He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to cultivate –
bringing forth food from the earth:
wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts.
Twice on our trip we celebrated the Friday evening Sabbath meal with our Messianic Jewish sister, Marianna, and many others. What a joy!
At Fr. Peter's house in Hainburg, we sat around two tables. Marianna lit the candles. Fr. Peter said a blessing over the wine and then the bread. (It is interesting to note the the Eucharistic prayer "Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made." remains very similar to the Jewish Sabbath prayers.) We passed the cup, we broke bread, and then the singing commenced!
At first we sang a familiar song, one that Marianna taught us on her trip to Austin.
Shabbat Shalom, Shabbat Shalom, Shabbat, Shabbat, Shabbat, Shabbat Shalom.
That is the extent of the Cogdells' Hebrew, but thankfully we had some singers and musicians in our midst with a bigger repertoire. Our worship leader set in on another Hebrew song. Most around the table joined in. At that point a young lady ran for her violin. Everyone started clapping.The merriment continued for a third song, and our faces were truly shining. If there had been a fourth, I am pretty sure someone would have danced on the table! It was the happiest. most jubilant meal I have ever attended. And the children were captivated, especially little Clara. "Mommy, sing the song the big people sang, " she begged at every bedtime afterwards.
I have to say, of the great Ten Commandments, the one I practice most poorly and understand the least is "Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy." I do go to church on Sunday, which seems to be the extent of the Christian instruction I have received on the topic. But in my heart I know there is something more to this commandment, something which is meant for all God's children and not just the Jews. We have a need for rest, as a community and not just as individuals. We need time for contemplation which does not come easily in the grind of work. We tend to lust after money, or success, or a perfectly clean house - compulsions which steal time from our families and friends. Submitting such cravings to God on a weekly basis seems a very healthy discipline.
I am aware that Jesus had much to say about rigid laws regarding the Sabbath. There are many in our community that must work on the weekend because of economic necessity. There are others (doctors, police, paramedics like my son) whose work on Saturdays or Sundays is a blessing to the community. I am not advocating a return to the "good old days" when Sunday restrictions were the law of the land. However...
I do love the Shabbat meal! The intimate community and sharing of faith over the Shabbat is a bit lighter and earthier than our communion liturgies. It is a meal of thanksgiving rather than a sacrament. It is a place where all God's children can share wine and break bread with gratitude and fraternity. It is a practice we Cogdells may well adopt.