A preacher at a Sunday afternoon picnic happened upon one of his flock who was fishing, said the marble-mouthed, average-joe sage Junior Samples one time on the old “Hee Haw” comedy TV show that ran from 1969-92.
“Didn’t see you in church this morning,” the preacher scolded the fisherman. “You think the Lord wanted you to go fishing?”
“Preacher,” the fisherman replied. “How come you became a preacher?”
“Why, I was called,” the preacher answered.
“Then how do you know that I wasn’t called to fish.”
Neither Samples, who was quite the fisherman in real life, they say, nor the cornpone “Hee Haw” were known for controversy. But that joke struck a nerve.
There’s always been some controversy over the proper observation of the Christian Sabbath. What can you do and can’t you do? Should do or shouldn’t do?
Do we “remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy,” as Exodus chapter 20 in the Bible commands or are we not “under the law,” as Romans chapter 6 says.
Even the Lord Jesus Christ spoke to the issue. “If one of you has a donkey or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?” Christ said in Luke 14:5.
Now comes another change in the way we observe, or not observe, the Sabbath. It’ll begin Oct. 1.
The state in July removed a prohibition on hunting on Sundays. The little-noticed change is just the latest in a series of relaxations — some would say desecrations — of the Sabbath.
The arguments in the state capital for hunting on Sundays were familiar: better economics, increased tourism, personal freedom, property rights, other states allow it. Pleas for deference to churches were smothered.
The last major obstacle was removed when the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission signed on.
Left out of the debate, for the most part, was just what do we want the Sabbath to be. During a state House committee session last April, Rep. Bob Steinburg of Edenton hit the nail on the head.
“I’m just a little tired of those things that we have valued in this nation for so long being whittled away, one thing after another,” Steinburg said.
I’ve heard tell of folks here in the hometown who at one time were so conscientious about the Sabbath that they would do their cooking on Saturday nights to avoid even cooking on Sundays.
But then over the years they started playing baseball, and then football, games on Sundays. TV spread the popularity. Then people started hunting for restaurants open after church.
Grocery stores followed. I remember Food Lion being the last grocery holdout. For a time they put up a poster with a drawing of a church that explained why the store closed. But it wasn’t long before that chain followed the pack and opened on Sundays.
Other stores — department stores and such — began opening on Sunday afternoons. Then many extended hours to Sunday mornings as well.
Today a few locally owned businesses close on Sundays as does the national restaurant chain Chick-fil-a. But that’s about it.
Hunting on Sundays follows a trend that has been rolling along for generations now. We do a lot more on Sundays than we used to do.
I do hope hunters will steer clear of churches on Sundays. Legislators did stick in a concession that Sunday hunting must take a break from 9:30 a.m. till 12:30 p.m. That’s for now.
For those of us with long-winded preachers, a 12:30 restarting time for hunters could make the dash to the car in the church parking lot a lot more interesting.
I’m hopeful of no conflicts.
And I have one more hope. Sabbaths are a gift from God. I advise to accept God’s present to us with gladness and enjoy it. Don’t treat the Sabbath as a little boy excitedly opening a colorful package at Christmas only to express disappointment when he sees that grandma had only given him underwear.
In other words, clear your schedules on Sundays. Clear your mind and your nerves. Take a break from it all, as you do when you take your 15-minute breaks on your job during the week.
And take a break from hunting on Sundays.
A great place to do just that is in church.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.