Thursday, April 02, 2009
A GOOD SUNDAY STARTS ON SATURDAY
(AND MAYBE EVEN FRIDAY)
Note: This is a continuation of the previous post.
I, the procrastinator, know better than most anyone how things just don't work out (an understatement of biblical proportions) when one does not plan ahead and one leaves everything for the last minute. So as I have finally learned, for us to experience a Sunday that is lived "decently and in order", I must plan and do things ahead of time.
As the bible says, there is a time and a season for every purpose under heaven. So, in terms of really enjoying a day of worship and rest, we have to push ourselves a bit during the week, not taking such big breaks maybe, so we can savor the Sabbath as an entire day of rest and recreation. What does this mean practically?
First, we come up with a plan. Make the grocery list to incorporate the Sunday menu, and then shop for everything during the week. When planning said menu, perhaps we might want to do something simple like grilling some meat outdoors and accompanying that with a salad and sides that could be put together the day before.
Or the entire meal could be assembled or started on Saturday night, as in a stew or hearty soup. The Pilgrims used to simmer a pot of beans through the night on Saturday so that they would not have to cook on Sunday, hence the famous "Boston Baked Beans". The traditional New England boiled dinner, with its corned beef or smoked picnic and vegetables would also be a good Sunday choice.
A community meal, moreover, is a great way to combine a lessening of labor with a beautiful time of fellowship, either done at church after the service as some churches do once a month, or with family and friends at home or in the park.
Coming from an Italian background, I remember that Sunday dinner was always done at midday, or at least by 2 p.m. That would give the family a chance to relax afterwords, and mama's "big work" was done early so she could enjoy the rest of the day. She could then just serve a ham sandwich on hard rolls or some other light fare in the evening. It still irks me when I don't plan well enough to do this and I end up scrubbing pots and pans after dark on Sunday night!
Besides, making this switch sets the day off as something special. I remember our neighbor, the resident atheist and cynic commenting on this practice, saying "I don't know why people have to have a big Sunday dinner in the afternoon. Sunday is just another day like the others. Uhh, NO!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is not and that is the whole point.
By the way, this is also the guy whose house was always immaculate, but who commented in spite of my messy house full of children, "There is something different about your house, there is a certain presence here that is very peaceful", or words to that effect.
I responded with, "Yes, that's the Holy Spirit". He didn't come over again for two years!
How can we prepare our house for the Sabbath? Simple. Clean it and do yard work on Friday and Saturday. Now this is simple but not easy. You have to keep picking things up and putting them away as well as making to-do lists of some sort throughout the week. Don't leave all the work till Friday and Saturday, if you can help it. And like I said, with little children, my house did not always look photo-op ready. But I tried and so can anybody.
Nowadays, my husband, God bless him, has fallen in love at this late juncture (we've been married 27 years) with keeping the laundry done and put away even! He will throw in a load on Sunday, and I often need to appeal to him by saying, "Even the machines need a rest once a week". And I believe this is true. We wouldn't work our oxen 7 days a week, so I think that God will bless our work machines too, if we give them a rest. Hey, my washing machine lasted for 24 years!!
Speaking of oxen, as in those proverbial oxen whom the Lord proposed we rescue if the fell in a ditch on the Sabbath: We need to remember that we probably won't be able to keep the Sabbath perfectly, to the letter of the law, and we can take comfort in remembering that we are no longer under the law anyway. So we put forth a good effort with a pure heart during the week to prepare for the Sabbath, and the rest is under the covering of the precious blood, right?
So why is it important to desire to put forth this effort to keep the Lord's Day holy anyway? Because it's the Lord's Day and He desires it for the proper worship due to Him and for the refreshment and restoration of His people. In light of this, I am, with God's help, going to make more of an effort to get things done by a reasonable time on Saturday, so that I can come away for a time of prayer, Scripture study and preparation for the Sunday worship service. For the Jews, the Sabbath begins at sundown on the night before, and that is a worthy thing for us to do if we can manage it. Light the candles, have a nice meal, clean the kitchen and put your feet up.
So what should our stance be as regards shopping or going to restaurants on Sunday? Well, I believe that even the unbelievers should not be put in a position to labor for us on the Lord's Day unless they are the necessary keepers of the peace, the hospital workers or any of those who oversee the general welfare of the people (as in utility workers, for example).
Back in the ancient days of my childhood before convenience store chains had been established, we had these little neighborhood mom-and-pop stores, along with the supermarkets. The supermarkets and big retail would all be shuttered on Sunday and the little corner stores would either open for a couple of hours on a Sunday morning or open up around sundown for a bit. This, to me, is entirely reasonable, because sometimes your ox really does fall in a ditch and you need milk for those children or some such thing. But alas, those "blue law" days lie in the distant past, along with big family dinners and long walks through the fields with Daddy, looking for wild berries in the summer or animal tracks in the snowy winter.
Or do they? Did you know we are still, for the moment anyways, free people and we can still set ourselves apart from the ways of the world and do things God's way? Didn't your mother ever say to you, "So, I suppose if Johnny jumps off a bridge you will jump off, too?". Well, sadly, I think we have jumped off that bridge, but God is in the Resurrection business and we can climb back up the cliff and start over. The stores, hair salons and everything else might be open but that doesn't mean we have to darken their doors on the Lord's Day, does it? I know, with everyone working so much, most of us don't have enough of that precious commodity, time, to set ourselves apart and stay home.
But did you know that the price of everything, especially big-ticket items like cars and houses absolutely took off like a skyrocket when women joined the workforce en masse? And that advertising simply went steroidal with raising the standards of housekeeping and yardkeeping and must-haves? We have been conditioned like lab dogs to salivate at the sight of all this worldly nonsense, to believe we NEED to keep up with the mythical Joneses or have massive flower beds or Coach purses or whatever, but the truth is, we don't need all this stuff to live a joyous, rich life. Now that people are losing their jobs en masse, we might want to re-examine the old ways of the one-income families to find the hidden treasure of time-rich living, as opposed to materialistic living.
My prayer in this economic upheaval is that the prices would come down to reasonable, fair levels, and therefore families could choose not to owe their lives to the company store. This would help us in our Sabbath-keeping and most likely in most other ways to honor the Lord. May the Holy Spirit guide us into all truth in these matters and may you be blessed in your daily walk with Him.
"Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee.
Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day [is] the sabbath of the LORD thy God: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that [is] within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou. And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and [that] the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day."