Friday, July 23, 2010

Two ways to spend the "Sabbath"

I am not a strict sabbatarian.  That is to say, I do not believe that Sunday is a Christian extension of the Jewish Sabbath, as many reformed believers do.  Let me say that I respect those that hold the Lord's Day in a strict Sabbath interpretation.  My post today is not to refute such belief, but give two different stories of how people in the past spent the Sabbath.  Both are biographical, so we can say that these events did indeed happen.  The first is from Laura Ingals Wilder writing about her father's boyhood in her Little House series, so it is a simplified account for children to understand, and may have some fictional additions.  The second is from the autobiography of John G. Paton, Missionary to the New Hebrides (modern day Vanuatu), telling his recollections of when he was a boy.  Note how each shows the same day of the week in about the same period in history, following the same belief in a "Holy Day" spent in rather different ways.

When writing of her father, Wilder tells of one particular winter Sunday in his boyhood.  His father made him and his brothers sit in the parlor after dinner and wait for the afternoon chores.  They were not allowed to talk or do anything but rest.  He would sit and fall asleep.  Of course the boys could not sit still, and who can blame them?  The story proves the adage about idle minds being the devil's workshop, as the boys left the house while their father slept and took the toboggan down a very steep hill near the house.  Needless to say, they got in trouble afterwards.  My thought here is that children cannot be expected to sit around doing nothing and wasting a day, even if it is a day of rest.

On the other hand, Paton tells of his household, and how the children enjoyed the day. 
Walking to and from church (a four mile trip each way), "...we youngsters had sometimes rare glimpses of what Christina talk may be and ought to be.  They went to the church, full of beautiful expectancy of spirit--their souls were on the outlook for God; they returned          from the church, ready and even anxious to exchange ideas as to what they had heard and received of the things of life." 
Paton remembers that the conversations were not phony and "did not repel us but kindles our spiritual interest.  The talks we heard were ... not the make-believe of religious conversation, but the sincere outcome of their own personalities."

He goes on to tell how at home, his father would relate the message to his mother, who stayed home with the younger children.  They would also take turns reading from and discussing Bible passages and The Pilgrim's Progress, as well as learning from the Shorter Catechism in a way that kept the children, rather than turning them away from piety.  In other words, they didn't just sit around bored, as Wilder implies from her description.

So, how do you spend your Sunday afternoons?  Whether you follow the "Christian Sabbath" or not, biblical discussion with other saints and the family are a good idea, rather than sitting around idly waiting for "the Sabbath" to end.

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