At the time of the Reformation, Roman Catholics sometimes pointed to
the change from Saturday to Sunday as an example of the authority of the
church, since God had allowed it to change even one of the Ten Commandments.
Though of course not accepting this argument, the Puritans emphasized Sunday
as the new Sabbath, requiring abstention from work &c. It is due to the
latter influence, I think, that we've had Sunday closing laws &c.
I thought that the rise of the "Pietistic Movement" gave rise to a more
strict observance of the Sabbath (even though it was observed on the first
day to commemorate the resurrection)
In reality we don't really know just when or by what authority
Christians started observing Sunday as their primary day of worship, though
clearly it was very early. (I Cor.16:2 may point to the practice but that
But almost all the arguments about observance Sabbath/Sunday tens to
legalistic to some extent & to miss the radical character of the NT's
of such ceremonial regulations - e.g., Paul laments the fact that the
"observe days, and months, and seasons, and years" (Gal.4:9). The Sabbath,
the sense of a specific day of rest, is seen in the NT just as it is seen by
Orthodox Jews today, as a sign and precursor of the time of the Messiah, the
true Sabbath. The difference, of course, is that the NT sees the Messiah as
having come - that is why, e.g., so many of Jesus' healings take place on
Sabbath. That being the case, the preliminary sign no longer needs to be
I agree that there is a fair degree of legalism in our Sunday observance.
It's interesting that, of the ten commandments, the one dealing with
observing the Sabbath is the one that tends to fall by the wayside. We
generally consider adultery, theft, lying, "other Gods" as the ones we need
to keep (I'm aware that "other Gods" can just as well be wealth, football,
and addiction to e-mail correspondence ;-)), but the commandment to
"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and
do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On
it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor
your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your
gates." gets an easy heave-ho in many cases. Compare our adherence to this
commandment with our relationship to practising homosexuals (for which there
is no commandment!) NOTE: I'm not addressing the issue of homosexuality
here; I'm only using our general reaction to it in comparison with our
treatment of an actual commandment.
In the church I used to belong to, it was part of the liturgy to read the
ten commandments to imprint on the worshippers how far we were falling short
of perfection and, therefore, how we needed the gift of salvation. Now, the
ten commandments were also summarized in the words of Jesus, to "Love the
Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your
mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it:
Love your neighbour as yourself." (Matthew 22:38-49). If we can assume that
these words of Jesus supersede the ten commandments, we have this wonderful
freedom to do our best to love the Lord AND our neighbour without having to
worry about every little bagatelle. As you can see, my interpretation of
many of these issues is subject to change. But, if I feel I honour God by a
strict observance of the Sabbath and not do any work and minimize the work
done by others (shop keepers, gas station attendants, airline pilots), I
should have that freedom to do so. I would file this under "freedom of
religion" and any pressure by society to make me do otherwise (by, for
example, denying me employment or promotion), to me, would constitute
As an aside, it is also interesting that we seem to crave rules and this is
especially apparent in denominations like Anglican, Lutheran, Catholic and
Greek Orthodox that rely on, what a Calvinist would call, "choreography"
with candles that need to be lit at a specific time, "bells and smells,"
The need for rest remains. It is a recognition that we can't ensure
life, security &c by working 24/7 but should depend on God to supply our
even though we aren't working all the time. & it would be very good for
as a whole to recognize that & to have some uniform day of rest. But that
doesn't mean that there is a theological requirement that any particular day
observed or that it be uniform.
Agreed and, in a increasingly pluralistic society, it may be a bit much to
ask society to pick Sunday as that day of rest. In practice, though, not
having a uniform day doesn't do much for family life or attendance at
worship services. True, we could go "back" (?) to daily worship services
but I doubt if the clergy would fancy that. Yes, I am aware that we could
have lay-led services but volunteerism for laity wears a bit thin at times.
Christians are accustomed to the idea of Sunday as the day of
Luther, for example, explains "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy"
entirely in this fashion in the Small Catechism.
& of course it is true that we should "not despise God's Word or preaching,
instead keep that Word holy and gladly hear and learn it." But it's a bit
stretch to connect that with the Sabbath. A congregation could have its
principle service of worship on Tuesday evening if there were good reason
Provided, of course, shift workers would not have to work on Tuesday
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Sat Aug 18 2001 - 17:02:29 EDT