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Dawn: Luther at Erfurt, 1861, Joseph Noel Paton (1821–1901)
Depicts Martin Luther discovering the doctrine of Justification by Faith.

"Remember The Sabbath and keep it holy." (Hebrew: זָכוֹר אֶת יוֹם הַשַׁבָּת לְקַדְּשׁוֹ) -  Exodus 20:8-11
(One of The Ten Commandments)

Not being a member of any religion, sect, or faith, I sometimes wonder if I qualify as moral. I long-ago rejected the idea that I could publicly practice a religion and remain moral, religion being a personal and private conviction in my personal and private moral code. I do not as a rule take days off, for I believe that if one's work is an honest expression of self, taking a day off amounts to sacrilege. I remember The Sabbath but remain unclear what it means to keep it holy, since I find churches and synagogues to be hostile worshiping environments. I do not worship, though I remain steadfastly grateful for all I do not comprehend, which, believe me, remains considerable. The Great Mystery doesn't seem to be aching for me to resolve it, but to distantly respect it. If Martin Luther properly interpreted scripture, which seems wildly unlikely as Scripture seems impenetrably ambiguous on pretty near every subject, even my distance from religion might be covered under his Justification by Faith notion, a masterwork of an escape clause. I more deeply appreciate the Hebrew tradition of engaging in dialogue not intended to resolve ambiguity, but to lever it to gain fresh insight. The whole God thing seems downright medieval to me.

For better or worse, we live in secular times.
When I was a boy, some stores stayed closed on Sunday by state law. Others covered up their meat cases under union contract. These were not acts attempting to keep the Sabbath holy, but to placate one or another constituency. Political acts committed on Sabbath probably do little to advance any holiness. Jesus became famous for touting then existing rules of Sabbath comportment, so I should probably, Luther or no, hold my own reins rather loosely when it comes to Sundays. I do not as a rule sit around in sweat pants watching games on cable, though I appreciate that for some, this amounts to an inviolable sacrament. —Go [insert professional sports team you follow with religious fervor here]!—My holiest of holy Sunday activities usually involve reading and writing. The Muse often engages in 'rithmetic.

Nor do we usually partake of a traditional Sunday Dinner. We most often forego a midday meal on Sundays, forgetting to sit down until late afternoon, by which time it's almost time for supper. Supper might appear as leftovers, since the natural arrhythmia of Sunday disrupts the usual routine. I might forego supper on a Sunday, my activity successfully distracting my interest. The Muse might approach me early in the evening asking if we're going to eat and I might contritely ask her what she might want for supper, but she might slink off to reheat Saturday night's leftovers rather than start anything from scratch. I might have been reading all day, working my way through an entire book in more or less one sitting. I spent yesterday flitting between London and Paris, watching a spy thriller play out. The book had all the usual players, spy vs. spy vs. spy vs. spy vs. spy, and it wanted my full attention at first to keep the characters straight, then eventually just pulling me along. My presence there seemed entirely necessary to preserve the Western World. The dead boyfriend ended up doing it, so the jilted girlfriend betrayed him to the Ruskies, who obliged to kill him again, for real that time.

I could not begin reading until I'd finished my writing, which simply must occur whatever the day of the week, whatever the public holiday. Any day in which I do not create has not, to my mind, been kept in any way holy. I doubt that Moses or even Luther would have understood, but as a budding creator (always the budding with this one!), I can't bear to live with myself if I ain't creating. Yard work might supplement but never properly replace my sacred obligation to write each day. Same with housework. I canned a few quarts of fine chicken stock this Sabbath and started a batch of fine veal stock, neither activity qualifying as real work, and both fully qualified as adequately sacred to satisfy my questionable moral underpinning. I'm not big on sinning, though I'm one heck of a lot more strict then any military ever was when it comes to the Thou Shalt Not Kill statute.

I pick and choose, for which any half-decent Old Testament would see me publicly stoned to death. Secular societies generally frown upon stoning of any sort, and not only because inflicting this punishment generally leads into the temptation to violate one or another of The Ten Commandments, a contradiction not even holy intercession seems likely to resolve. Old Testament Priests could apparently kill someone for the unpardonable sin of killing someone. I try to stay well out of that league. I never intended my kind of holiness to attract any followers or incite any jihad. It can't ensure my eventual salvation, whatever that might mean. It might induce a certain sort of satisfaction in a Sunday well-lived. I read the Times, restocked the larder, wrote a lively little piece, and witnessed a struggle against ambiguous good and an equally ambiguous evil where the ambiguous good managed to prevail, For now. The author seemed to threaten subsequent volumes in a series of engaging ambiguity which I will reserve for my future SundayOff enjoyment.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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