sabbath keeping: Kierkegaard’s contribution

In Presbyterian circles, when the idea of Sabbath observance comes up, you inevitably come up against the Presbyterian myth of the Sabbath. It goes like this: When I was a child we went to church on Sunday morning, and then again on Sunday evenings, and the rest of the day you had to rest. You could read a book on Sunday afternoon, but that was about it. No playing sports. No running around in the house. There was certainly no cutting the grass, and no working in the garden. We wouldn’t have dreamed of going shopping on Sunday – and even have if we wanted to pick up a few things for dinner, the store would be closed. Things sure have changed, haven’t they?

When we think about our Sabbath myth, we have to ask what it means for us. And it seems to me that there are at least two ways to look at it. On the one hand, this Sabbath myth points to a religious practice that we are glad to be done with. In this sense our Sabbath myth points to an time when we were a bunch of legalists, a people that didn’t know what it meant to attend to Spirit rather than the letter of the law. From this point of view, the fact that all those old rules have fallen to the wayside will be seen as good news. Thank goodness, we might say, those days of rigid legalism, of stoic Presbyterianism, have come to an end.

But in our contemporary context it seems that our Sabbath mythology might also function in quite a different way as well. Perhaps our Presbyterian Sabbath narrative serves also as a kind of nostalgic wishing after something lost. Continue reading