Today I had the happy privilege of attending worship at Christ Presbyterian Church with my family. We enjoyed an engaging Sunday School hour, good singing, prayers, and a fine sermon. The rest of the day was spent playing games together, reading (both Scripture and other edifying material), praying and singing together, napping, and a bit of practicing for all of us (“works of necessity and mercy,” and all that…). Before worship I attended a prayer meeting with members of The Gideons International, who were preparing to go and speak in various churches in Lafayette County. I was on “standby” of sorts, needing to be prepared to speak in case an assigned speaker was unable to fulfill his duties but without an assignment of my own. I was very thankful to be released to go on to my own church with my family. Why? Because this was my first opportunity to do so since March 26, and I have very keenly felt both the absence from regular worship and the neglect of necessary rest. On half of those missed Sundays I was engaged in church-related work of some kind, but I still find it difficult to worship well when I am working on some level, much less find needed rest. This is one reason I have never sought regular employment as a church musician, something about which I have written here.
I have written in this space in the past (see here and here) about my views of the Sabbath, which depart slightly from the full rigor demanded by the Westminster Standards and are my only substantive exception to those standards. Westminster demands that the first day of the week be observed with a rigor comparable to that with which the seventh day was observed by the Jews in the Mosaic administration, and certain New Testament passages lead me to believe that this is no longer demanded. (See this book for a more thorough treatment of this position.) If I might be so bold to say so, I suspect that if our confessional documents were being formulated in a largely secular society such as ours they would not include such a rigorous sabbatarianism, given that in such societies it is difficult to find gainful employment which always includes time off for worship and rest on the first day of the week. While I am not convinced that a full-bodied sabbatarianism is demanded by the New Testament, I am convinced that working to provide for oneself and one’s family is most certainly demanded (provided that no infirmity exists).
Nevertheless, I am thankful that Sundays away from church are the exception rather than the rule for me, because while I am a sort of “leaky sabbatarian,” these past few weeks have reminded me that the one-day-in-seven pattern that God established for us leads to the greatest health physically, spiritually, and even emotionally and intellectually. We may live in a society that demands constant work, constant commerce, constant engagement, but our bodies are not made for this, and our souls need time to “Be still and know that I am God….” Working on Sundays is perhaps sometimes a reluctant necessity, but it is wise for Christians to actively seek to arrange the circumstances of their work in such a way that minimizes–and whenever possible, eliminates–working on the Lord’s Day.
In the passage referenced in the title Jesus reminded the Pharisees that God had given his people the Sabbath for their good. Looking at my calendar going forward, I see no Sunday engagements for quite a while. I shall count this a great blessing, indeed.