Summers in Michigan are the best. It’s rarely super-hot for long stretches of time. Daylight is longer. We have lakes. Lots of lakes. A few are even Great Lakes. There are plenty of good ice cream joints. There’s golf courses galore. Summers in Michigan are great (did I already write that?). It’s true.
But (there’s always a big but)… Michigan summers do not bode well for church attendance. People are on a lake or in their campers or up north or a golf course or watching their future major leaguer play right field in a little league tournament in Battle Creek or out looking for a new ice cream joint. I’ve had people in June tell me, “See you in September, pastor.” They weren’t joking.
I’d like to point out that commandment #4 (Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy) does not offer a Michigan exception clause. But I won’t point that out because I will sound too much like an old curmudgeon who in the next breath would yell, “Get off my lawn you rotten kids.” I’d like to point out that God still intends for us to prioritize a time of worship—every single week even in the summer. I’d like to write, “Don’t forget the Sabbath, even if you live in the Great Lake State.” But…
Ok, you’ve talked me into it (or I’ve talked me into it or maybe, just maybe, the Lord has talked me into it). I will write it. Please note: I’m not the first to do so. Moses wrote on stone tablets. My tablet is an Apple. The fourth item on both lists is: Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
Jesus “broke” this commandment a few times (usually to heal someone) and his actions sent the “best” Sabbath keepers of them all, the Pharisees, into a tizzy. (Quotation marks are around the word “broke” because when Jesus was “braking” the Law, in the Pharisees view, he was actually fulfilling the law by loving God and loving people. Quotation marks are around “best” in reference to the Pharisees because they forgot the reason for which the Sabbath was created thereby making them not the “best” at all). Still Jesus knew the importance of the Sabbath, but he also knew the importance of love and compassion. Jesus said, “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17). Jesus was keeping the Sabbath’s priorities straight, even as the Pharisees viewed him as breaking it.
Sabbath keeping is more than church attendance. I get it. Missing a church service isn’t sending anyone to the “Bad Place.” I get that too. One can be in church on a Sunday and still break the Sabbath. One can be in nature and have a wonderful time of worship. I get all of that. Still too many of us, in our “freedom,” we have become lackadaisical in our remembrance of a Sabbath day. Maybe in our Michigan summers, commandment #4 is the most broken commandment of them all. (Next might be “Do not covet” as your neighbor pulls in his new boat into the driveway). My point: Don’t break any of the commandments in a Michigan summer or anytime. All ten are important. Let’s just keep the Lord first in all we do!
Now get off my lawn!