September 22, 2012

A Perfect Sunday: The Rest of the Story

Today, I wrote an article for the Clarion-Ledger. There is more to my story about a perfect Sunday than got printed. Here's the whole story:

What’s your idea of a perfect Sunday?

For some, it’s a day painted on a Norman Rockwell canvas: three generations gathered around a steaming chicken dinner. A family day.

Or maybe it’s a day off, a day to catch up on things neglected during the week, or a day to do the things you really want to do. Sundays are all of that. And better.

In a world of urgency—of clock-driven to-do lists, of instant and insistent communication, of one thing after another after another—we need to reclaim the true purpose of Sunday.

I’m a Sabbatarian. That’s the big word theologians use. In plainer language: I believe God made one whole day of the week for humans to spend enjoying him. That does mean saying “no” to some things.

On Sundays, our family doesn’t shop at the grocery store. We don’t go out to eat. We don’t turn on the TV. I don’t do laundry, the kids don’t clean their rooms, and my husband doesn’t wash the car. No getting online, no gardening, no watching football.

(What about that day for doing what you want? Stick with me.)

Deliberately closing those doors to weekday activities opens a door for joy and worship. Just so you understand me, I am saying it’s the duty of all people to use their entire Sunday to worship God.

But “duty” is not a four-letter word. (Okay, okay, it is. I can count.)

We sometimes have a sense that duty, like Tuesday’s soccer practice and Wednesday’s conference call, is grit-your-teeth dull.

A holy Sunday, focused on worshipping God, is a duty. But duty is also delight.

The Bible makes the responsibility of Sundays clear. God created in six days, establishing one day for rest (Genesis 2:1-3). From the very first week of the newborn world, God set a pattern for human schedules. God said it again, on Mount Sinai when he gave Moses the summary of his holy law: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. . .on it you shall not do any work.” (Exodus 20:8-11)

And then, fast-forwarding to the New Testament, Jesus participated in one day made special to God by teaching in the temple, healing people’s physical and spiritual needs, and by pointing his followers back to the heart of the day: God’s glory. (Luke 6:1-11) And Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, which is why the New Testament church and today’s church gathers together, not on the Jewish Saturday Sabbath, but on the Christian Sabbath—Sunday. (Acts 20:7, I Corinthians 16:2)

This is our duty. But, just as a mom bakes a cake for her daughter’s birthday, or a husband reserves an anniversary table for two, doing our duty has two parts. We celebrate Sunday because we should—and because we love the Lord whose day it is.

Ultimately, humans always make time for what they want. If a person is a Christian, what she most wants is fellowship with God himself. And obeying God’s law for Sunday gives freedom to pursue the One we love.

Spending Sunday for the Lord is not just about can’t, won’t, and shouldn’t. It’s about intentionally making time for spiritual things. Saying “no” to distractions frees us to say “yes” to everything that deepens our love for God. The freedom to stop crossing items off a weekday list. The freedom to start looking at God: participating in congregational worship, praying, reading Christian books, memorizing Bible verses, meditating on Jesus.

Our family even plays Bible trivia volleyball.

Lest you think, by this point, that I live in a dream world (or a monastery,) I am actually the mom of three-, four-, and six-year-old boys. I own a house. . .with a yard. I make money to pay bills. And, six days of the week, I do three loads of laundry a day, just to keep from drowning in small socks.

So Sundays at our house are real-life lively. We play balloon volleyball, for one thing. Mom, Dad, and kids smash power serves across the living room. If the balloon hits the ground, that team must answer a Bible trivia question. Sundays are a wonderful opportunity for families. I delight in the freedom of time to talk with my children about their Sunday school lessons, to build missionary houses with Legos, to sit together on the couch and read aloud the children’s version of Pilgrim’s Progress.

But family doesn’t stop there.

Sunday is a day reserved for God, and God has a big family. God would paint more people around our family-only Norman Rockwell table: widows, single Dads, neighbors, spiritually and physically needy people of all kinds.

And not to wow them with a picture-perfect feast, but to grow in love for God alongside his other children. To discuss the sermon, to sing hymns, to pray together. God stretches our family Sundays to include all whom the Bible calls “the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)

Sunday is also a day of rest. Not only because God rested from his creating work, but because Jesus, who saved sinners from the wear and tear of sin, gives rest in himself.

Instead of flitting from spa to ballgame to beach read, in search of the perfect balm for exhaustion, Christians should end up back at the Eternal One who has always said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) A day to catch up on knowing Jesus more intimately is the ultimate rest for world-weary body and soul.

The psalmist writes about God’s law: “I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.” (Psalm 119:162) Keeping one day each week exclusively for the Lord is obedience that brings the happiness of discovering treasure.

There’s no better way to spend Sunday.


  1. I love the way you describe celebrating the Lord's Day!

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