On our visit to Harris and Lewis I was very impressed by the fact that on a Sunday virtually all commercial activity ceases.  When you go to Harris and Lewis you should always try to stay over a Sunday.  For the quiet and calm there on a Sunday is really something special and wonderful.
From Germany I am used to closed shops on a Sunday.  The German “Shop Closing Law” compels businesses to close on Sundays and Christian holidays.  Nevertheless, museums, leisure centres, restaurants, cafes and filling stations are open so that there are still many places where you can go on a Sunday.  In fact, the Sunday can be a very busy day.
But that is different on Harris and Lewis.  Everything is closed on Sundays, even playgrounds.  The only public building that is open is a church!  The reason for this ban is the fourth commandment: “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.”  Of course, the Sabbath in the Jewish tradition is the seventh day of the week and that is the Saturday.  But since Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, the Christians celebrate Jesus’ resurrection on a Sunday and accordingly keep the Sunday holy.
But what does it mean to keep a day holy?  God is holy as it is stated in Leviticus 19:2, “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.”  Since God is holy, everything that belongs to him is holy as well.  When a day is regarded as holy then this means that this day belongs to God.  He alone is in command of this day. And that makes this day so special.
Six days of the week our activity is demanded, and we have to decide upon so many things. Time is given to us that we make something of it.  But that also means that we have to bear the responsibility for what we do and what we fail to do.  But that is different on a Sunday when the perspective changes completely.  For this day belongs to God.
We are not the masters of this day.  And the time of a Sunday is not given to us but to God.  We are unburdened from our responsibilities and that is why we can find rest on a Sunday.  Six days of the week are given for our activity, but there is one day where we are reminded that all our activity is based on God’s activity alone.  This finds its expression in the most passive human activity – at least when you look from the outside on it – and that is prayer.
During the week it can be difficult to find the time for prayer.  But the Sunday is the day of prayer.  We need to keep the Sunday holy because that keeps us aware that we are mere human beings.  Even if we who are created in God’s image can mirror his creativity in our own works, we are nevertheless not the creator but part of his creation. If the Sunday is no longer kept as a holy day then we are in danger to overextend ourselves and to finally usurp God’s position.  That is why the fourth commandment is an explanation of the first and second commandment, “You shall have no other gods but me.  You shall not make for yourself any idol.”  We are always in danger to look at us as if we were God and as if we were the masters of our life.  Then we worship ourselves as idols.
Here in Dumfries, it is different to what I learned on Harris and Lewis.  For many people here the Sunday is a working day.  We cannot simply change this.  But nevertheless, we can try to bring the calm of Sunday into our houses and gardens and make this day a special day following God’s example: “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”
(Genesis 2:2-3)