Like many of you I’ve been really impressed with the Church’s renewed emphasis during this last year on Sabbath observance. It feels sometimes like we go in cycles in this Church of being really focused on Sundays and then not really mentioning it at all. I bet someome smart (maybe Ziff) could do an analysis of Sabbath/Sunday emphasis in General Conference talks and Church News articles, to see whether these cycles are real or imagined. Maybe we find ourselves in the middle of such a cycle now, though I somehow doubt that the Brethren have ever really been the sort for Sunday Brunch. The Church’s current campaign uses a hashtag, #HisDay, and invites members to share their experiences and thoughts on the Sabbath from around the world. The site is very well-done and has some excellent ideas on how to keep Sundays special and holy. I’d like to share some ideas of my own.
The injunction to keep the Sabbath holy begins of course with the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:
8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
There are thousands of years of Talmudic study behind Sabbath observance, and I recommend a little light reading on the topic as it also provides background into how Jesus approached the Sabbath day, notably in two major anecdotes: first, the experience in Mark 2:23-28, which establishes Jesus Christ as Lord of the Sabbath and giving us the axiom, “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath”; and second, the healing by Christ of the man with the shriveled hand in Mark 3:1-6, which teaches us that it is lawful (or the fulfillment of the law) to heal on the Sabbath.
It is a hallowed day. Mind you, many of us actually work harder on Sundays than the rest of the week: some of us have difficult callings at Church, for example. Our leadership has long established that performing Church callings on Sunday is not meant to be violative of the Sabbath, but that callings may violate the Sabbath if we work too hard or perform work unnecessary to the calling. But Exodus 20:10 weighs on my mind in particular, because it implies that we fail to remember and observe the Sabbath if we impose burdens on others to work during that day. More than this: even strangers are to be relieved of their burdens during the Sabbath if they come within our gates. In some ways, it seems to me that it violates the Sabbath more to have someone work for you than to actually perform work yourself on Sundays. On a day hallowed towards the relief of burdens, it is particularly sinful to impose burdens on others.
Growing up, we would usually have a big Sunday dinner. Dad would watch golf on TV while Mom made roast beef with mashed potatoes and Yorkshire puddings. It was a special meal (and still one of my favorites), but only now does it seem to me that we were doing something wrong when my Mom would work so hard all day. She’d get us breakfast, iron clothes to get us ready for Church, wrestle us to meetings, work her own callings in Primary, then Young Womens, then Sunday School. She then would do her Visiting Teaching, then proceed to work for several hours to make a lavish dinner, largely unhelped by the rest of us.
We cannot faithfully remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy if we forget that Sabbath worship disproportionately burdens women.
We are to relieve our servants, even strangers of their burdens on the Sabbath; and yet women consistently have the most difficult Sunday callings and tasks. We sit back and do no work… and yet we are content if our wives, sisters and mothers work for us in the same uncounted manner in which they work for us all week long.
Some practical ideas:
- Men should do Sunday meals and cleanup
- Men should take on the bulk of responsibilities in Primary
- Men can view the Sabbath as an opportunity to listen to women and give equal them voice and authority
- Men, in their Sunday studies, can learn about the history of women in our Church
Sundays present us all with a chance to contemplate the week gone by and to think about the week that is to come. But not selfish introspection! Sundays are a time to reach out and help others as Christ healed on the Sabbath. Committing ourselves to lightening the burdens of our wives, sisters and mothers is not just in keeping with the spirit if the Sabbath; I believe it is an absolutely essential step.
What else can we do to keep #HisDay by also making it #HerDay?