Shortly after moving to Iowa our family implemented a new rule: screen-free Sundays. The ideal was good, I think. My wife and I hoped to help our two children learn and maintain healthy electronic device habits.
Everything in moderation. Or something like that.
- 5 fruits or veggies,
- 2 or less hours of recreational screen time,
- 1+ hour of physical activity, and
- 0 sugary drinks
And Sunday is the sabbath, after all. It’s a holy day. A sacred day. A day of rest.
Maybe that means resting from our devices too. If there’s one day a week we should be able to find balance in life, well, in theory, Sunday should be it.
As you might imagine the transition, to screen-free Sundays, was not without hurdles. The kids, used to their devices, were less than enthused. Tho we stuck with this ideal, relying on the best information available to us, our hopes of being good parents, and the notion of sabbath to guide us through.
We’d done our homework.
And that, in theory, should be that.
After a month or two of strictly adhering to screen-free Sundays, the concept seemed to have stuck. Our two shorties were playing more outside, playing house inside, splashing in the hot tub. Generally enjoying screen-free life, one day a week.
But then the NFL football season hit. And we wanted to watch our beloved Bears play. So we did.
Then our nine-year-old daughter expressed interest in having a family movie night. It turns out Sunday evening was the best fit for our weekly schedule. So we did.
The kids also never really stopped asking to watch screens on Sundays either.
When Graham started asking if he could play a Mario video game with pops, which seemed entirely reasonable to this particular video game enthusiast, I knew the little dude had my number.
The more our kids bugged us about Sunday screens the more Kathi and I had to ponder. Did it make sense to be so rigid with our strict Sunday sabbath rule?
As parents the American Pediatric Association was on our side, right?
As people of faith we have Sabbath ideals of rest on our side, right?
We should just stick with our rules, they must be good ones, right?
Over time we became less and less sure.
The Luke 13 narrative also has to do with which activities should, or should not, happen on a sacred day. While Jesus taught at Saturday synagogue, a crippled woman appeared before Christ. She was bent over; unable to stand straight.
Jesus then approached her.
He then spoke with her.
And laid healing hands on her.
Immediately she stood straight.
Immediately she began praising God.
She had, after all, just been healed. In the words of Christ, she had been set free from the bondage that held her.
And then everyone cheers because a beloved child of God has been made whole, right?
Instead, the leader of the synagogue begins to trash talk Christ to the gathered crowd. Jesus had healed, on the sabbath. On the day of rest.
Jesus, in this leader’s eyes, had not kept the Sabbath day holy.
Jesus, in this leader’s eyes, had worked, healing the sick.
Jesus, in this leader’s eyes, should have healed some other day of the week.
A rule is a rule is a rule, after all, right?
The leader’s response makes sense, in a way. When we commit to preserving the positives of our faith we often set up rules. We then desire to obey the rules, to protect the faith. Which can sometimes make us resist new ideas. Particularly if the new idea represents a greater good.
Like reaching out to heal another.
Christ knew of that very human rule-based tendency, and Christ responded to it.
He then pointed out that each person gathered there gave their animals water to keep them well. And if caring for animals, on a day of rest, is ok, how much more important is caring for people needing to be made whole?
The story is a showdown between –
– tradition, and the intention behind it;
– traditions of the past, and freeing people for a better future;
– laws based on obedience, and a gospel grounded in love.
Remember the Sabbath, and keep it holy.
That includes worship. And rest. And caring for one another. Just as Christ cares so deeply for us.
Our family still does screen-free Sunday. And our kids still play outside, play house inside, and splash in the hot tub. It’s a nice, relaxing day. But it looks a little different now than what we first had planned.
We watch Sunday football, together.
We watch Sunday night murder mysteries, together.
We play a bit of Sunday Mario, together.
We realized at some point, that screens weren’t our biggest sabbath day problem.
It was the isolation, from each other, that they caused.
We realized that, ultimately, is what we needed healing from.
Let me encourage you to remember the sabbath, and keep it holy.
Lord knows we need to worship.
Lord knows we need our rest.
But don’t honor the Sabbath strictly from a sense of obligation.
Or by merely following rules.
Keep the sabbath holy by being with each other, in Christian community.
Keep the sabbath holy by caring for each other, when needs arise.
Keep the sabbath holy by spending time, with beloved friends.
With beloved family.
For in keeping Sunday sacred we honor our creator.
A creator that desires nothing less, than for each of us, to be made whole. Amen.