Sports and Hikes on the Sabbath
Thinking about this past Sunday’s sermon, and questions and comments that either I did not anticipate or left on the cutting room floor, about the Sabbath:
1. My kids [play a sport, do this activity, etc.] on Sunday’s. I can’t change the schedule. What do I do about that? First things first: the important thing is to carve out time with God, to encounter Him, in unhurried, free communion with Him, through His Spirit, on a weekly basis. But the spirit of the command is what matters: doesn’t have to be Sunday. For me it’s often Monday. However, consider how your children are being trained to live as adults, by their rhythm of life now. Are they being trained to fence off a weekly time to authentically delight in God? Therefore, are you fencing that off for your kids at some other point during the week, sincerely so, not going through the motions? If not, consider doing so. But go deeper: we must always be on the lookout for sports and other kids’ activities becoming idols. Perhaps the reason the Sabbath is not a priority is that my real, actual refuge in life for my kids is their merit, their performance. Thus some percentage of their activities is actually feeding that idol. Don’t get me wrong: sports are not themselves bad. But like anything else, they can become a god-thing, and then they become a bad thing.
2. Can I take a hike on Sunday? Can’t we see God in nature? This question was prompted by this note, sent to the elders: “I want to share just one way I've been happy to delight in our Lord . . . While there is nothing like going out physically into the natural world, we're sometimes limited by conditions of weather, personal health, or other reasons. So I'm thankful for photographers, and grateful for these, who document God's design and artistry in the smallest things of creation. They display God's handiwork, even if they neglect to credit him.” She included this gallery. I loved this. She is seeing “through” her world, seeing its intricate beauty, and delighting in it, but as if at the feet of God, the Master Painter.
So yes, go for a hike on the Sabbath. But not as an end in itself - not for the end goal of self-pleasure, but for God-pleasure, for taking delight in God. The implication of Isaiah 59:13-14 is that our pleasures will turn into delights; they will deepen, becoming more like God’s own pleasure.