My daughter asked at dinner last night, “Does the week start on Sunday, or Monday?” It was a loaded question, the way that questions from adolescents generally are. She had her opinion and she wanted to float it to her parental units so she could either dispute or trump our responses with her own. My husband went pragmatic, “Sunday. That’s how people decided to lay out the calendar.” I decided to walk down her enigmatic path, “My work week starts on Monday so I’ve always thought of that as the start of the week and Sundays as the weekend” I said. “But, I have to admit, I’m already shifting to Sundays.”
She gave me the half eye-roll, half-respect look that she does these days as she added, “I knew you were going to say that…” It’s not easy for me to explain how changes in my own sense of self and vocation lead to all these pragmatic shifts, even in my calendar settings. It’s even harder, I suspect, when you’re twelve and watching from the sidelines.
I have been thinking about Sundays this morning, sitting in my back room with the doors open with my coffee and my computer. The sounds of crickets and cicadas and songbirds make me feel connected to summer Sundays across the geographic and temporal chapters of my life. Just this space fills me with a deep, inner calm. Today, I savored unrushed morning prayer; I’m catching up on my weekly Fresh Air episodes, listening to On Being and perhaps a TED talk or two. In summer, my church’s services are scheduled later than usual so even with choir practice, I have an extra carved out bit of freedom to breathe in the calmness of a sacred, summer day that way I had honored it for years, whether or not “church” was a fixture in my routine. On Sundays, my work gets set aside and it’s quite easy for me to say, “tomorrow is another day….” I love this cadence of Sunday as it falls in my life right now. I probably love it even more these days because I know this experience of Sunday is unquestionably, as my Buddhist friends remind me, impermanent. My clergy colleagues point that out, repeatedly. But, there is a soulfullness to Sundays that seems to remain at the core.
What do I make of the fact that I’m taking on a vocation that centers around Sundays? How do I reconcile my soul’s need for rest with its calling to minister? This presents a bit of a challenging conundrum for me which means it’s something I like to think about.
This morning, I am remembering back to a little tension that I observed in my youth. I have come to realize that I have had the “both/and’ spirit of Anglicanism in my nature for far longer than it was in my repetoire of ecclesiology. The fundmentalism of the churches my family attended in my youth meant that there were some voiced frustrations when our pastor literally interpreted, “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy…” to mean, “Don’t work on Sundays, or I’ll call you out from the pulpit.” I remember that happening once to my Dad, who retorted back with, “Well, YOU work on Sundays, don’t you?” Touche. Score one for Dad. In a literally translated world, even my blogging or a pastor’s preaching is work. Even though I gave up that world of literal, fundamentalism years and years ago there has always been something about Sundays that craves to be different.
I might argue that this need is cultural and spiritual, not just religious. I think the craving for Sunday is true in the secular world, too. We need a sabbath, a day in which we hold as sacred those things which are holy and life-affirming to us: family, friends, the nurturing of our minds and bodies and spirits. We need and crave a day to remind us of our wholeness and not just the slices of our working, visible selves that we show to the world and to which others assign our social identity. We need to be shaped, encouraged, and guided into respect for stillness and a slower pace amid our hectic routines. Sundays hold us accountable for our full humanity. The literal day of the week isn’t the issue; the issue is our need for sacred wholeness in a society where we are constantly pushed and reminded that we can never be good enough, smart enough, or rich enough. We crave a safe space where we can simply BE.
I think about this a lot, particularly as I consider that we have sometimes replaced religiousity with spirituality in our Western expressions of faith. The two have to work hand-in-hand. There is true joy in a Sunday where we can create the forms and expression of worship where we can simply BE…be present, be loved, be whole, be in community, be in communion with the Divine. Where I watch people fall away…where I myself have abandoned ship in my religious past…is when those experiences mirror our working selves: we aren’t good enough, or smart enough, or rich enough to truly belong. People leave churches all the time for those reasons: they feel judged; they don’t understand what is happening in the worship service; they don’t meet the social standard of the community in dress or in lifestyle or in social expectations beyond the hour of structured meeting time. What has become of us if we remove the sacred wholeness from the very day on which it should be celebrated and appreciated?
For me, I will always have Sundays. The cadence and responsibilities may change across my lifetime, and that has and will find new expressions. But, this is a day of sacred wholeness that has transcended whether or not my body could find a worship space that fit it during any one specific point of my journey. Sacred wholeness is my goal: whether I am the liturgical leader, the Vestry person on duty, the choir member, the Mom, the quiet listener to sounds of nature, the one taking in ideas and concepts larger than my current understanding so that I can be transformed and renewed. Although many have said that one doesn’t need to be in a church to find this (and conceptually I agree), I can attest to the fact that this can be found in abundance in many formal spaces of worship, both liturgical and free form. It is a beautiful, holy space where our yearning meets the abundance of divine love and grace. Sacred wholeness is something that we can embrace with intention, from the small points of light in the ordinary extraordinary of our days to that which is created when our intentions reach beyond ourselves in sacred ritual, song, and worship.
Yes, that is the Sunday that I crave, that I seek and graciously find, that I will strive to be a conduit to offer in my own ministry. On this Sunday, I delight in divine wholeness in all its forms and expressions. My soul is fed with abundance.
Grace, peace, and sacred wholeness to you this Sunday…