In today’s Gospel reading St. John the Baptist says: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel” (John 1:29-30). Jesus has come on a mission of mercy to help all humanity become free from slavery to sin and achieve the happiness of the Promised Land. But we were born 2000 years too late to encounter the Lamb of God. Or so it seems. But no! God has made it possible for us who live thousands of years and thousands of miles away to still meet Jesus. It starts with a special day.
The Seventh Day Sabbath
In the beginning God created the whole universe out of nothing; it took him six days. The Bible says: “Since on the seventh day God was finished with the work he had been doing, he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation” (Gen 2:2-3). This seventh day is the Sabbath, the same as our modern Saturday. Ancient people were just as much workaholics as modern people are. They marveled at their Jewish neighbors who had the strange habit of quitting work on Friday evening when it was dark and refusing to work until Saturday evening (in the Jewish calendar a new day begins at sundown). Even though they worked less they prospered more because God blessed them for worshipping him.
The Eighth Day “Lord’s Day”
Jesus was crucified and died on a Friday and was buried just before sundown. Sunday morning (what scripture calls the “1st day of the week”), Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples (John 20). One week later he appears again on Sunday (John 20:26). The Disciples started worshipping on Sunday in honor of Jesus’ resurrection. This marks the first day of the New Creation. In fact, most fonts built for baptism have 8 sides, a reminder that baptism makes us children of the 8th day. So Christians began the practice of resting on Sunday instead of Saturday and dedicating that day to our Risen Lord. (See Acts 20:7, a story that reminds a preacher not to go too long!). Of all the days of the week God blessed Sunday as the new Sacred Day. It is a day we celebrate the Resurrection and have communion with our Risen Lord. Sunday is a day dedicated to Our Lord. It is not a day to run around getting things done. It is not a day to clean the house or mow the lawn. It is a day first and foremost to worship God. It is also a day to dedicate the recreation (literally: re-creation). This is a day for rest, relaxation, and healthy leisure. It is a day to spend “quality time” with family and friends, and to do the kinds of things we love but are far too busy the rest of the week. A human being is not first of all a producer or consumer. A human being is made to worship God and live a life that is fully alive. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad! (Psalm 118:24)