Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"And on Sundays, we go to Target"

By all appearances yesterday, I was tackling a huge Monday morning mound of wash, sweat-soaked running and cycling clothing, sheets, towels, and all the rest that needed laundering.  But what I was really doing was just taking back the Sabbath.

I thought about easily lightening the pile by throwing in a load or two on Sunday afternoon, but over the past year or so, I have begun to view Sundays in a different light.   The rest of our culture recognizes Sunday as a "day off," when all the while, God always intended it to be a "day of rest."  Our culture sees Sunday as the last day of the weekend.  God intended  it to be the first day of the week.

And our culture does not see anything different in us.

A "day off" mentality crowds a Sunday with leftovers from the week.  Those little items inflate in importance, expanding to fill every nook and cranny like trying to pack up the kids and their stuff in the car for a road trip.  And the "day of rest" that God designed is transformed into a thesaurus definition for the word "haste:"  urgency, acceleration, rush, dash, velocity, impetuosity, hurry, scurry, scramble, push, hustle, bustle, fuss and flurry.  We don't have time for God.  We don't have time to spend with each other. 

And we wake up already worn out on Monday morning and wonder, "What happened to our weekend?"

In the 2012 movie Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, the two main British characters watch as the people around them in this Middle Eastern land observe religious rituals.  "I don't know anyone who even goes to church anymore," one character says to the other.  "On Sundays, we go to Target," the other replies.

And our culture does not see anything different in us.  Because we are right behind them in line at the cashier.

Don't blame "culture" for secularizing Sunday.  We have done it ourselves.

Until I read their life stories, I didn't realize how countercultural Ruth Graham and Elisabeth Elliot were as young women at Wheaton College.  Both women had been raised to keep the Sabbath by getting all of their studying done in six days and basking in the freedom of a day of rest on Sundays.  Elisabeth Elliot mentions in her book The Shaping of A Christian Family (1992), the "guilt" she felt on Sunday afternoons, resting, relaxing, going for walks, having a leisurely cup of tea, all while her classmates were feverishly studying for a new week of classes.  Ruth's and Elisabeth's intentional efforts to get all of their homework done ahead of time was sweetened by the anticipation of having a weekly holiday and starting each week refreshed.  And throughout their incredible lives, what would they have done without His strength woven weekly into their hearts?

My oven has a "Sabbath mode."  My heart needs one too..

I have begun taking back the Sabbath, one step at a time.  I plan throughout the week what needs to get done -- errands, cleaning chores, grocery shopping, and yes, the laundry. And I pause and double-check on Saturdays. It has nothing to do with keeping rules, but keeping sacred what God has designed.  He has a reason for it.  A couple of years ago, I even began an "internet sabbath" on Sundays which I still keep to a certain extent, bypassing the extreme feeling of "urgency" to check emails and other enslaving tyrants of my time. (It is, by the way, radically liberating.)   Glitches still happen on Sundays from time to time, but even Jesus recognized the need to pull your sheep out of a ditch or help a neighbor with his.  ("So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."  Matthew 12.12)

And so, last Sunday morning, when a pastor asked my husband and me, "So what else do you have going on this busy Sunday?"  We just looked at each other and smiled.

Remember the Sabbath day
         and keep it holy.
Six days you shall labor,
         and do all your work,
but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.
On it you shall not do any work,
you, or your son, or your daughter,
your male servant, or your female servant,
or your livestock,
or the sojourner who is within your gates.
For in six days
     the LORD made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
and rested on the seventh day.
Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day
           and made it holy.

                             Exodus 20. 8-11

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