Working on Sunday by Stephen J. Jeffries
Growing up in a small town Baptist church, I was taught early at church and at home that working on Sunday was highly discouraged. Aftet all Sunday was the Lord's day and kind of like the Sabboth except not on Saturday like the Bible said.
I remember being confused but unquestioning and making this a pattern in my life.
Sundays became a ritual as was most of my life growing up. My very earliest memories were of our family getting up early for Sunday School and church, going home to fried chicken or meatloaf, watching my dad nap in his recliner, rushing off to Baptist Youth Fellowship, and Sunday night church service. It was a full day and there would never be a time to do much work evfen if we wanted too. I remember wondering if mom cooking our dinner should be considered a sin but I guess cooking meals was not considered real "work".
When I left home, not only did I experinence sudden freedom, my life as I knew it was completly turned upside down. When I moved to Fort Wayne, my first housing was a YMCA. I had no transportation so if I was to think about going to church, it had to be in walking distance of the "Y". All I ever knew was an American Baptist church and I found out earlyon that the American Baptist church was way on the other side of town. It would be impossible to travel there. I thought of calling and asking
My parents were paying my way but I felt if I was do anything outside of school I needed spending money so I took a job in the YMCA Cafateria. This was good but it also meant I had to work on Sundays. Along with being taught to not work on Sunday, I was also taught work ethic and the need to honor and respect your employer. I was not about to complain about the Sunday hours and besides how was I suppose to get to church anyway.
Now this cafateria was probably pretty tipical of intercity resturants. One thing I learned early was that during the weekdays it was a completely differant resturante than it was on Sunday. During the week we served a variety of people, mostly those that worked downtown or exersised at the "Y". On Sunday we became the local after church buffet. The clientel was almost 100 percent church people.
The atmosphere went from impersonal matter of fact to warm friendly and expecially joyful. We learned quickly that not only did we sometimes get a tip or two from this group, we had fun and became friends with many of the customers.
As I think about this experience all these years later, I know now that this was my Sunday "church" experience. The warm feeling,the joyous atmosphere sometimes gave me more than I would have received from a Sunday morning sermon. I was blessed by getting to service and attend to some of God's children.
Learning to feel good about serving others I think now probably was the foundation for my desire to serve others now. I am happiest when I can "wait" on someone else whether it is at a church dinner or when my family and I cater an event or wedding.
A hold over to being raised to not work on Sunday was always questioned by my children and my wife. I would never allow my boy's to mow the grass on Sunday. They complained and argued and often ignored my wishes. But I held tight to my choice to not mow the grass on Sunday.
To my family and maybe to others this seemed inconsistant and hipicrital as most people knew on occasion I worked on Sunday. But now I am here to tell the truth behind the reasoning for not allowing Sunday lawn mowing.
One of my earliest memories was sitting in the old First Baptist Church on Morgan street in Rushville . Our family always set in the same pew, right side four rows back. This was before air conditioning and the windows had been cranked wide to allow the Summer breeze. It was near the end of the sermon and suddenly I heard the roar of the neighbor's power lawnmower. Was this the same lady that on many occasions laid out on Sunday morning in her two piece bathing suit soaking up the rays of God's great sun, almost out of sight of this curious eight year old.
I could see a look of anger in my mother's face and I vowed to myself that day, never ever to envolk that anger in my mohter or to take the chance of disturbing someone else's time in church. Mowing on Sunday became a symbol of disrespect for a day of worship. To my children's dismay it was never about "working" on Sunday.
In my lifetime I have had several opportunities to take a job were I had to work on Sunday. I always considered what my mom would say about it but usually did not hesitate to take the job. I almost always took time while working to consider that the people I met while working on Sunday might just be my "sermon" for the day or that I might somehow become theirs. If I did not learn anything else during the early days of working on Sunday, I do know in my heart that worship and celebration of God's love is not confined to one hour on Sunday, one place or building or one spiritual practice or denomiation.