Sunday, April 24, 2011

The ultimate culture-making event (Crouch)

Andy Crouch:

Of all the things cultures conserve most carefully—of all that they are most committed to cultivating—among the most important are ritual and time. For several thousand years, in the midst of a bewildering variety of geographic locations and civilizations—even as their own language and cultural practices changed in myriad ways—the Jews have never forgotten which day is the sabbath. The observance of the sabbath is written into the Ten Commandments and the story of creation itself, and was sustained in Jesus' time, as it is now, as a profoundly countercultural act with little or no support from the surrounding society. And yet, within a few years of Jesus' death, we have clear evidence (from Luke, Paul and John in the biblical canon, and from writers like Ignatius just a few decades later) of a group of largely or exclusively Jewish believers, living within sight of the temple no less, who have shifted their primary day of worship from the seventh to the first.

To grasp the cultural significance of this, imagine leaving the United States for a decade or so and returning to find that while the wider society continued to get up on Monday and go to work and school, a substantial number of churches left their buildings dark on Sunday and gathered for worship on Monday instead—perhaps getting up before dawn to do so, perhaps gathering after the work day was done, perhaps skipping work altogether—and, for good measure, now called Monday "the Lord's day." You would conclude that something absolutely extraordinary must have happened—or at least that they believed something extraordinary had happened.

As evidence that something extraordinary did indeed happen on the Sunday after Jesus' execution, the shift in worship from the seventh day to the first is arresting. But it is also, for those of us who believe the first disciples' report of Easter, perhaps the most vivid and indisputable sign of the cultural power of the resurrection. For through a complex and far-reaching chain of events, that tectonic shift from Saturday to Sunday directly shapes the lives of the great majority of the population of the earth—even though many of them are Christian only nominally or not at all.

The latte-sipping customer at Starbucks on the Upper West Side of Manhattan is taking her time with the Sunday Times—why? Because in much of the world, the first day of the week has become the closest thing we have to a day of rest. Even when "blue laws" restricting business on Sundays have largely been repealed, the manager of the local department store who has to fill in schedules starting at 10 a.m. instead of 9 a.m. is still, however vestigially, touched by the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus is like a cultural earthquake, its epicenter located in Jerusalem in the early 30s, whose aftershocks are still being felt in the cultural practices of people all over the world, many of whom have never heard of, and many more of whom have never believed in, its origins. . . .

The resurrection is the hinge of history—still after two thousand years as culturally far-reaching in its effects as anything that has come since.

Quote from Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling (InterVarsity Press, 2008) pp. 144-5

No comments: