Don’t do this and don’t do that,
Don’t annoy or tease the cat,
In fact, don’t do anything at all!
This poetic (?) bit of negative thinking (recalled from a childhood rhyme) is one way of observing Sundays.
Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.
It’s the wrong way.
“Don’t skip church,” we’re told. So we don’t. Parental pressures being what they are, we languish in the pew for the required time and after the service we ascend to the heights of doctrinal awareness with an “I blew out the muffler on my car last night.”
“Don’t work on Sunday.” So we don’t. In fact we sleep the afternoon away and feel quite smugly that this activity is not working on Sunday and no doubt is far above reproach. Well, we don’t want to spoil any fun, but . . .
It’s the pathetic truth that many of us can mix services (mere attendance) with an afternoon of sleep and come up with a typical Sunday. As each Sunday arrives, our minds seem to creep a foggy circuit: “so today’s Sunday – so we’d better go to church – take a nap – go to church again – visit awhile – and that’s another Sunday.” There’s no doubt about it, it was another Sunday, but was it a Sabbath?
All of which may sound rather preachy for a young people’s magazine, but let’s stick together, the best is yet to arrive.
It seems the Jews of Christ’s time also thought of their Sabbath in much this same way: if they paid a visit to the temple or synagogue and spent the remainder of the day in NOT doing this and NOT doing that, they would by this action fulfill their mandate to observe the Sabbath.
Christ contradicted this with, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27); in other words, you are not placed here for the benefit of the Sabbath, but rather, the Sabbath was instituted for your benefit.
Properly understood, this changes Sunday – Sabbaths from fun depriving weekly events (weakly observed) to a stimulating experience which is both enjoyable and spiritually strengthening. Sunday-Sabbaths should be a day in which our spiritual life is charged with new vigor rather than a day in which boredom is the most outstanding feature. When we learn to view Sunday-Sabbaths in this Biblical (take your choice of texts) and Reformed (check Question and Answer 103 in the Heidelberg Catechism) manner, we learn that Sunday is a day in which to accomplish something and not a day which is to be spent in intentional laziness. It is a day especially set aside for spiritually rewarding activities. What sort of activities? You be the judge!
How long has it been since you made a real effort to be prepared for the Bible discussion in Society? Too busy for this? Doing what, napping Sunday afternoons away? Let’s cut a little off that nap time for a look at a commentary regarding the lesson. And isn’t it a bit silly to turn down requests for participation in an after recess program because you “simply haven’t the time to prepare for it,” and then spend much of Sunday afternoon logging sack time on the sofa? (There just went another bit off that nap. Right?)
Then there are the various societies themselves which suffer from legitimate conflicts throughout the week. Wouldn’t it make sense to change the meeting time of some of these to Sunday afternoon? The Protestant Reformed Men’s Chorus and several Young People’s Societies now meet on Sunday afternoon with very satisfactory results. After all, Sundays were set aside for this sort of activity. (There just went another bit of that nap – it’s getting shorter all the time!)
High on my list of worthwhile Sunday activities is visiting friends who have been out of circulation for a while; either in the hospital or simply confined to their homes. Long visits are both uncalled for and un-welcome, but a brief visit from friends and acquaintances if often the only break in a monotonous routine and is regarded by those visited as the event of the day.
Then there’s an old-fashioned activity called reading (other than the sports, comics and society pages) which in exchange for a very little effort, and a bit of discrimination is illuminating, comforting, stimulating and inspiring. What more can one ask of a Sunday activity?
The Reformed Witness Hour is broadcast in most of our localities. What could be easier than a sermonette served up to you right in your own living room, and garnished with the finest music in our denomination?
Church and school committee work seem to me to be worthy of our attention on Sundays, although by now we are beginning to descend on our scale of desirability. Yet I mention this to illustrate the criteria to be used in judging Sunday activities.
When Christ was criticized by the Jews for the works of mercy he performed on the Sabbath, he told them that it was good and admirable to engage in charitable activities on the Sabbath. By the same thinking, if the committee assignments we have received from church or Christian school societies are for the benefit of God’s kingdom as organized here on earth, they may very well receive some attention on Sunday, if necessary. However, since the direct spiritual value of many such assignments is often close to nil, the time could better be spent in more profitable ways. Yet it is most obvious that planning a program for a society meeting is very much in keeping with the New Testament idea of Sundays.
When the early Christian Church was in the formative years and the leaders began to ignore the now useless restrictions of the Mosaic law, they continued to recognize the value of setting aside a day for spiritual activities as first hinted at in Gen. 2:2 and most symbolically chose Sundays as their day of communion and intensified church orientated activities.
Although we are not told whether the early Christians applied themselves to their trades on that day or not, I am convinced that they tried to keep such conflicting matters to a minimum in order that they might spend Sundays in concentration on spiritual matters. The real essence of the New Testament Sunday is not that we cease our weekday activities, but that we use this day to concentrate on activities which promote spiritual growth.
If you’ve grown accustomed to sleeping away the Sundays, this may seem radical and un-Sunday-like. But just it give it a try for a few weeks, and you’ll soon appreciate the extra spiritual boost you get from a Sunday with a purpose, a Sunday with planned activities, a “Positive Sunday.”
Start making plans for next Sunday!