Living the Sabbath

Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight

series: Christian Practice of Everyday Life, The

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"I have read a lot about Sabbath and time issues, and much on food and agriculture issues as well, but nowhere have I encountered such a rich and promising connection between the two. . . . [Wirzba] opens real possibilities for living in a way that honors and embodies rest, remembering, refocusing and thanksgiving."--Arthur Paul Boers, Christian Century

Our traditional understanding of Sabbath observance is resting from our otherwise harried lives one day a week. But in Living the Sabbath, Norman Wirzba leads us deeper into the heart of Sabbath with a holistic and rewarding interpretation of what true Sabbath-keeping can mean in our lives today. Wirzba teaches that Sabbath is ultimately about delight in the goodness that God has made--in everything we do, every day of the week. He then shows how this understanding of Sabbath teaching has the potential to elevate all our activities so that they bring honor to God and delight to the world. With practical examples, Wirzba unpacks what that means for our work, our homes, our economy, our schools, our treatment of creation, and our churches. In doing so, he examines everything from the way chickens are treated in our food industry to the value of family mealtime.


In the end, you will be equipped with a deeper theological understanding of Sabbath, as well as down-to-earth ways to live it out in your daily life. This book will appeal to clergy and laypeople alike who are seeking ways to discover the transformative power of Sabbath.


From the foreword:
The requirement of Sabbath observance invites us to stop. It invites us to rest. It asks us to notice that while we rest the world continues without our help. It invites us to find delight in the world's beauty and abundance. (Thank God for cheap recreation!) Now, in our pandemonium, it may be asking us also to consider that if we choose not to honor it and care well for it, the world will continue in our absence.

     The life of this world is by no means simple or comprehensible to us humans. It involves darkness and suffering; it confronts us daily with mystery and our ignorance. But the idea of the Sabbath passes through it as a vein of light, reminding us of the inherent sanctity of the world and our life, and of the transformative sanity of admiration, gratitude, and care. Norman Wirzba's book asks what kind of human life it takes to include the Sabbath. It is high time somebody asked. As this book shows, what is implied is a set of answers dangerous to ignore.
--Wendell Berry



"'Sabbath time' is a concept popular among overworked clergy, but Wirzba penetrates to the core of Sabbath teaching as an indispensable element of biblical thought that must inform Christian practice altogether. Drawing widely on traditional and contemporary sources, he shows how Sabbath principles apply to subjects as apparently diverse as farming and eating, education, recreation, economics, and worship. At last the church has a beautifully written, deeply informed study of Sabbath living that is worthy of a place alongside Abraham Heschel's great work."--Ellen F. Davis, Duke Divinity School

"This book reads so well that you're tempted to speed through it. But don't. Enjoy it with a glass of iced tea; sit in your rocking chair on the porch and savor it, read slowly, let it sink in. Turn off the television, stay away from the mall, have a conversation with your neighbors, eat home-grown tomatoes. Practice it while you read it. Learn to do Sabbath. Take delight."--Kyle Childress, pastor of Austin Heights Baptist Church, Nacogdoches, Texas

"Norman Wirzba's Living the Sabbath takes us beyond the usual depictions of Sabbath as individual retreat into the practices of Sabbath that engage the fullness of our lives. He explores what it means to live out of a sense of Sabbath in family and community relationships, work and social commitments, and in the theological expressions of 'delight in the goodness of God.' Here is a text for living simply and in the continuing transformation of our lives by God's grace."--Malcolm Lyle Warford, Lexington Theological Seminary

"Living the Sabbath is a cup of cold water for thirsty souls--a cup of rest and delight offered to those of us exhausted and burdened by the frenetic pace of even our 'Christian' busy-ness. Far from the 'working-for-the-weekend' escapism of our consumer society, Wirzba shows how Sabbath-keeping is just as much a Wednesday and Thursday way of inhabiting God's good creation. He bids us to another world and another way of life by painting a picture of how it could be otherwise, providing not formulae and rules but examples and vignettes that invite us to imagine our habits differently. As a beginning to living the Sabbath, make time to read this book!"--James K.A. Smith, Calvin College

"In our hot-and-now commodity culture, in which even religion is often seen as just another thing to be consumed, Living the Sabbath is a clarion call to retrieve the wisdom of the biblical understanding of Sabbath. Clearly and engagingly written, free of scholarly clutter, and brim full of much practical insight on how to live with joy and delight, Norman Wirzba's book is a welcome and timely addition to the Christian Practice of Everyday Life series. This book deserves a wide readership."--Steven Bouma-Prediger, Hope College

The Author

  1. Norman Wirzba

    Norman Wirzba

    Norman Wirzba (PhD, Loyola University, Chicago) is Gilbert T. Rowe Distinguished Professor of Theology at Duke University Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Food and Faith: A Theology of...

    Continue reading about Norman Wirzba


"For Wirzba . . . Sabbath is a way of life untangled from a consumer-dominated economy in order to slow down and appreciate life: 'Put simply, Sabbath discipline introduces us to God's own ways of joy and delight.' Using the lens of the Jewish Sabbath practice, Wirzba looks at contemporary life and explains why the most affluent nation on earth harbors so many discontented and unsatisfied people. . . . Far from merely urging readers to observe Sabbath once a week, this book will humble, fascinate, but most of all challenge spiritual seekers to pursue the fullness of Sabbath."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Abraham Heschel's The Sabbath remains one of the finest pieces ever penned about faithfully approaching time. Norman Wirzba contributes a volume worthy of standing alongside Heschel's. . . . He plumbs theological themes of hope and theodicy, authentic work and fidelity, hospitality and economic faithfulness. Especially refreshing is Wirzba's consistent connecting of these themes to the mundane but central matters of food and eating habits, which are always significant to biblical faith. . . . I have read a lot about Sabbath and time issues, and much on food and agriculture issues as well, but nowhere have I encountered such a rich and promising connection between the two. . . . [Wirzba] opens real possibilities for living in a way that honors and embodies rest, remembering, refocusing and thanksgiving."--Arthur Paul Boers, Christian Century

"This book gives you a different take on celebrating the Sabbath. Instead of viewing the Sabbath as an individual retreat, Norman Wirzba explores what it means to live out the Sabbath in our families and communities. . . . Another interesting aspect of this book is the way that Wirzba looks at contemporary life and explains why the most affluent nation on earth harbors so many discontented and unsatisfied people. It's not the easiest book to read, but it was worth the time."

"Wirzba digs deeper into the meaning and intent of the biblical concept of Sabbath as introduced in the Genesis creation account. . . . His book challenges me and makes me feel hopeful, seeing that even small changes in my life can paradoxically both cause and be the result of my delighting in God and in God's creation and Christ's redemption. Wirzba concludes: 'In a time of consumerist individualism, often empty of generosity and deep delight, we need practices that can lift us out of our narrowness and alienation.' Amen, brother."--Evelyn Bence,

"Here is a proposal that is authentically counterculture--it runs upstream against the dominant patterns of government, business, education and even religion: what Norman Wirzba calls 'today's culture of exhaustion and destruction.' It is timely, given the current dialogue about global warming; but also timeless, proposing a way of living that will work with everyone, at all times. . . . This book, one in a series on 'The Christian Practice of Everyday Life,' needs and demands serious readers--university students, corporate executives, elected officials, and especially book clubs on campus, at church and in the community. All will be challenged by an understanding of Sabbath as vocation that encompasses work and worship, food and friendship, pleasure and pain--and family and community."--Dwight A. Moody, Dallas Morning News

"A practical guide to finding new routines that heal and challenge us to grow in our faith."--Sojourners

"Thoughtful and wide-ranging. . . . Food production is just one of several social issues--environmentalism, economics, family stability and education among them--that Wirzba links to the Sabbath, or rather to attitudes that the Sabbath can foster. Wirzba isn't an idealist. . . . But we can do more, he says, in a quest to live in greater harmony with the world, whether it's in how we treat our neighbors or the environment, or in how we spend our time. That agenda doesn't make the Sabbath sound boring or marginal at all. It could even sound radical in a land of workaholics."

"This is a stunning book, part of a very thoughtful series, 'The Christian Practice of Everyday Life'--all are well worth chewing on. This one, though, is the best--a thoroughly biblical call to Sabbath rest, attentive to the realities of creation. More than 'taking a day off,' this invites us to a lifestyle of restfulness, to break with modernity's frantic pace, and to think through responsible stewardship as it applies to how we relate to food, education, entertainment, and such. Life-changing!"--Byron Borger, Comment

"Sabbath-keepers and those interested in ecological issues will appreciate Wirzba's discussion of the vital linkages in earth's vast web of life and his insightful pairing of Sabbath observance with 'a fuller awareness of the contexts of our living.'"--Jo Ann Davidson, Andrews University Seminary Studies

"An inspiring and well-written account of the Christian Sabbath and its effect on lived practices and habits. . . . Wirzba's book is both theologically provocative and practically useful. . . . As Wirzba describes in this thought-provoking and inspiring book, it is through observing the Sabbath, absorbing Sabbath values, and becoming part of a Sabbath people that this Sabbath lifestyle may come about."--Laura M. Hartman, Biblical Theology Bulletin

"[This] series, 'The Christian Practices of Everyday Life' [includes] weighty and substantive meditations of 'thinking Christianly' about everyday practices as experiences in our contemporary culture. Here, Wirzba opens up not only ideas about Sabbath-keeping but asks how those sustainable, restful ways might influence our daily choices. . . . He brings important insights which can help us frame our more detailed questions about stewardship of time and resources."--Byron Borger,

"A lively and delightful read for congregations and small groups."--Kyle Childress, Christian Century