In the Sunday Life section of the Sydney Sun-Herald there was an article “Sacred Sunday” that got me thinking. The author Susie Burrell never defines what she means by ‘sacred’ but uses a practical ideal as the basis for her well-written article. “. . .we have to actively schedule more rest time, for the benefit of our health, our relationships and our soul.” Any Christian could use this same justification for making Sunday’s more special. (Of course, hopefully, we would go much further and bring God’s command into play — “Remember to keep the Sabbath holy.”)
What to do with Sacred Sunday?
Susie suggests five points for keeping a sacred Sunday:
- Sunday lunch — bring family members together, do some healthy food preparation for the week ahead
- Family-based activity — share some quality time together and also get some healthy exercise
- Prioritise — ensure you have adequate time for a proper sacred Sunday
- No electronic equipment — only face-to-face communication and activities, and getting adequate rest
- The mini-break — Get out of the city into nature
As far as these go, they are all good starting points for busy people to keep in mind. What would I add to what Susie recommends? (I wouldn’t delete anything.) I would add a new #1 that precedes her five points — #1 Worship God — Put aside everything else and spend time with your local church community in their form of placing God at the center of life. Also consciously dedicate whatever you do on Sunday to God. But there is a far deeper significance to “sacred Sunday” than these points.
Let God be God
Psalm 80:19 makes the point that is most important about sacred Sunday: “Restore us, Oh Lord God of hosts; let your face shine that we may be saved.” God established sacred Sunday for mankind as a day of rest so that we would make space in our busyness for Him to restore and save us. When we take control of Sunday, even doing the good activities listed above, we are implicitly saying, “I can decide what to do to restore my life.” Whether we intend it or not, we are saying the opposite of the Lord’s prayer (Thy will be done, thy kingdom come) — My self-will be done; my power to make choices is more important than the kingdom.
Perhaps you think what God is asking is extreme. Let me ask you, would you be willing to follow the strict Jewish law about doing no “work” on Sunday? Their intention was to take very seriously God’s commandment about the Sabbath. Do you subscribe to a truely sacred Sunday, allowing God to be God and restore you? I think the asnwer is obvious. We all do our shopping on Sunday. We are restored by going to the movies. Our families generally split and each individual decides how to spend Sunday. It’s almost impossible to imagine being open to God’s restoring power in a special way on Sunday, for only 24 hours a week.
But God’s kingdom — His Lordship — is present. Pope Benedict in his wonderful book Jesus of Nazareth puts it this way: “God’s dominion over the world and over history transcends the moment . . .yet it is at the same time something belonging absolutely to the present. . . It is present as a life-shaping power through the belever’s prayer and being: by bearing God’s yoke, the believer already receives a share in the life to come.” If this is the reality we believe — and I think somehow most Christians do — then ‘sacred Sunday’ is when we put aside as best we can our own choices and put on God’s ‘yoke’ by being open to His restoring grace. Can we do this for 24 hours? It may be our intention, but “the flesh is weak.” But if we become more aware of what’s going on in the kingdom and desire more strongly to be part of it and welcome God’s restoring power, then we have taken the vital first step of choosing how we would like to spend sacred Sunday. After that, stay tuned for opportunities to present themselves!