Sermon From the Sidelines: A One Minute Message on Reinstituting Blue Laws (*)

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work 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”

Scripture to meditate upon: Nehemiah 13:15-22

The other day I was in the kitchen doing a batch of dishes with the TV tuned to the classic rock channel on cable. I was mindlessly singing along with the music (and mindlessly doing the dishes…the proper state of mind for this kind of activity, but I digress) when the lyrics slowly sunk into my awareness. Lionel Richie was singing “… that’s why I’m easy … easy like Sunday morning …”

So much for mindless dish washing. I began to wonder about what exactly there was about Sunday that would lead to this phrase showing up in a song. I can’t date the song exactly, but it would appear to come from the mid-70s and so a history lesson is in order for people blessed with limited experience from the dark ages of the 20th century.

Once upon a time, there were generally accepted standards of behavior for people in a society. These were usually understood and instilled by tradition and were passed down as a part of a child’s upbringing. Communities were fairly closed groups and bonded together often of necessity due to the hazards and perils of living in general. Over time, with advances in technology (fire, wheels, betamax and 3-g networks) people became more likely to migrate away from their established groups and mingle with the “heathen” in the next valley. With sweeping licentious and immoral behavior (like spending the day doing “anything” else than going to church) becoming rampant, regulations were created to enforce “socially acceptable” behavior. Sunday laws or Blue laws were set up to regulate travel, trade, recreation, and other activities. In short, go to church and honor God on Sunday.

When I was little (early in the decade of the 60s) I remember you couldn’t buy much of anything on Sunday, because nothing was open. No Meijers, no 7-11s, or Starbucks. Gas stations were closed except maybe for an occasional rebel on the major highway. Want to eat? Go home, because the restaurants were closed (no Ronald Mac’s either).

Fast forward to high school (early in 70’s). Still some holdouts closed half of the weekend, but you can now travel, purchase food (both prepared and basic staples from a grocery store…packaged in brown paper bags that rarely failed and made great landing zones for cookies coming hot out of the oven), and pretty much live a “normal” life.

So how to interpret the lyrics in question? I guess the idea being promoted is because Sunday morning was no longer a period of time restricted to preparing for meeting the creator God of the universe and spending a period of introspection and soul-searching. That you could spend the day essentially doing exactly what you wanted to do, not what you “had” to (like go to work/school during the week). So, since M-F was work, and Saturday was the time you had to use to do the things you “had” to do at home, that left Sunday for slack.

I guess…..

Today, it must seem bizarre to consider the idea of spending a whole day without commerce or the trappings of technology. Time communing with family and friends, of seeking silence and the still small voice of God. Going to church, gathering together with like-minded believers and experiencing the Kingdom up close and personal. Then spending the rest of the day meditating on the experience.

Rather than a round of golf at dawn, tailgating the game in the afternoon, and grabbing a burger on the way home to crash in time to drag out of bed Monday morning to go back to the 9 to 5 grind.

There ought to be a law….oh, wait! There IS one…(ten, actually).

Phred the Elder
DC3 Fireside Heretic Laureate

(* Disclaimer: 60 Second Sermon guaranteed if you read fast enough)

[Original posting to e-mail 3/9/2010]

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