By David Tulis
Christendom is putting on a show this weekend and this Lord’s Day in celebration of Easter. On Saturday a helicopter will drop 10,000 Easter eggs in a field behind a gym at Church of the Highlands. Toddlers will collect them, after which staff at the Baptist church in Harrison will have a student Easter ministry party after a worship service.
The social gospel Christians at Pilgrim Congregational on Glenwood Drive celebrate Good Friday and hold special events marking Christ’s resurrection Saturday and on the Lord’s Day. Lookout Mountain Presbyterian is skipping ordinary Lord’s Day events for a sunrise service at Point Park followed by two regular morning services under the sermon “The King’s Tomb — Empty.”
While one fellowship may tump into the breeze 200 feet aloft thousands of chocolate-filled Easter eggs, my own assembly, that of Brainerd Hills Presbyterian, views this Lord’s Day as it does every other. Its high view of the Sabbath, a regal day blessed beyond others, radiates all the claims other Christians reserve for April. Since every Lord’s Day is Easter for us, that of the coming week is not extraordinary.
The Lord’s Day and local economy
Many Americans would suggest it is to their credit they have a low view of the Lord’s Day. They are free from the constraints imposed by Moses or Nehemiah. They are free from its claims. It is not a day in which the Christian eschews his ordinary labors, thoughts, callings, duties or routines for ones that touch on his spiritual interest.
We all agree Christians should worship God publicly on the Lord’s Day, but apart from that there is much diversity in view as to how the liberty of the Lord’s Day is to be exercised and the nature of its blessing. The Pharisees scolded the Apostles for eating corn in the field on the Lord’s Day; but the Savior said the Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
How is the Lord’s Day for man? Might Chattanoogans use it for sleeping in, watching football on TV, enjoying other forms of leisure and relaxation? Is that it? Certainly the Lord’s Day doesn’t mean what the Pharisees made it — a day loaded with burdens and rules of their invention. But, in contrast, is centering the day upon us favored by God? If it is for us, is it about us? What kind of rest is in view when the scriptures say, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”?
The economic implications of Sabbath rest are enormous. Every seventh day, every seventh year, man is to rest. Today university professors such as Brian Ribeiro at UTC, a philosophy department specialist in religious skepticism, are about the only people who enjoy the Sabbath beyond its original weekly form. Dr. Ribeiro took a sabbatical leave in 2011 for research. The sabbatical survives in institutions that reject the blessings of Christianity in favor of those provided by the state.
In Israel, the weekly Sabbath, celebrating God’s rest at the first creation, ran from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Everyone was free to enjoy it, from animals, strangers and family members. Worship, yes, but rest primarily. That rest was extended to the land itself. God grants the earth a rest from man’s toil upon it. The Sabbath also touched indebtedness. In the old confederation, debts could not be contracted for more than seven years, and families who lost their land to overwhelming debt could retain possession in the half-century Jubilee.
A people of character, providence
What sort of people are blessed with a weekly Sabbath and a seven-year Sabbath such as those of our professorial class? Another way of asking that question: What sort of people are able to keep such a blessing? Those who are attuned to God’s law, to the rhythms of creation and who live obedient, virtuous lives, the scriptures suggest. It requires foresight for a man to take off every seventh year. Chattanoogans, if they want that sort of rest in building local economy, will have to take a longer-term view of their own affairs, and press more earnestly their knees toward the throne of grace.
“To earn enough, and to produce enough, to make work unnecessary eight years out of fifty, and on over 2,000 weekly Sabbath days as well (almost six years more in aggregate, making almost fourteen out of five years given to the waking, Sabbath rest), required a future-oriented and provident people,” says R.J. Rushdoony, author of numerous theological books and reference works on biblical law.
Such a people must be willing, able, and productive workers. they must be able to plan and use wisely their time and wealth. To observe the Sabbath was a mark of character, and more. *** [A] society in which debt is limited to six years (Deut. 15:1-6) is a society which is anti-inflationary. Add to this the requirement of just monetary weights (Lev. 19:35, 36), and inflation is virtually impossible. The result is social stability and prosperity. A society thus which observes the Sabbath can truly rest in the Lord: its todays and tomorrows are circumscribed by God’s law and therefore God’s blessing and providential care.
Liberation from work
A great blessing of enjoying Easter every Lord’s Day is that worship and rest in Christ’s empowers local economy. If you are confident that Christ has accomplished all for your sake — that the sake of your wife and children — then you can rest from your labor. In not working on one day a week, you live out the recognition that your health and capital are part of God’s grant and gift to you. Your wealth comes from Him, not from your incessant labor. In living out confidence in God, you free yourself from a sin that grips many of us: Anxiety. If we live out the resurrection and rest on that day of the second creation (the day of the resurrection and the new earth), we will be free of worry and fretfulness. We can leave God to His providence.
“The Sabbath is liberation because it frees us from ourselves and our work in the confidence of God’s superior government and work. It is liberation from history as the determining agent, because it affirms God’s determination of all things,” Dr. Rushdoony says.
Joseph Pipa in his wonderful book, The Lord’s Day, says that the Lord’s Day is also an occasion for work of a spiritual sort. That would include private prayer, reflection, Bible reading, corporate worship, special time with family members, and acts of mercy or charity.
A man taking a sabbatical from his company entrusts its care to a steward or trusty. He takes time to travel, to write, to visit neglected relations in a far off place, to build a barn for a neighbor or an annex to his house for his aged mother-in-law. He may take mission trips to Nigeria, work on an invention, volunteer at a local ministry or agency. Or he may explore. That is what Chattanooga-area Latino leader and academician, Carlos Parra, did starting a year ago. He broke from Spanish and literary routines at Southern Adventist University to pursue research in an area of his passion, “Latino immigration in the South, specifically with issues of nostalgia, displacement, and cultural identity.”
Local economy may have powerful enemies in Washington and Wall Street and in some corridors in Nashville. But if people in my town and county are infused with a love for God and a willingness to rest in Him, they will be more productive, more rested, more enticed with the prospect of their own resurrection.
R.J. Rushdoony, “The Meaning of the Sabbath,” Chalcedon Position Paper No. 20, The Roots of Reconstruction (Vallecito, Calif.: Ross House Books, 1991), 1124 pp.
Joseph A. Pipa, The Lord’s Day (Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1997), 256 pp.