Monday, September 29, 2014

A Rebuke to the Culture

Thirty years ago, we still had blue laws (Sunday closing laws) in Missouri. Just about everytjing except for convenience stories, drugstores, and sports/entertainment events were surrounded by empty parking lots on Sunday.

The blue laws disappeared in a statewide vote, driven largely by a combination of powerful commercial interests and individuals hungry to find extra time to do grocery shopping, clothes shopping, and other activities that strained two-income families.

We’ve already lost Thanksgiving and I suspect Christmas is not far beyond. Thanks to the reach of electronic communications technology, vacation time, and even weekends, should be called “work release” time rather than days off.

The idea of Sabbath – a day of the week devoted to worship and rest is already coming to be something quaint from another era.

It shouldn’t be. We probably need it more than ever. Even people who don’t believe in God need a day of rest.

A Sabbath, say Christopher Smith, John Pattison and Jonathan Wilson-Hargrove in Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus, is “an obvious rebuke to the culture—and even a church culture!—that prides itself on its busyness, scorns leisure as laziness and boasts that we’ll sleep when we’re dead.”

That sounds like modern American work life to me.

I knew a CEO who once claimed he could run a $16 billion corporation with five MBAs. When he was asked what would happen when they dropped dead, he replied, “Find five more.”

The Slow Church authors point to Exodus 16 as the first mention of Sabbath in the Bible, although you can find the first reference to a day of rest in the first chapter of Genesis.

Even God rested.

The Exodus reference contains three lessons, they point out. The Israelites are wandering around the desert, grumbling over not having enough to eat, complaining about starving to death. God gives them manna six days a week, with a double portion on the sixth day because God said the seventh day was a day of rest, and holy to him.

They Israelites learn the lesson of enough, the lesson of redistribution, and the lesson of Sabbath faith and discipline.

That’s an arresting idea – the Sabbath takes faith and it takes discipline.

No wonder we voted it out of existence in Missouri.

For the past several Mondays, I’ve been posting a discussion of Slow Church. Today’s post is on the chapter entitled “Sabbath.” It’s worth the price of the whole book. Next week, the discussion will be on “Abundance.”

Photograph by Lynn Greyling via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


nitewrit said...


Amen. I grew up when Blue Laws were still in effect and although some were a bit nit-picking, I have reached a point where I miss them. A day of quite from the constant jingle-jangle out there would be welcome. We gave up a bit of discipline on planning for that one day when everything was closed to a time when everything is available 24/7 and all holidays are dissolving into a sameness of sales. The Blue Laws may have been sometimes inconvenient, but we have replaced that with constantly open meaningless.


Paul Stolwyk said...

Legislating sabbath probably did not work either.

When all the laws are taken away will we sabbath? Sabbath takes faith. Blue laws were not faith.

The Sabbath takes faith. Trust that God will provide. Trust that he can be trusted in the rhythm of life.

As a church leader, I have been guilty of making Sunday "sabbath free" by getting people to do more.

I repent.