Everything You Need to Know About Sabbath Meals
For Seventh-day Adventists, sharing a Sabbath meal with friends and family is one of the most special and memorable parts of the Sabbath.
That’s why we want to share with you all about Sabbath meals and why they’re such a valued tradition in the Seventh-day Adventist church. We’ll answer questions like:
- What makes a Sabbath meal special, or different from other meals?
- Are there any Sabbath meal traditions?
- What does Sabbath meal preparation look like?
So let’s sit around the proverbial table and learn everything there is to know about Sabbath meals.
What makes a Sabbath meal special?
Take a moment to remember some of your happiest memories: when you were at a special event, or with people that meant a lot to you, or a time when you were able to relax after a hard week.
In those memories, was food involved?
Chances are, your answer is “yes!”
And it’s no surprise, since sharing food is one of the best ways to build and cultivate relationships with other people.
During the week, we’re often so busy that we aren’t able to eat together with our families, friends, or fellow church members. However, because Sabbath is meant to be a day of rest, we can be intentional about sitting down to share a special meal with other people.
This time also means that we can connect with people we don’t usually see during the week. Extended family, friends, church members, or church visitors are just some of the people we might see across the table from us at a Sabbath meal.
Sabbath meals are probably more essential now than they have ever been. In our technology-driven and distraction-laden society, sometimes we forget to slow down and truly spend time with each other: parents with children, couples with each other, and friends and family in general.
Truly, Sabbath meals are where we can reconnect with each other and with our Saviour.
Sabbath meals in the Bible
Jesus sharing meals with others is a common theme in the Gospels.
Sometimes the meals were simple like picking heads of grain in the fields with His disciples (Matthew 12:1-8). Other times they were extravagant, in the homes of wealthy members of society (Matthew 9:10-13). And other times, they were examples of Jesus’ love, mercy, and acceptance, and in turn, a way to share the gospel and Jesus’ gift of salvation (Mark 16:1; Luke 19:9-10).
Simple or extravagant, Jesus often connected with people over meals to share His mission on this earth with them.
One example was the Last Supper, right near the end of Jesus’ life and earthly ministry. During this Sabbath meal, Jesus exhibits one of the key features of sharing a meal with others: servant leadership.
Jesus takes the time to wash His disciples’ feet and show how we need to serve each other in the same way (John 13:12-15).
To Jesus, sharing a meal isn’t just about eating food in the presence of other people. It’s also about serving one another and letting that deepen your relationships.
Sharing a Sabbath meal together is also about remembering that God is our provider. The feeding of the 5,000 in the Bible is a good example of this.
When the disciples wanted to send the multitudes home because they were hungry, Jesus showed the disciples that He can provide for all. He blessed a small child’s contribution of 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish and fed 5,000+ people with it (Matthew 14:13-21).
We can use Jesus’ practice of service and His ability to provide for us as a model for our own Sabbath meals as a way to show love to others and to show God that we trust Him. Of course, the way that we do that changes from family to family.
So let’s talk about some of the traditions Adventists might follow to make Sabbath meals special.
What are some Sabbath meal traditions?
The fun thing about Sabbath meal traditions is that they are different for everyone. The Adventist Church is a global community, so one Sabbath meal might look totally different from another.
Some people eat similar things every week. Some families may have a type of soup and bread every Friday night, and some type of pasta at Sabbath lunch.
For others, they might try something new or exciting every week.
Sometimes, people prefer these meals to be formal, at a nicely-set table to make things extra special. Others might choose to keep things casual, modest, or low-key, even packing a picnic to eat outside in God’s nature.
While these traditions vary from family to family, there are some traditions that are common for many Adventists when it comes to eating together on Sabbath. Generally, Sabbath meals:
- Tend to be grander than other meals during the week
- Include a wider circle of people than the weekday meals, such as:
- Extended family
- Visitors from church
- New neighbors
- A family who just moved to the area
- Give guests an opportunity to get to know a new group of people without the pressure or formality of a church service
Along with this theme, many Adventist Churches host Sabbath meals for the purpose of fellowship. Church members can bring dishes to share, making it an eclectic feast. These meals are called potlucks, or “fellowship dinner.”
Whatever Sabbath meal traditions people might choose to keep, the important parts remain: good food, quality time with people we love, and a reminder that God sustains and takes care of us.
Now that we know what kinds of traditions are common for Sabbath meals, let’s take a look at Sabbath meal preparation.
How Adventists prepare for a Sabbath meal
Meal prep for Sabbath can also vary from family to family.
We keep the way we approach Sabbath preparation focused on Jesus rather than following strict human-made guidelines for food preparation on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:1-8).
Adventists don’t generally consider setting up the Sabbath meal as “work” because we consider work as things that are obligatory or vocation-related, not something done willingly and enjoyably to promote togetherness. So, for Seventh-day Adventists, serving a meal on the Sabbath isn’t a sin and isn’t wrong.
However, preparing for the Sabbath ahead of time means that the Sabbath day can be truly restful for everyone, so we often try to make food on Friday during the day, and leave the finishing touches for right before the meal.
Some ideas for Sabbath preparation include cooking ahead of time, freezing, and reheating on the Sabbath. Some might also use a slow cooker recipe to make things more effortless, and to be hot and ready at just the right time. These help keep us focused on God and keep our Sabbaths stress free!
Whenever that’s not possible—because sometimes life is busy and preparing ahead of time is difficult—Sabbath meals can also be simple and still be nourishing, and involve everyone’s help for cooking and cleanup.
Sabbath meals help us enjoy the blessings of Sabbath
However you enjoy your Sabbath meals—whether that’s preparing ahead of time and reheating food, joining with a church family at their home, eating the same thing every week, or eating something new every week—the best things about Sabbath meals are slowing down, spending time with people we love, and remembering how God sustains and takes care of us.
You can start your own Sabbath meal traditions today!
Yes, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is a Protestant Christian denomination formed in 1863. Just like other Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ is our Savior and seek to follow the principles of the Word of God.
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