I used to hate Sundays. As a child they were dominated by what I couldn’t do. Watching TV, playing sport, going to the cinema... the list of Sabbath day ‘thou shalt nots’ was endless. Sundays consisted mostly of walking to, walking from and being at church for Communion (morning), Sunday School (afternoon) and the gospel service (evening) and once a month, if I was a good boy, I got a fourth helping at an ‘after service’, as if I hadn’t sung, prayed and listened to enough sermons already.
There wasn’t much time left after all that church, but with what there was, I read. My shortlist of ‘acceptable’ books to read on Sunday was limited to the Bible or Foxes Book of Martyrs. The latter consisted of a blood-curdling series of stories about Christians who had been burned, stabbed, disembowelled or tortured to death in various nasty ways which, while walking to church for the third time anticipating the third sermon of the day, didn’t always sound that bad. Most Sundays were endured not enjoyed.
When Jesus and the disciples plucked and ate some grain as they passed through a field on the Sabbath day, the Pharisees who were spying on them condemned them for breaking the law (Luke 6). Gathering or preparing food on the Sabbath was forbidden. Jesus responded by asking them if they had read the story of how King David and his men had broken the law by taking and eating the special bread from the tabernacle reserved for the priests. The Pharisees knew the scriptures inside out so the story was not new to them. But despite their encyclopaedic religious knowledge, they were mere beginners in their ability to apply all that head knowledge into everyday living. Instead they took their learning and turned it into a crippling series of rules which oppressed the people and squeezed out any joy and life. This made Jesus angry.
Jesus taught his followers to apply the Father’s ways into everyday living which brought fresh oxygen into lives becoming airless and stale. He taught that we have not been made for the Sabbath – but the Sabbath has been made for us.
In the first of his new regular culture columns (page 64) Martin Saunders talks about the advances in technology which mean that finding downtime is now more difficult than ever. Being constantly available might make observing a Sabbath more of a discipline, but it’s an important one.
Recreation is what the Sabbath principle is all about – for me that means church, growing vegetables, roast dinners with the family, watching football, playing board games, conversation, making rhubarb crumble and custard, listening to God, reading, time with my wife to drink red wine, talk, take short (not long!) walks…The list goes on.
There are lots of ways I still struggle to apply God’s principles into my everyday living and choices. But now I don’t loathe Sundays anymore, I love ‘em because I am no longer bound by the rules governing what I can’t do – instead I enjoy the freedom that comes with a day of rest. Thank Christ for blazing the way and showing us that God’s laws are there to bless us not bind us up, bring new life not dead legalism.
Have a great Sunday!