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Sunday best

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a magazine looking for more readers must be in want of a young and fashionable face on its cover. But we know that Third Way readers are suspicious of orthodoxies, and this month we celebrate the work and life of the octogenarian theologian Jürgen Moltmann.

Born into a secular family, Moltmann was conscripted by the German army in 1944. Sent almost immediately to the front line, he surrendered to the first Allied soldier he met. The captured soldier was agonised by the horrific choices being made by some of his countrymen; so great was his remorse that he wished himself dead. But it was as a prisoner of war that he discovered a Christian faith. Indeed his interest in theology was sparked at a camp run by the YMCA in England, where he was held. It was his discovery of the possibility of hope amid such suffering that has driven his work ever since.

When a man such as this, then, turns his focus to the question of the importance of the 'day of rest', he does not do so out of an unthinking resort to traditionalist habits. He does not issue a call to 'Keep Sunday Special' from the same position as those who insist on women covering their heads in church.

Nor does he come to the modern world insisting that one must not even switch on a light for fear of violating the Ten Commandments. Instead he argues that the seventh day has an inseparable relationship with the creativity of God and his relationship to the humans that he made creative. More than that, our creation without the Sabbath is incomplete - restless.

It is said that extended Sunday opening hours during the Olympics will act as a trial run for longer-term legislation. With the possibility of each day of the week becoming indistinguishable, Christians need to think hard about their approach to the seventh day. This need not result in an insistance that an increasingly-secular country abide by the religious demands of a minority. Others cannot keep the Sabbath for us. It is ours to observe - we should continue to do so however enticing the alternatives become.