A little girl, dressed in her Sunday best, was running as fast as she could, trying not to be late for Sunday School. As she ran she prayed, “Dear Lord, please don’t let me be late! Dear Lord, please don’t let me be late!” As she was running and praying, she tripped on a curb and fell, getting her clothes dirty and tearing her dress. She got up, brushed herself off, and started running again. As she ran she once again began to pray, “Dear Lord, please don’t let me be late… But please don’t shove me either!”
The question is, How did Sunday first go from just getting to church on time to now also getting to the game on time? Here’s how it happened.
When King James of England came to the throne in 1603, the English Puritans were a growing force in both religion and in politics. And the King and the Puritans really got along well when it came to Scripture (with the result being the beloved 1611 King James Version of the Bible). But the King and the Puritans did not get along at all when it came to Sunday (with the result being the hated 1617 Book of Sports). Here’s the story behind the latter.
One day, King James decided to take a tour of Great Britain for the express purpose of finding out what was on his subject’s mind. And on no topic did he get more of an earful than what you could do and could not do on Sundays. Everywhere he went, the complaint about the Lord’s Day was the same, too restrictive.
“Your Highness. We work six days a week, from sun up to sun down. And come Sunday, we go to church in the morning. And so the only free time we have for play is on Sunday afternoon. But the Puritans have banned all sports on the Lord’s Day, with warnings, fines and then jail time for those in violation.”
This was too much for King James. So, he personally wrote and published the Book of Sports. In it, he decreed that if people went to worship on Sunday morning, then those same folk are free to play athletic games on Sunday afternoon. “No lawful recreation shall be barred from good families.” And in the short volume, he then listed what Sunday sports are allowed and which Sunday sports are not (primarily the ones banned usually encouraged gambling.) But he didn’t stop there. He also ordered that his Book of Sports be read in every church and any clergy who refused to do so, would be removed from their pulpit and their licence to preach revoked. However, King James did give the Puritans an out, concluding with these words, “And if you don’t like it, then move.”
Now, the last thing most Puritans would ever do, would be to leave the Church of England. They believed in staying and reforming Anglicanism from within. But there developed within Puritanism a small group that came to believe the only way to change something is to do so from the outside. And so you have to be willing to get up and go. In history we know these folk as the Pilgrims. And in 1620, they sailed on a ship called the Mayflower, for the express purpose of going to a land where there would be no sports played on Sunday.
Today is Super Bowl Sunday. And when it comes to King James, there are many who love his version.