEREMONY
God most emphatically is not a utilitarian. He could have devised a world in which nutritious food was available by the ton, like so much bran mash in a trough. We could have been kept alive with food that tasted uniformly like stewed hay. But what has God in fact done? He has made a big deal out of this process by doing a lot of unnecessary stuff. If we just begin to catalog what God thinks of food, we are instantly overwhelmed, just on the basis of how it tastes. Just think of butter, of oranges, of milk and of grapes.
Now what do we do? We appreciate with gratitude, and then as obedient children we imitate. And we imitate by doing “unnecessary”things in the cooking, in the setting of the table, and in the eating. These unnecessary things have to be more than just unnecessary—hassles are frequently unnecessary too—they also have to be pleasant like the taste of a tangerine. And because we are considering here the sabbath as feast, the cooking should be a cut above, the table set more nicely, and the manners more pleasant. In short, imitate God in the preparing of a special sauce, in placing flowers on the table, and in serving others at the table in love.
A great danger with subjects like this one is that we all have a tendency to the side-long glance. In other words, we wonder why others in the family are not doing their part. Or the side-long glance is an envious one—other families enjoying what you do not. But remember, each family has its own gifts, personality, and capacity for blessing—its own unique way to glorify God. This may not be happening, but not because yours is not a mirror image of that other family. Feel free to copy tips, but do not fall for the trap of envying gifts.
And so remember, that the sabbath is not raw demand. It is rest, glory, and peace. And the Holy Spirit here works by seduction.
The suggestions that follow are not intended as a voice from Sinai. We do not want to be legalistic in how we impose details on one another. At the same time, we don’t want to leave families out if they are eager to apply these things, but don’t know how.
start at the shallow end—don’t try to do everything, or learn everything, all at once. That is the way to discouragement. Simply set your sabbath dinner apart, no matter how modest you think the distinction is.
Saturday night—many families in our church observe the Lord’s Day from 6 pm Saturday to 6 pm Sunday. This means that the cook can do the bulk of the work on Saturday, and enjoy the sabbath with the rest of the family. If it is a real good business, you have great leftovers to enjoy after worship on Sunday.
understanding blessing—as we have to emphasize, this is not for rich people. All families, at whatever level they live, know how to enjoy their “best.” So this is simply a question of priorities—save your best, whatever it is, for the Lord’s Day. This includes the best wine, the best chocolate, the best dishes, etc. If treats are few and far between, place them here in order to honor God for the blessing.
marked with the Word—as we honor the Lord’s Day, we do not do so as mimes. We are to speak about these things, both to the Lord and to one another. So here is a suggested simple ceremony—special “manners” for the sabbath to be woven in with your regular practices. First, welcome all visitors to your table. Second, offer a prayer of thanks which includes particular recognition of the sabbath. For those who would like to use it, the church office will begin emailing out a special prayer of thanks for the Lord’s Day on Friday. Third, the little children can answer catechism questions. Q. What day is it? A. It is the Lord’s Day. Q. Why is it the Lord’s Day? A. Because Jesus rose from the dead. Q. What kind of day is it? A. It is a sweet day. Then you can all sing a psalm together, and then dinner begins. Singing during clean up is also a great blessing.