How Professional Sports Profanes the Lord’s Day

And why don’t more serious Christians, the kind who worry about what their vote says about theeeehhhhhhmmmmmm, worry about profaning a holy day?

Remember that Protestants and Roman Catholics technically agree about the Lord’s Day even though they number the commandment differently (four and three respectively). Boniface recently wrote:

One final thing: even though the disappearance of a real catechesis about the Lord’s Day is a post-Conciliar phenomenon (perhaps with the exception of St. John Paul II’s Dies Domini), do not be tempted to think that flaunting the prohibitions against work on the Lord’s Day is something modern. As far back in history as one can find homilies, one can find examples of preaching against servile labor on Sundays. Even in the “golden age” of the 13th century, surviving homiletics reveal that working on Sundays and Holy Days was endemic; several chapters in the Fioretti of St. Francis are devoted to describing the misfortunes of peasants who worked on Holy Days. It is certainly not a post-Vatican II novelty. So please, no comments about how in the “old days” no Catholic would have ever dared work on Sunday.

We also should remember, in the Middle Ages there were many more days that were considered Holy Days where work was prohibited – so many so that many common folk complained about not having enough time to finish their work. I cannot cite the source, but I remember reading in one scholarly work on medieval calendars that in some places as many as 100 days out of the year were nominally supposed to be work-free. This was, of course, excessive, and by the 13th century many of these days were no longer being observed. This cluster happened as a result of the accumulation of universal and regional festal days over the centuries; it was not until after Lateran IV and the reforms of the late Middle Ages that the status of many of these feasts changed to make their observance more manageable.

Why then do the devout turn the other way when rooting for members of their tribe between the white lines? Here’s a piece on the Mets’ Rene Rivera that might tighten Boniface’s jaws:

Our own natural families grow bigger when we are part of the Catholic Church. Our fellow Catholics may not be related to us by blood, but they are related to us spiritually. That connection is one of the things that makes walking into a church so reassuring and peaceful.

Even more than that, though, is the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Every Catholic parish has Jesus in the tabernacle, so that means you can feel comfortable spending all the time in the world there. If you’re praying in a Catholic parish, you’re not alone. Jesus is always there, and so is God the Father and Holy Spirit. Mary and the angels and saints are there, too.

Home plate is where I like to be for baseball, home with my family is where I like to be even more, and being “at home” in church is the very best place anyone can possibly be.

But what about Protestants (and the New Calvinists who root root root for them)? (Thanks to our southern correspondent) the Cubs’ Ben Zobrist seems to know (as does his pastor father) that he shouldn’t play on Sunday but that doesn’t stop him (or the Gospel Allies from rooting):

Ben and Julianna are both committed to the local church, even if finding a workable process took a few years to sort out, Yawn said.

“Ben is a hardcore local church guy,” Yawn says. “He cares about what’s happening at the local church level.”

Part of that rootedness comes from growing up in Eureka, where, after 28 years, his dad is still the pastor.

“We felt like Ben’s spiritual life was more important than his sports life,” his father says. “We wanted him to understand the importance of the local church. We didn’t let him play on teams that played on Sundays. . . . Nothing is more important than the Lord. I don’t think children make that connection if the parents don’t have that commitment.”

So Zobrist plays on Sunday, why? Even Sandy Koufax tried to observe the high holy days of Judaism much to Walter Sobchak‘s approval. Why can’t professing Christian athletes and their professing fans do the same?

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22 thoughts on “How Professional Sports Profanes the Lord’s Day

  1. LINK:“We felt like Ben’s spiritual life was more important than his sports life,” his father says. “We wanted him to understand the importance of the local church. . Nothing is more important than the Lord. I don’t think children make that connection if the parents don’t have that commitment.”

    Amen.

    POST :Protestants and Roman Catholics technically agree about the Lord’s Day even though they number the commandment differently (four and three respectively).

    just to clarify – no small point – they take away the 2nd commandment -Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them – and stay at 10 commandments by splitting the 10th into two. 9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife 10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. .

    LINK:Every Catholic parish has Jesus in the tabernacle, so that means you can feel comfortable spending all the time in the world there. If you’re praying in a Catholic parish, you’re not alone. Jesus is always there, and so is God the Father and Holy Spirit.

    Just to clarify ‘every parish has Jesus in the tabernacle’ -no small point – and what the Lord has done for us

    -A believer’s body is a temple 1 Cor 6:19

    -Jesus: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. John 14:23

    – we have such a high priest who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and in the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man; the tabernacle here served as a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “SEE,” He says, “THAT YOU MAKE all things ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN WHICH WAS SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN.” Heb 8

    -even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary. The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. A priest sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood and according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. Heb 9

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  2. For me personally, the 4th Commandment is the most difficult to get my spiritual head around. How to avoid legalism while keeping the Sabbath rest in view. Is raking the yard after the big storm on Saturday a work of necessity? If woodworking is a fun and relaxing activity for me is it okay to work on the rocking chair for my grandkids? If I see my grandkids once a year for only two weeks because they live half-way around the world is it okay to spend Sunday at the beach?

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  3. G, how about these simple principles: Avoid things (jobs, entanglements, avocations, hobbies — as much as possible) that will regularly prevent you from worshiping with the church on the Lord’s Day. Resolve to be different even if it seems weird. Your friends, neighbors, and family cannot help but notice if you treat the Lord’s Day as something special and different. It might be the most powerful and underrated witness we can have.

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  4. “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” — God could say our observance of the LD is just for him, but he has graciously purposed to bless us with the LD — if we use it properly. It’s possible to be serious about it without being legalistic.

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  5. graw, not to muddy the waters (ok, a little), but once you start asking specifics legalism crouches seeking whom it may devour. But like cw suggests, it’s all in the wrist.

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  6. That and try to refrain from the one day in seven principle grounded in a creation ordinance. I get grumpy about it. It’s the seventh day and it’s the seventh day with an ecclesiastical purpose. But don’t forsake the assembly, that’s the dealio and if your church can’t manage to bookend the day with an evening service, that’s on them.

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  7. Hi Graw, to add to the comments here, you are not alone in your thoughts, concerns, and questions. I have had similar questions asked of me many times in the past 15 years. “What about a vacation or opportunity with friends that is one special week a year…then can’t we go play at the beach or play baseball, etc…” At one level these types of questions are very reasonable as Christians genuinely struggle with a commandment that has been ignored by most of the church for several generations.

    My approach has regularly been to try and help folks think about their questions from another angle. For example. I might respond something like this: “You are seeing friends or loved ones for just one week a year or one week in a decade and you would rather go to the beach with them than worship God with them. Is this correct?” When those types of questions get asked, it can often help to turn it around and ask yourself or the other person a question about importance and priority in the person’s life. Ask people why they are looking for exceptions to the 4th commandment? Are they looking for exceptions to other commandments? If yes, why? If not, why not?

    Along these lines, if I get particularly outlandish hypothetical questions in Sunday School or one on one, I often think about similar outlandish hypotheticals about the 7th commandment. (Jesus was regularly faced with silly hypotheticals – think the 7 brothers and one wife with no children) If you ask yourself or someone asks you a hypothetical question about when it is ok to break the Lord’s Day. Perhaps ask this in response: “If you are on a deserted Island for several years, having been shipwrecked with a woman other than your wife (who is alive and well and looking for you from back in the States), would it be okay to commit adultery, multiply wives, and marry the woman on the island with you?” Silly question, right?

    Several years ago, someone asked me, “If your son was dying on the Lord’s Day and all he wanted was one last toss of the football with his dad, would you do it?” Absurd question? I agree. But I have had it asked. My response. “If my son was going to meet his maker and Redeemer on that very day, first, I doubt he has the ability to throw a football. That aside, and second, I am sure my Son would want to be singing hymns, praying, and reading Scripture in anticipation of that great moment when he would see His savior in paradise. Which would you rather be doing as you prepared to die?”

    Hopefully these thoughts are helpful as you wrestle through the truths of God’s Word in light of their poor treatment by so many professed Christians.

    Sincerely,

    B

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  8. DGH,

    In trying to understand why so many people love “Chariots of Fire” and disregard the Lord’s Day, I came across several resources that described the movie as inspiring people to hold true to themselves. I guess if that’s your take away from the movie, its no wonder the Lord’s Day is profaned while Chariots of Fire is loved.

    Have you read the new book, “For the Glory”? An excellent biography of Liddell, focusing on his whole life, especially the time after the Olympics.

    B

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  9. Listening last year to a “Christian” radio show (evangelical) during Super Bowl week, the host was asking people to call in and ‘share’ their Super Bowl recipes. “What are you going to be serving at your Super Bowl party this year?” Not a single caller rang in to say, “Actually we won’t be watching the Super Bowl because we’ll be observing the Lord’s Day.” Evangelicalism has a dim view of the law of God.

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  10. B says: For example. I might respond something like this: “You are seeing friends or loved ones for just one week a year or one week in a decade and you would rather go to the beach with them than worship God with them. Is this correct?” When those types of questions get asked, it can often help to turn it around and ask yourself or the other person a question about importance and priority in the person’s life. Ask people why they are looking for exceptions to the 4th commandment? Are they looking for exceptions to other commandments?

    Interesting. Also, congrats for getting away with saying this with no disdainful retorts here.

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  11. Ali, of course B got “away with saying this with no disdainful retorts here” because he didn’t do anything so irritating and macroaggressive as posting CCM horror videos or pietistic, un(or poorly)punctuated Voskampian devo-comments.

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  12. If I could play golf as well as any of those pros, I’m sure I’d be skipping church and working something out in its place. And I’m pretty sure the Holy Spirit would convince me that he approves. Just sayin’.

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  13. The problem with this line of argument seems to me to simply be that the interpretation of the 4th commandment among most evangelical and Catholics is not the same as the interpretation of confessional Calvinists. Moreover, the reformed position is no slam dunk. Is the “Lord’s Day” is to be read as identical as “the Sabbath” in the 4th commandment? Who moved it from 7th to 1st day of the week? If they changed that, what else can they change, and how would we know?

    I have found the practice of observing this to be most wholesome, but IiiiIIIi cannot see how just bluntly assuming everyone agrees with this interpretation of what the Sabbath is for Christians is going to influence anyone’s opinion (anyone who isn’t already reading Old life). Especially, as the Zobrist story suggests, if the formation of identity with regard to sports so strong that even those who would not under other circumstances find themselves shrugging their shoulders at the ‘inevitability’ of working on Sunday in their profession.

    So I guess I agree that Christians should be more serious about this observance. But this is one of those situations where people don’t just need to be reminded of what they know, they need to be taught.

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  14. “…the reformed position is no slam dunk.” Are you a referee?

    I get you might not agree with the strength of the argument, but generations of the Reformed have been well-convinced it is a clean basket. And wrote it into what they confess is taught, definitely, in Scripture. Everything taught in Scripture is important; but what we agree is taught in Scripture (why we have confessions) defines who we are.

    Who changed the day? Only God can change the day; the Sabbath (whichever day) is God’s gift of a day for meeting with him; after the resurrection, Jesus–who is God–repeatedly manifested himself specially to his disciples on the first day; and they seemed to have interpreted this as his perpetual will for them. Hence, the argument of Hebrews, where the writer reasons: “Thus, there continues a Sabbathing for the people of God,” Heb.4:9. Who would want to forsake his invitation to a foretaste of heaven, the city of the living God?

    That is just a thumbnail synopsis of a robust, biblical argument–in no way contingent on Rome’s invocation of her putative authority–for a normative stance on First-day worship. The two forms of reasoning–one biblical, the other chest thumping–aren’t remotely close. And objections to each are addressed consistent with each basis for authority: either a scriptural rebuttal, or a “because we say so.”

    People do need to be taught, that’s for sure. They might start by studying the prooftexts in their catechism.

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  15. cw l’unificateur says: Ali, of course B got “away with saying this with no disdainful retorts here” because he didn’t do anything so irritating and macroaggressive as posting CCM horror videos or pietistic, un(or poorly)punctuated Voskampian devo-comments.

    Oh ok thanks cw. Disdain the disdain-worthy. If only one took the Lord’s Day even more seriously, one could have more of the mind of Christ like this; like you.

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  16. Bruce,

    I think it’s fair enough to say that I should do more reading and thinking before taking a stance. I will do that.

    As to whether I am a referee–well, no in any ecclesial sense. But yes, as you acknowledge, when it comes to my own discernment of the argument’s validity, and its validity before others.

    Which is more to my point: I still wonder about how this argument could be made effectively to a broader audience. Do most Protestants and Catholics today really perceive that their practice ought to be to avoid work and play on Sunday? If not, then who is being addressed here and called to be faithful? People who don’t confess the Sabbath is observed this way don’t offend their conscience in not observing it. If they are not educated to take such arguments seriously, then they are not going to take this kind of provocation seriously either. (Zobrist again is a different situation, since obviously he was so educated.)

    Or is the goal just to get those who know there is an argument but find it thin (like meEEEEeee) to crack a catechism?

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  17. And if your denomination changes its doctrine, one way to do so is to add a proof text to the catechism a couple years before the denominational Report comes out which appeals to that proof-text. Think big—go from Romans 2:6 all the way to Romans 2:13

    “An elderly couple in Kinnaird’s congregation brought charges against him for teaching justification by faith and works. Thesession found him guilty. He appealed to his presbytery, which upheld the guilty verdict. So he appealed to the OPC General Assembly. The General Assembly determined that the session and presbytery had erred in convicting him. A main point in the GA’s decision to overturn the prior verdicts was that Kinnaird’s language was in keeping with the OPC’s standards – specifically WLC 90’s reference to Romans 2:13, which had just been added two years earlier. “There is strong evidence that it is ALLOWABLE in the OPC to interpret Romans 2:13 (as Mr. Kinnaird does) as a description of something that will be done to the righteous at the day of judgment.” (GA Advisory Committee)
    https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2016/10/24/opc-report-on-republication-background/

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  18. Poisonous innuendo.

    The above
    1) implies that the doctrinal standards of the OPC now have, as part of their approved prooftexts for the expressions in WLC.90 Rom.2:13 in particular.
    2) draws an unwarranted conclusion from incomplete information.
    3) fails to take into account the action of the 71st GA (2004, see Journal §89&107), one year after the Kinnaird appeal.

    The 2004 GA made one, deliberate change to the prooftexts (only approved in 2001), viz. Q90, deleting all references to Rom.2 for that doctrinal statement. Presently, there are NO references to Rom.2 in the approved and published prooftexts for that question. hotlink: http://opc.org/documents/LCLayout.pdf

    From these additional facts, the OPC seems to have recognized the error of including Rom.2:13 as proper proof of this doctrine, and rectified that failure. WCF.31.3. “All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred.” The judiciary in of one or more trials may have failed. But it is not apparent from a one-sided presentation of data that the OPC then or afterward is in the process of changing it’s doctrine.

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  19. Favorite day of the week. Devices powered down for the most part. Morning worship. Spend the afternoon with my family in the “family room” sipping on a bottle of red, now shared three ways. 😦 Eating whatever (but always cheese and bread) and just enjoying each other in the Lord, conversing about various non stressful things of life. Much laughter, three daughter and wife. Often times discuss the sermon but not slavishly. (Typically discuss it on 1/2 hour ride back before reaching home.) Nap. Evening service. Fellowship with saints after worship. Head home. Hang in the kitchen and just enjoy being together until turning in. Go to bed thankful for the boon of the sabbath. Refreshed for week.

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