I was lounging on the couch one Sunday with a pile of cookbooks, leafing through an old church cookbook from our beloved Grandma Finney, my husband’s late grandmother, looking for recipes by her and other family members. Though the only recipe I could find of hers in that particular book was for “Health Salad,” a quivering Jell-O creation featuring mandarin orange slices and shredded carrots, I relished the browsing anyway. It was like time travel to muse about the lives of church ladies now in Glory, with their old-fashioned recipes and pithy little sayings.
Sayings like “Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week.” This particular maxim sits at the bottom of the yellowed page, below recipes for rhubarb jam and mock raspberry preserves—though why raspberries need to be mocked in this way I will never know (the recipe calls for pureed green tomatoes, sugar, and raspberry Jell-O).
Musing, leafing, lounging—these leisurely states of being are unique to Sundays. The week with all its anxieties, stresses, and cares can be snapped shut by the golden clasp. The Sabbath, which was changed by early Christians from Saturday to Sunday because the resurrection of Christ took place on a Sunday, is like a mini Easter every week because we celebrate the resurrection every Sunday, first at church and then in our practice of Sabbath.
Weekday habits of drivenness and deadlines are fastened, put away. It is time to dwell in the spacious place of resurrection living, of rest, relaxation, and relationship, to receive with open hands the gifts of Sunday.
The Gift of Freedom
Sunday is a day of freedom, not confinement or restriction. But resting one day per week is easier said than done. We are a restless people, given to doing rather than being. And from ancient days we have also been given to legalism, adding artificial ingredients and rules to the day set apart from work and works. The earliest followers, says Tim Foley in his book Rest—For the Rest of Us, piled all sorts of things on top of the original commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Ex. 20:8).
“They (added) over 600 rules of no and don’t, which supplanted the simple list of do: finding delight,” Foley says. In our own faith tradition, I have heard some “don’t” story doozies. There was the old man who, as a boy, on hot, humid Sundays at his parents’ cottage, was allowed to dip only his feet in the water, not submerge his body, because swimming was not allowed on a Sunday. And the child who was chastised for reading National Geographic on a Sunday. “You should read something more appropriate on a Sunday,” he was scolded, “like the Bible.” Though many of us might think of Sunday as a dreary day of “you can’t,” it’s meant to be a freeing “you don’t have to” day. That shift changes everything.
The Gift of Slowing Down
One of my favorite ways to make Sunday slow and easy is to throw a beef roast or a pork loin in the slow cooker the night before. Slow-cooked food is perfect for a day that is meant to be just as easygoing. “The Sabbath,” writes Alan Fadling in his book An Unhurried Life, “gives us an unhurried one-in-seven rhythm woven into the very fabric of creation.” On Sunday, we can slow down, relax, and take a much-needed deep breath, especially if we don’t have to be anywhere at any special time. It’s a day to dawdle, to laze and loaf. It’s a reminder to live beneath what Fadling calls “the easy and well-fitting yoke of Jesus, a yoke that isn’t burdensome or exhausting.” It feels just right.
The Gift of Delight
Back to those unfortunate boys who were rebuked for reveling in God’s creation: their parents robbed them of delight, one of Sunday’s brightest gifts. Their parents were like the Pharisees, obsessing over Sabbath laws and making sure everyone followed them to the letter. “What was lost in all this was the fact that God created the Sabbath as a day of delight for his creation,” Foley says. “It was no longer enjoyable and turned somewhat into a day of dread.” Dread is definitely not the point of Sunday; neither is boredom. Enjoying Sunday means leaning into what delights and re-creates you, whether that be gardening, hiking, or playing in the waves on a sticky summer day. “It’s about spending time delighting in God, first in worship and then in other ways,” said David Beelen, my now-retired pastor. “If I do that best in a kayak, then that’s what I should do. I also love cutting the grass and painting because they are restorative works for me.” What restores and delights you?
The Gift of Relationship
“Sunday is a day of rest, re-creation, and relationship,” Pastor Dave preached in a long-ago sermon. Recreation and relationships on Sunday were new ideas to me, but Pastor Dave was right. Beyond fellowshipping with the saints at church, on Sunday there is just more time for people. Undistracted by the machinery of the week, I can tune in to my favorite humans, and they with me. I can play games with my family, converse over a leisurely Sunday lunch, or drive to the lake together. I can call my son in Kansas, my mother in Manitoba, or my college roommate in New Jersey.
Monday through Saturday, I am always trying to get something done for work, post a blog, or pay the bills, but Sunday is “measured not by productivity but by relationship,” Foley says. If an activity—or no activity at all—increases your most important relationships, it’s a good thing.
The Gift of Reset
Sunday, the golden clasp, shuts off the past week and allows for recovery, recalibration, and reset as we exist in the healing spaciousness of the day. Here we can stop with the “human doing” and try a little “human being.” This means shutting down even anxious thoughts of the week ahead. When I have a worrisome thought insinuating itself, I say, “Nope, that can wait until Monday.” Medical bills, worries about loved ones, and workaday stresses can all wait until Monday, when a new volume will be written in my life and yours.
Sunday is also a prime excuse to disconnect from social media and screens. Unless something major has just happened, like my son’s wedding, I have made it a rule not to post and definitely not to mindlessly scroll and possibly get snagged on someone’s political post. Because I am an author building my platform (mainly on Instagram), it is tempting to check and see how a post of mine is doing. When I stick to my guns and don’t even peek, I am refreshed, my (hopefully) soft addiction to my phone broken, at least for one day of the week.
This is God’s gift to us: When we embrace Sabbath values of relaxation, play, worship, and just being, our resurrection lives are recovered; we are renewed. When we slow down and enjoy our rest, we become more graceful, stronger, more resilient, holier. Our good works—our best works—will grow out of that rest. In short, we become more of everything God has made us to be, because of his golden gift of Sunday.