Sunday Rebellion

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The calendar hanging on your refrigerator, the one tucked behind your kid’s crayola project and the magnet reminding you to “Keep Calm and Carry On,” may be the most rebellious and spiritually formative thing you own. You’ll notice how each week, right as rain, commences with Sunday. This is the day older Christians referred to as the Sabbath. A day for leisure, for church, for the Sunday paper, for the comics, for a visit on the porch with friends drinking sweet tea and swapping stories about the neighbors.

My dad told me how his mom spent chunks of Saturday cooking fried chicken, peas, rolls and chocolate cake so no cooking would be necessary on Sunday. Saturday night meant a bath out in the garage, the old wash tub filled with hot water his mom carried via multiple trips from the kitchen stove. Anything considered a chore would be done on Saturday because Sunday was a day of rest.

In the Christian tradition, Sabbath is the day our week starts. We begin with a lull. We commence, not with sweat or labor, but with loafing, with three-hour naps, with conversations immune to the pressure to get somewhere but more than comfortable with long pauses and long thoughts. These Sabbath spaces possess enough quiet to pay attention to the wind and the smell of rain – and to the one sitting with you. In our Sabbath interludes, prayer happens as God intended, laced through our ordinary laughter and joy.

The Christian week begins with rest. I can’t imagine a more counter-cultural affirmation. The rhythms of our world have gotten cattywonkus. For many of us, Sunday is the day we’re cramming last bits from our to do list, capping off a week of fury and frenzy. Then, the way we see things, the week kicks off on Monday, the day we get to work, the day we recommit to serving the man and paying the bills. In this twisted narrative, the week begins with us working, not with us resting.

This is not so much about how we count our days but about how we count our lives. In a world where we yield to heavy shackles, defined by our production or our corporate rank or our Google Analytics report, it is a subversive act to shut it down and take a nap.

According to the Biblical story, however, our lives commence with respite. The Jewish day went from sundown to sundown. This meant that the Hebrews started their day by going to sleep. When they woke, fresh from a long slumber, they discovered that God had never slept. The world still turned on its axis, and the sun still shone bright. As they entered their day’s work, rested and invigorated, they were merely joining God in God’s creative activity. But only for a while, until it was again time to call it quits, crawl under the covers and let God be God. We really can cease our labors, because God’s labor holds this whole shebang together.

Of course, Advent signals the start of the Christian year. Advent, a time of waiting, a month-long Sabbath. We’re all revved and geared up for the start of things, to get the ball rolling, to turn over a new leaf. And then we wait. And wait. And wait. We’ll get to our cue, our time to punch ‘go.’ But first, we watch and slumber and drink hot chocolate with our kids. Sabbath is stitched into every rhythm of our life.

Next time you pass your fridge, linger a moment at that line of Sundays. Then linger a little longer.

9 Replies to “Sunday Rebellion”

  1. I’m noticing increasing chatter on the internets, revisiting the gift of Sabbath–and I think that’s a very good thing. My pastor is sort of a stickler in his teaching and preaching about Sabbath because, he often reminds his congregation, God cares deeply about it. I also heard Eugene Peterson suggest that it’s hard to guilt people into observing the Sabbath–they need to be invited into it. This post is a lovely invitation to delight in God’s gift.

    1. Per the usual, Eugene’s right on. Guilt leads you down one road, invitation leads you down a very different one.

  2. Loved this, also, Winn. (Although I was wondering if I had fast-forwarded, cuz my today is in LENT…) The whole concept of A Day to Re-Create (which is what God meant, I do believe) is indeed foreign and unembraced in this hyper-culture.
    Pretty sure that you wrote this for the non-clergy… the flock, if you will…? You certainly work on Sundays!
    Our clergy household certainly doesn’t observe or experience the day with the leisure you’re describing. Sundays are, uh, busy. And you know what weekdays are like…
    But (as some of our friends from Asia used to say): “IDEA is there…” You are very much on the right track, Winn. Remember Bob Munger’s lovely little meditation on one’s heart being Christ’s home? I often think of Jesus sitting in the living room/parlor/family room (of my heart), waiting for me/any of His beloveds to come and sit and HANG OUT. (Bob didn’t say that, of course…) The older I get, the less I can just rush out to do His work, and leave Him waiting in some room of my soul with a lot to say to me…

    1. You know the pastoral ebb and flow, don’t you? I did write it for all of us, though. Sunday’s 1ish usually move toward rest, but Friday’s are Miska’s and my Sabbath. It feels more Sabbath-ish during the school year when the two ragamuffins are away at school. But mainly, we’ve just got to have the rhythm, and I think that even for those of us who work come Sundays, there is a way of entering it (and leading through it) that is significantly different if we have a Sabbath vision.

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