Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Returning to Rest - Part 1

Recently I was part of a conversation that included what it was like in the "olden days". We were talking about how Sunday has become a day like any other day for most people - all the stores are open, and you can hardly tell that this used to be a day held in reverence. I remember reading the "Little House On A Prairie" series as a child, and I read it again with my kids just a couple years ago. A few times in the books, there is mention of Sabbath. (For future reference, I will be using the terms Sabbath and Sunday interchangeably in this post.) When Laura Ingalls was little, and it was not practical and often not possible to travel through the snow in the winter, they observed the Sabbath as a family.

"On Sundays Mary and Laura must not run or shout or be noisy in their play. Mary could not sew on her nine patch quilt, and Laura could not knit on the tiny mittens she was making for Baby Carrie. They might look quietly at their paper dolls, but they must not make anything new for them. They were not allowed to sew on doll clothes, not even with pins."

"They must sit quietly and listen while Ma read Bible stories to them, or stories about lions and tigers and white bears from Pa's big green book, The Wonders of the Animal World. They might look at pictures, and they might hold their rag dolls nicely and talk to them. But there was nothing else they could do."

(excerpt from "Little House in the Big Woods" by Laura Ingalls Wilder)

One particular Sunday, Laura couldn't stand the quiet any longer and she began to run and shout and play with her little black terrier, Jack. Pa told her to sit and be quiet and she had an outburst "I hate Sundays!" she exclaimed. Pa very sternly told her to come to him, and as you can see from the picture on the right, she knew she had crossed the line! Her Pa was understanding though, and went on to tell her a story about when his father was a child, and how Sundays back then were even MORE strict.

There used to be a time when once a week, shops were closed down and very few people had to work. Soccer and baseball leagues knew better than to schedule games or practice on Sundays, for fear of public outcry and the imminent lack of participants they would encounter. So this conversation got me thinking. First of all, how did the extreme idea of rest on the Sabbath or Sunday become a thing of the past, and is this something I should revisit in my life and in my family? I remember that even a short 25 years ago, when I was a child, there was still a sense of Sunday being a day off; a day of rest. Gradually, over the last couple of decades, this idea has lost it's foothold entirely and even "good Christians" head off to the store to get groceries, go to soccer games or even work on Sunday.

As this idea was brewing in my mind, I happened to come across the following advertisement in a weekly community flyer:
It's no surprise to me that there are many who uphold the idea of Sabbath here in this so-called "Bible-belt" of Alberta. We have a large population of Hutterites, Mennonites and Calvinist (to name a few) families in the surrounding area whom I'm sure are quite mortified with the condition of our sinful society and blatant disregard for "the Lord's day".

One of my first thoughts about the necessity of a rule, is whether it was something that God imposed, or man invented to make us seem more "holy" to God. I don't think you could get any clearer than the 10 Commandments, of which this is number 4. So we are directly asked by God to "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy". I know that many Christian denominations have devised numerous rules, and I won't get into that, and I'm not about to argue about laws. However, when it comes to a specifically spoken command from God, I am not about to argue with it, or try to change or add on to it. In the same way that the remainder of the 10 Commandments still clearly apply to me as a Christian today, I must look at the fourth commandment and re-visit it to consider how it applies to my life.

Here is the commandment from Exodus chapter 20 in it's entirety:

8 "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Besides the law about not making idols (which takes up 3 verses), this is the only other command requiring more than one verse to explain. In fact, God uses enough explanation to require 4 verses for this law! I believe that there is something to this rule, beyond God just wanting us to pay Him respect on a certain day of the week. When He describes how He took a sabbath day of rest, I don't think it was because He simply felt he needed a day to be worshiped. The above verses tell us how the LORD rested on the seventh day. So how does God rest, and what does that mean to us?

- This ends my first post on "Returning to Rest", read part 2 by clicking this link! -


Sara L said...

This is interesting... I'm very *very* much processing the same thoughts. Makes me wonder if the Holy Spirit is urging his people back to where we should be. I realized a while ago (while pregnant) that I was exausted, drained and completely wore out. For the first time, I sent Larry off to church and stayed home and rested. Sometime during that lovely rest I realized that this really was what I was suppose to be doing. Not that people should skip church, no, not at all. But with careful planning, both can be done! Since then I've been trying to plan better, and odd as it is, it's very hard. But I try to do my cooking and cleaning the day before and rest on Sunday. I don't even do the dishes till Monday, or at least late evening. I find things often come up and I find myself doing more. But I'm learning and making small changes to bring this into effect. Thanks for posting on this!

mzdjo said...

I think this is so important as well. God rested on the seventh day as well. It is important in our busy lives to just slow down and rest for a day!
When I was young our Mom made the meal the day before and cleaned so we had a restful day. Likewise, we have always had a peaceful day on Sundays. There are some things that have started to become a regular part of our day now that we are older and so we (my husband and I) usually have our lunch out that day. It is pretty well the only time we can set aside to just spend quiet time together after church.
We also raised our kids to have a job that didn't require them to work on Sundays when they joined the workforce, just so they could continue that if they tried. Since we farm, we do only the essential jobs and leave the rest for the weekdays. We have eased up on this when haying was happening or extreme busyness.
I cherish a day off!