Of the Ten Commandments, the fourth one is far and away my least favorite. It should be the favorite. Who doesn’t want to take one day out of every seven off? The problem is that there’s more to “honoring the Sabbath day and keeping it holy” than simply knocking off work for a day. If we are honest most of us admit we have our own agendas in regard to the Lord’s Day, and I’m no exception as you are about to see. That being the case, addressing the fourth commandment in last Sunday’s sermon without experiencing the uncomfortable burning sensation of my own hypocrisy…pretty much impossible. Thus I attempted, probably with very limited success, to tread softly and graciously while still making a point.
Our pace of life seems to be rapidly hastening, particularly in middle-class suburbia. Many Christians, especially those with kids or those involved in youth ministry, have recognized this trend for a while now and find themselves looking for an edge. This has led at least a dozen people over the past decade to suggest that perhaps I or someone on a church payroll should write a letter to area youth sports leagues, requesting that they reconsider scheduling on Sunday mornings. I have actually thought about it and been tempted to fire one off…but this letter always remains only in my mind; until now. As you are about to read, there is good reason why I have never put it in print. Here goes:
Dear League Administrators,
I am writing to you today on behalf of my congregation in order to inform you of that which you are apparently unaware. Sunday is the first day of the week and as such is considered the Lord’s Day by orthodox Christians around the globe, including here in our area. As such it is a day that is to be dedicated to the worship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. While we are not strictly opposed to all other activities or events which occur on this day (like NFL games or The Masters Golf Tournament), your insistence upon scheduling games, practices, tournaments, and other meetings on Sundays between the hours of 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. does present a challenge. Thus, in deference to our worship services, we request that you please refrain from the scheduling of such events on Sunday mornings.
Your cooperation would alleviate much of the conflict families face in regard to Sunday morning. But should you persist in continuing to schedule activities on Sunday mornings you leave those of us who are Christian parents with very few options. Clearly we have no choice but to continue to encourage, facilitate, and pay the hefty registration associated with our children’s participation in your leagues. After all, everyone knows that participation in your particular league is essentially a prerequisite should our 8 year olds hope to one day participate in NCAA Division 1 athletics. But there simply is not time for church when there are games on Sunday mornings. In fact you barely leave us time to buy groceries, cut the lawn, help with our children’s homework, and perform all the other mundane chores that we normally leave to be performed on the Lord’s Day.
We have largely placed our trust in you to provide our children with valuable life lessons regarding character, commitment, and discipline. Where else would our children become men and women of conviction, character, and faith were it not for your first-rate facilities and coaching techniques? All we really ask is for one hour on Sunday mornings to go to church. The other 167 hours of the week are yours, but clearly worship is our first priority, thus that one hour on Sunday morning is important.
Finally, on a personal note, I feel as though your scheduling practices place an undue burden on ministers like me. With all the competing interests on the Lord’s Day I must work much harder to teach and provide my congregants with compelling reasons to attend worship. This means working long hours, every day, all week, in hopes of convincing my parishioners to rest from their own labor for one day, as the Bible commands, and come to church. Their attendance is after all entirely dependent upon me and the other staff. I can’t be expected to simply rely upon the Holy Spirit to work in their lives, convicting them of their obligation to worship with the Body of Christ! Then after all that, when my weekly labor proves itself on Sunday morning to have been in vain, I am still required to be forgiving and gracious of congregants I run into while I pick up gardening supplies at Lowe’s Sunday afternoon...after watching the game or golf tournament. Surely you can understand how emotionally taxing this is.
Therefore I beseech you brethren, please, for the love of God who you may or may not even know or worship yourself, stop scheduling games on Sunday morning. You’re killing us here!
Timothy A. Habecker
Obviously, at least I hope it is obvious, the above is written with tongue implanted firmly in cheek. If we can’t poke a little fun at ourselves then…well, then we are way too serious and probably need a day off. But such a letter as that which I’ve written above, even if I edited the snark and sarcasm out of it, says much more about those of us who struggle with the reality of the Lord’s Day than it does about any youth sports league or its commissioners. It also speaks to why worship is in fact so important: Because the ease with which we tend to forget that the true object of our faith and source of our hope is the resurrected Christ, is quite frightening.