Any guesses on what story this is from?
“The whole afternoon they sat in the drowsy warm dining-room. Mother read the Bible and Eliza Jane read a book, and Father’s head nodded till he woke with a jerk, and then it began to nod again. Royal fingered the wooden chain that he could not whittle, and Alice looked for a long time out of the window. But Almanzo just sat. He had to. He was not allowed to do anything else, for Sunday was not a day for working or playing. It was a day for going to church and for sitting still.”
This was the character, Almonzo’s experience with Sundays when he was growing up. I remember this scene from the Little House on the Prairie’s book “Farmer Boy” because it always sounded so boring to me.
For the last several years, I had been mulling over the idea of doing my Sundays differently. I am pretty sure that Almonzo’s version of Sundays is not my goal. I know that I do not want to do Sunday by ridged rules like the pharisees. I also know that what I have been doing was not quite right, either. Sunday’s have often felt like a puzzle piece that sort of fits into a spot, but close inspection shows that piece is not the right one.
My questioning of my “sabbath” practice started several years ago, early in my photography journey. I had felt that God wanted me to not do photography on Sundays. Though photography is a time of worship for me, I also found that it is time of deep focus and work. So I made the vow with God to not do photography on Sundays. If I see something I want to photograph, I instead spend my time thanking and focusing on the Creator without the effort and work (however pleasurable it may be) to create something myself.
Many times over the years, I have had to explain to other photographers that I do not do photography on Sundays. This is because Sunday is a popular photography day especially for those who work the rest of the week. This has led to many discussions about what it looks like to take Sunday as a sabbath day—a day of rest. I grew up in the church so the word sabbath had always been a part of my vocabulary, but in all honesty, at almost 50 years old, I still have not totally figured out how to “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” as directed by the 10 Commandments. Thus my Sabbath Experiment was born.
(As an interesting side note—my Sabbath experiment started about the same time as my sabbatical from social media, which is a different kind of Sabbath which I will discuss at another time.)
I admit that I am still in the early stages of my experiment as I have only been doing this for one month (4 Sundays). Even so, I am already starting to notice and learn some things that I wanted to share.
First off, I need to admit that I have been incredibly selfish in my sabbath practice. I would sleep in late, making me rushed to get ready for church (even the online version). I would wholeheartedly give God the time I was in the worship service. However, even in this, I find there are times that I nitpick the service, the sermon, the music, the temperature, the bulletins, the … according to MY preferences. Handsome and I go out to eat because neither of us wants to eat sandwiches. We nap because that is our Sunday tradition. I fold clothes because I do not want to do it on another day. Since I refuse to fold except one day a week, Sunday is the day and even that is with the caveat that I get to watch a movie that I want to watch. Notice all the “I” focus in my day.
Second, I do not by the legal definition observe the sabbath day. The Sabbath is an actual day of the week in the Jewish calendar. It starts on Friday evening at sundown and ends on Saturday evening at sundown and is the day the Bible calls the Sabbath. Some use New Testament verses to say that Sunday is the Lord’s Day, but I do not find that the original language, context, and intention of the verses being used supports that claim. In the first century church, the Christians, many of which were Jewish, continued to celebrate the Sabbath day as commanded by scripture and practiced by tradition. As a matter of fact, Exodus 31:12-17 says that the Israelites are to observe the Sabbath throughout the generations as a covenant forever with God because the Israelites are a set apart, “sanctified”, people. Messianic Jews today also still observe the traditional Sabbath for this reason.
When Gentiles started becoming Christians, the question was raised about how much of the Jewish traditions, laws, and covenants do they need to adopt as a part of their faith in Jesus Christ. The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 came together to discuss this. The hot topic that brought together this council was if the Gentiles needed to follow in the covenant of Abraham (aka circumcision) as a part of their conversion experience or if they were free from those requirements. Paul and Barnabas reported to the council that God was moving among the Gentiles and the Holy Spirit was evident in them, just as He was in the Christian Jews, even without them observing the “law of Moses” or being circumcised. The Council then decided between themselves and the Holy Spirit that these things were not requirements of faith and instead they sent some recommendations of a few things they should avoid. In effect, the Jerusalem Council, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, were stating that a Gentile did not have to become a Jew to be a Christian.
Third, I do observe Sunday, also known as Resurrection Day. In the early Christian church, Christians met together weekly to eat together and then to worship. In churches where there were higher concentrations of Jewish Christians, the celebration was usually conducted on Sunday to allow the Jews to still participate in the Sabbath on Saturday. In other churches, especially those in the Roman Empire, there were some that met on Saturday, and some who met on Sunday. Sunday as the standard day of coming together as Christians to worship was not the norm until the 2nd century.
Lastly, I do believe that the practice of a Sabbath, even if on a Sunday, is of some benefit. There are several times in scripture God has interacted with the Israelites by blessing something and creating a covenant around it. Some of these things include Gentiles like me. Some are only for the Jews. It is my belief that the covenant and blessing of Sabbath that God gave to the Jews has things I can learn and apply from it. Otherwise, I do not think God would have told the Jews more than once that the Sabbath was to be a day of rest for both them and the non-Jews living in community with them. With that in mind, I am going to pursue this because I think it will strengthening my relationship with God and I think I will learn what it means to be still and know that He is God. Though I do not celebrate the Sabbath, I want to experience what Priscilla Shirer refers to as the “Sabbath margin”.
As I said, I have just started my Sabbath experiment. I am learning new things all the time about God, about myself, and my relationship with God. I look forward to sharing those things with you as I go along. I would love to hear your comments, thoughts, and experiences with the practice of Sabbath. How do you celebrate the Sabbath or Resurrection Day? What questions or ideas do you have about it? Please share those things with me in the comment section below. Together, maybe we can discover how God intends for us to celebrate Him in a holy manner that is refreshing.
Hello! I am Dawnita Hall. Sometimes I need to put into words the things God is teaching me. This blog is my way of sharing those moments with you with the hopes that what God is using to grow and encourage me will also inspire you. Please, share your thoughts in the comment sections after each post. Let's make this a place where we work together to encourage each other to live inspired to be an inspiration.