Matthew 12: 8: “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
I don’t know if you remember a time when Chik Fil A wasn’t the only business that closed on Sundays. This was the case when I was a boy, and up through about 1988, when Virginia’s blue laws were repealed. It’s interesting that the town of Colonial Heights didn’t get around to repealing its Sunday closings until March of this year. Having Sunday closings was inconvenient and required some planning, but I wonder if there isn’t something to setting aside a Sabbath.
Orthodox Jews take the observance of the Sabbath very seriously. They cannot shear sheep, work with wool, thread needles, weave, tie or untie knots, sew, tear, write, erase, cut, build, light a flame, carry anything, drive, turn on a light switch, or finish anything that had been started before the Sabbath. While we might not want to go that far, I wonder if there are some things we tend to do on Sundays that we really don’t need to do.
When I was young, many people had jobs involving manual labor, and they worked hard five or more days a week. Saturdays were reserved for errands and catching up on household work and maintenance. As a result, they were ready to rest on Sundays. I remember that I was expected to lay my suit, dress shirt, tie and shoes out Saturday night for the next day—and I had to polish my shoes. I still remember the smell of the polish as I tried hard not to get it on my hands or clothes. I didn’t always succeed.
On Sunday morning, we got dressed in our best clothing and sat down to breakfast. It was a challenge for me to keep bits of egg and bacon off my pants. Generally I did, and then we were off to church. When we came home, my father, brother and I relaxed in the living room with the Sunday papers and their color comics while my mother slaved in the kitchen to fix a special Sunday meal of fried chicken, green beans cooked to within an inch of their lives, biscuits, mashed potatoes with gravy and, of course, sweetened ice tea. I’m sorry now that we didn’t do anything to help her, but that’s how it was back then. We didn’t eat like that the rest of the week, and that special meal made the Sabbath more special.
After we ate and everyone had a nap, it was time to entertain ourselves by taking a ride in our car. It’s hard to believe now, but driving then was a pleasure, and we always seemed to find something interesting to look at. When we came back, we had sandwiches for our evening meal, and then settled in to watch our black-and-while television or play rummy (to this day the only card game I know). My paternal grandmother visited us from Tennessee every once in a while, and as a strict “old school” Baptist, she did not believe in drinking alcohol, dancing, going to movies, or gambling, including playing cards without money being exchanged. She did like watching wrestling on television, however.
Obviously, we can’t go back to those days, but I wonder if we can set aside some time on Sundays to relax and focus on our relationship with each other and with God. Doing so would help us navigate this all too busy world, and I believe it would make us better people and better witnesses to the power and love of God, who created the world in six days and took a Sabbath. And God saw that that special time was very good. Amen.