"Look at your hands," he said.
He told us of the times past when our forebears, many of whom were newly emigrated to this land or were the first generation born of immigrant parents, worked the farms, steel mills, in textiles, on rigs, criss crossing this country working hard to provide from their family too proud to take a government handout. He spoke of his father-in-law, who built his family's home. He kept a meticulous log of all his efforts. On each and every week he wrote this entry:
"No matter what happened or did not happen during that week- Sunday was the Lord's day."
Our grandparents kept the Sabbath holy by not working. If you read the Little House Books, you know that this was not some habit brought over by pious Catholic and Orthodox immigrants. This was the way it was. No work, no play. Go to church, pray, read your bible.
"What have we permitted? How could we allow this to happen?" he exclaimed.
It is not hard to see the signs of work, no matter how short your journey to church is. Clothes swaying in the wind and the perfume of clothes drying in the dryer, bubbles floating on the breeze from a car being washed up the street, the sound of whirring lawn mowers and trimmers, not to mention people who go to jobs on Sunday. How many people who work all week use their one day off to clean house or host guests or cook a huge Sunday dinner? What are we doing?
"Look at your hands, " he said again. "These are the hands that do God's work." Be they the hands of a mother or a engineer or a carpenter, these hands do God's work and God rested on the Sabbath. Did you know that the neither the Amish or Orthodox Jewish women do any work on the Sabbath (granted these are different days). All of the housekeeping, food preparation, laundry, everything that can be done is done the day before so that as much as possible these woman can spend their time in the worship and in prayer and resting in the Lord.
With seven children this is something I am really bad about doing. I can always find work. Yesterday I hung two loads of laundry on the line before church and cooked a massive lunch after. I am more often than not more tired on Sunday than I am at the end of a long week. Even though we call it a family day, we often spend a fair amount of time doing chores instead of communing together. It is time to stop-- to take the rest the Lord commanded for every week, not just one day a year.
All of this talk about work reminded me of a funny story about my good friend, Mandy's, great-grandmother. After her granddaughter married and had her first child, three generation of the family's women came together to see the new baby. A young Marynell began to tell her grandmother of the wonderful gift from her husband, a new washer and dryer set. She explained that she could finish all the laundry in just a couple hours. Her grandmother was stunned by this information. She sat silently for a second and then finally asked, "But what will you do all day?"
Yes, it is true that I will work today as I have worked every other day for more than a decade, but it is also true that it is time to reclaim the original labor day. It is time to rest on the Lord's Sabbath.