Posted Jan 20, 2017 at 8:57 AM
Oh, how times have changed. I can remember back in the not-so-distant past, that Sunday was considered "sacred."By Dan Van Ommen
Oh, how times have changed. I can remember back in the not-so-distant past, that Sunday was considered "sacred." God rested on the seventh day and declared (in the Ten Commandments no less) that his followers do the same. No work was to be done on the Sabbath day by man or animal. The penalty for breaking the law of the Sabbath was more than a little harsh ... it was death by stoning.
Thank goodness the penalty for "breaking" the Lord's day, even 50 or 60 years ago was not quite that severe. Maybe that's because the Sunday "rules" as set forth, were basically idiotic.
Some of the rules and regulations that were part of my teenage years included some real humdingers mostly designed to suppress fun of any kind. No Sunday bike riding (unless you could do it in the basement where the neighbors couldn't observe), and no mowing the lawn or watering the grass. I read about one old farmer who got a goat to graze on the lawn each Sunday. His neighbor, being offended by the gravity of this sin, shot the goat on the way home from church.
Also, there was no eating out on Sunday (unless you were in Florida out of sight), and no swimming was allowed, although we were permitted to wade in the water up to our knees. Right here in Zeeland, many of the pop machines at gas stations were unplugged on Sunday. My all-time favorite "sin" was playing baseball on Sunday. Some of Holland and Zeeland's best players went to Grand Rapids to play - under an assumed name. Somehow I think the spirit of the Sabbath commandment was lost in all this striving to honor a day instead of the creator of the day.
The New Testament presents a more progressive and practical attitude concerning the Sabbath. "But the Sabbath was made to benefit man, and not man to benefit the Sabbath (Mark 2:27 LNT)." This declaration was made by Jesus on a Sabbath day as he and his disciples were walking through a field. They were hungry and were breaking off heads of wheat and eating them. The religious leaders, as usual, were appalled and dismayed.
Jesus had introduced a new way of doing things (Mark 2:21) and a new attitude of worship and renewal. He did not do away with the Sabbath, he enhanced it. So how are we to experience Sunday in 2017?
First, let me suggest that we heed the example set forth in Genesis 2:2. We need a day of rest and worship. In this age of constant communication, we need to unplug and recharge. We need to learn to withdraw from the daily rat race. Even church activities can add to a hectic Sunday. Also, Sunday is a day of "worship" for the sports enthusiast. Some have the idea that the holy trinity is football, basketball and baseball. Between church activities and sports, Sunday can easily turn into the most hectic day of the week, not a day set apart to draw closer to the Lord and to each other.
Further, I believe Sunday can be a day when the Lord can heal our bodies and renew our spirit(s). We can only do this as we withdraw, check out and dare to simply stare out the window or fall asleep under a shade tree.
Finally, let me suggest that Sunday should be a day of joy. We need to break the legalistic attitudes of bygone days, take deep breaths and enjoy God's air. We also should enjoy each other. Sunday is not a day to be alone because you won't go to a restaurant with friends for fellowship after church.
"And God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good." That was at the end of day six in the creation story. On day seven, God created the model for a day of rest. The New Testament enhances that model.
I'm so glad the approach has changed and that we can learn to experience and, yes, even enjoy Sundays. I really look forward to Sunday. It is a day I can rest, relax, recreate and recharge ... and not feel guilty about any of it. What a joy, from never on Sunday to always on Sunday!
- Dan Van Ommen is a Zeeland resident and a member of the Reformed Church in America. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.