Cattle Drive, Fort Worth Stockyards, April 2010

Monday, March 1, 2010

Do you remember when...

I was remembering earlier today what it was once like on Sundays throughout America. Folks would get up in the morning and get to church. I can remember a humorous illustration of that done by Norman Rockwell. There was no competition for the Sunday services. Jim Crowe laws made sure of it. But there was more to it than blue laws. What happened?

I think much of the blame for this has to be directed at the Roman Catholic Church’s Saturday evening “Vigil Mass” to fulfill their obligation. No one would have dreamt of scheduling school events on Sunday until after then. Because of the large Baptist presence in Texas it’s still more like it was in the good ole days, but I suspect that that will change too as time rolls on.

The loss of the sacral quality of Sunday is a great loss in our culture. Sunday has been set aside in the secular world since the Emperor Constantine in the early 300s. It was, of course, kept as the principle Christian day from the time of the Apostles. But we don’t live in two different worlds—one Christian and one secular—because we don’t have two different lives. We only have one life and so both arenas will impact each other. I’m rather sad to say that these days the secular is certainly overshadowing the Christian for most folks who call themselves Christian.

It is harder to be a genuine Christian now than it was thirty or forty years ago. At that time our culture generally helped and encouraged our faith. I’m told that here in Grand Rapids there was a time, not so long ago, that if one were to mow one’s lawn on a Sunday a group of neighbors might well come by to talk about it. Manual work on Sunday just wasn’t done. Now it’s all fair game. Schools schedule events at times that Church’s traditionally have services. Yes, it is much harder to live a faithful Christian family life now rather than then.

But there is also a little bit of a silver lining too. When Christians actually live this life with any sort of faithfulness at all to it, then they stand out in stark relief to the rest of the world. It is easy to become a “stand-out Christian” these days. That might not be too comfortable for many folks because it also means that to do so will absolutely make us targets. The world will only love its own. If we are not of this world--and our life truly shows that in its internal rhythm and activities--then the world and those in it will hate us.

Maybe the good ole days weren’t really that good after all. Now we can truly “stand up for Jesus”. We can become confessors for the Faith simply by living it in the ancient ordinary dailiness of it. Maybe this is the good ole days right now because the Kingdom is perhaps a little closer to reach with so simple a life.

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