Friday, February 06, 2009

From Monday to Sunday

Of all the things cultures conserve most carefully - of all that they are most committed to cultivating - among the most important are ritual and time. For several thousand years, in the midst of a bewildering variety of geographic locations and civilizations - even as their own language and cultural practices changed in myriad ways - the Jews have never forgotten which day is the sabbath. The observance of the sabbath is written into the Ten Commandments as the story of creation itself and was sustained in Jesus' time, as it is now, as a profoundly countercultural act with little or no support from the surrounding society. And yet, within a few years of Jesus' death, we have clear evidence (from Luke, Paul, and John in the biblical canon, and from writers like Ignatius just a few decades later) of a group of largely or exclusively Jewish believers, living within sight of the temple no less, who have shifted their primary day of worship from the seventh to the first.
To grasp the cultural significance of this, imagine leaving the United States for a decade or so and returning to find that while the wider society continued to get up on Monday and go to work and school, a substantial number of churches left their buildings dark on Sunday and gathered for worship on Monday instead - perhaps getting up before dawn to do so, perhaps gathering after the work day was done, perhaps skipping work altogether - and, for good measure, now called Monday, "the Lord's day." You would conclude that something absolutely extraordinary must have happened - or at least that they believed something extraordinary had happened.
- Andy Crouch, Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling

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