Skimming social media the other day, I noticed that the Government is considering relaxing the Sunday trading laws to allow supermarkets to open for longer, and that some Christians are calling for the measures to be opposed. There are theological reasons for such a stance (keeping the Sabbath holy), but I’ve also heard Christians blaming the demise of the church on Sunday trading, as if people would come to church if the shops weren’t open! If anything, calling for shops to close on Sundays reinforces what many think about church – it’s all about telling us what we can’t do and is out of step with the times.
Keeping the Sabbath holy is an interesting point in itself. Whose Sabbath and when is Sabbath? Sabbath is God’s holy day but, of course, in the Jewish tradition from which it comes, it effectively falls on a Saturday (from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday). Sunday being the holy day in the Christian tradition isn’t biblical but dates from the second century as Christianity sought to establish a separate identity from its Jewish roots. Even taking what God has to say about Sabbath dedication to God as a model for Sunday, God’s over-riding concern is that our worship is genuine and in the right spirit. All worship should be offered that way, never mind what day of the week it is. There should still be times, however, when instead of fitting God in around our day, we take time to fit our day around God. For me, that happens to be a Sunday and there are certain things that I try very hard not to do on Sundays to honour that: shopping and washing (that is laundry, I still shower!). So, rather, it’s about deciding the things we do or don’t do on a particular day as a sign of God’s pre-eminence in our lives.
I think there are two things which lockdown has taught us that are relevant. Firstly, we can organise ourselves such that we don’t need to access things like shops everyday. Secondly, with so much ‘church’ being online, people can access church anytime and, in seeking it out, they are doing what God requires – coming in the right spirit.