Monday, February 18, 2013

Those Old-Fashioned Sundays

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy . . . (Exodus 20:8-11).

I learned at an early age that Sunday was a special day. It was different. “Sunday” was far more than a day of the week. It was a modifier used to denote an entire way of life.

I had Sunday clothes – usually uncomfortable and scratchy. The shirts choked me. The fabric of the slacks mysteriously inhibited me like iron shackles. Nothing remotely fun would happen in those clothes. What I especially disliked were my stiff and shiny Sunday shoes.

We had Sunday dinner. Now this part I usually liked. To this day there are certain foods that evoke within me a sense of ‘Sunday.’ Pot roast is a Sunday food, as is that timeless delicacy fried chicken. On certain occasions we went the cafeteria after morning worship. And Sunday nights will forever be connected in my mind to grilled cheese sandwiches and Campbell’s tomato soup.

And then of course there was church. Sunday was church day and this was not simply true in the morning. My church laid claim to the entire day. We had Sunday school and church in the morning, followed by the mandatory nap, and then we went back to church for ‘training union’ and another evening worship service. (My kids have no clue).

Throughout my young life I learned that Sunday was different, and for that I can honestly say I am thankful. But for all that I learned about Sunday, I didn’t truly learn about the Sabbath.

You’ve probably caught on by now that our reflections this week will deal with God’s command to keep the Sabbath. The path God has invited us to walk is best traveled if we regularly sit down to rest. But before we go any further I want to say very clearly we will not spend the week pining for yesterday.

The ‘blue laws’ are not coming back – and when we had them we were just as prone to violate the Sabbath as we are right now. Sunday night church is probably a thing of the past, even in traditions where it was once strong. The Sunday ball games are not going to stop, and if your child is on a team you will very likely play on Sunday.

But here’s the truth of the matter: in freeing ourselves from the old restrictions of Sunday we threw away the gift of Sabbath. And what we lost is far more precious than what we think we gained.

Even for the devout, with the exception of one hour in church, our Sundays look exactly like our Saturdays. We go to church, preferably getting out well before noon and then anxiously using the remainder of the day to ‘get things done. We don’t know much about keeping the Sabbath.

God intends the Sabbath as a blessing, not a burden. It is a gift given to you. It was never meant to take something from you. Maybe, by God’s grace, we can rediscover that gift and reclaim what we inadvertently threw away with those ‘narrow’ habits of our ancestors. Let’s pray so.

For today: What does your current “Sabbath keeping” practice look like?

Lead us, O God, back to the good gift of the Sabbath. Grant us grace to slow down, to rest, and to trust you with our lives, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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