Sundays for me have always been different. I was raised in a church-going family and there were never any questions as to where we were going on Sunday morning and whether or not we would be on time to church. Being on time, I was told, was being five minutes early. And there were certain things that would not happen: family arguments were not just frowned upon, they were forbidden. My father was the enforcer, and my brothers and I respected him and honored his wishes. For Dad, his Sunday was a day that wasn’t just some legalistic day set aside for religion, but a day where he could once again find his center, and catch his spiritual breath.
One of Jesus’ major confrontations with the Pharisees was over the observation of the Sabbath. Jesus regularly healed on the Sabbath, not as a provocateur, but as an affirmation of one of the major purposes of Sabbath rest: to heal and recover. My father worked five and often six days a week in factories all over northwestern Ohio and southern Michigan. Those of you with factory experiences will immediately know that they are not centers of spirituality and deep religious thought. My father dealt with this environment in an authentically Christian manner: he worked hard and he honored God by his words and relationships. I sensed Sundays weren’t just a time of religious duty for my father, but a necessary time for healing. I watched my father use his Sabbath for three primary purposes…
…to restore energy – My father worked hard and Sundays were a time where he ceased work. If he had Saturdays off, that was the day for chores and man-duties around the house. Sunday was for rest.
…to heal – Dad never was sick, to my recollection. But he used his Sabbath rest to allow God to bring His healing touch to his life. My father’s best naps were on Sunday afternoon, and when we would watch the Tigers play baseball, he only saw one third of the game because he would contentedly doze off.
…to become whole – Dad would use his time at church to remind him first of his own brokenness, but then be reminded of God’s grace and redemptive touch. He would comment on our car rides home from church on what he had learned and what his response was. Church was never tedious for my Dad. It was seen by him as a necessity in his spiritual growth.
My father, born of German immigrants, is to this day the best example I’ve had of a man who lives an authentic Christian life. He is also the best example I have had of someone who has embraced the Sabbath as it should be embraced, a day that was set apart for us to more effectively become the people we were created to be. Thanks, Dad!