Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sunday is Not the Sabbath, Part 2

Consulting Scripture and The Book of Common Prayer, I've written previously on why Sunday is not the Sabbath. After recently reading a couple of posts on other blogs ("Sabbath/Day of Rest Changed to Sunday"and "The Changing of the Sabbath From Saturday to Sunday - Catholic Authority in Action"), I think this is a topic worth revisiting.

This time, I'll let Shannon Johnston address the matter. When he was rector of All Saints' Episcopal Church in Tupelo, MS (he is now the bishop coadjutor for the Episcopal Diocese of VA), Shannon wrote a parish newsletter article entitled: "Now Hear This! 'First' is Not the Same as 'Seventh.' 'Feasting' is Not the Same Thing as 'Abstaining.' Sunday is Not the Sabbath!" [The Cross and Crown, 7/21-7/28/2002]. Below is an excerpt.

Obviously, the "Sabbath day" is rooted in Jewish worship and law. Since the Hebrew Scriptures are part of our faith, Christians are free to observe the Sabbath - not under law but through choice. But, so choosing, it is to be kept on Saturday. The Sabbath is defined as a "day of rest," and thus is inextricably bound throughout all Holy Scripture to the seventh day of Creation - when God rested from all He had done. Scripture is equally clear that Sunday is the first day of the week, and that when the first Christians gathered on Sunday, they were not keeping the Sabbath, but were commemorating the Resurrection; they were not observing the Day of Rest, but rather, the Day of the Lord.

The Sabbath is also the day set apart for Jewish worship, not just rest. Likewise, Sunday is the day Christians have set apart for worship. Is it not natural and appropriate, therefore, to think of Sunday in like terms as "sabbath"? Of course, the parallel of worship is clear, but Sunday is not so much a ‘day of rest’ (implicit in "sabbath day") as it is a day of celebration. It is the day of recreation, being especially mindful of that word’s origin, re-creation, which is what Jesus did for us. We may indeed ‘celebrate’ and renew by resting, but we may also do so by feasting and (for want of a better term) merry-making. … Sunday is a feast day for Christians; it is not a day of "abstinence." …

What the Sabbath and Sunday have in common is that they are the days specifically set apart for particular attention to our relationship with God. But the essential character, "psychology," and theology of these two days is fundamentally different.


Gulliver said...

Thank you, this is great!

I am a Saturday Sabbath-keeping Christian (Seventh-day Adventist) and arrived at some similar conclusions after spending a few weeks at Taize in France pondering how my tradition could share in such wonderful ecumenicism.

It's been said that every weekend at Taize is like a mini Easter, and I think that's a good model for believers in all contexts. Friday is a time to validate the sorrow of others and ourselves and God-- a time to be honest about the death in which we all still share this side of eternity.

Saturday is a time to rest and reflect on what has been and what is coming (as Jesus rested in the tomb). And Sunday is a new rising, a new birth, a new week for celebration as hopers and believers in Christ!

Thanks again!

Bryan Owen said...

Hi Gulliver. How wonderful to see this common ground between a Seventh-day Adventist and an Anglican!

What you say about the differences between Friday, Saturday, and Sunday is very clearly spelled out for Episcopalians in the Collects appointed for Morning Prayer in our Book of Common Prayer. And the theology of the Lord's Day (the Feast Day of the Resurrection) is at the heart of why we celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday.

Yet, judging by how often I hear my fellow Episcopalians refer to Sunday as the Sabbath, few of us have a clue. Perhaps this is yet another example of Failing Christianity.

Thanks again for posting.

Floridian said...

Jesus is our Sabbath.

He is Lord of the Sabbath.

Our Sabbath rest is ceasing to do our own works, to do HIS works, by the leading of the Holy Spirit.

ETA said...

I believe that Saturday is the Sabbath ....and according to the Ten Commandemnts the fourth...."we shold keep the sevent day holy"....iwasnt a seveth day adventist at first but after finding out the truth i became a seventh day adventist...

To God be the Glory.......