I gotta admit: I don’t always take Sundays seriously. Often times, attending church feels like another thing to put on the calendar, right along with doctor visits, school plays, running errands, and visiting the library. I have full weeks, and church is one more thing added to my full week. And so I go to church, do church-ish things, like sing and listen to a sermon, then go home and move on to the next thing. Oil changed? Check. Church? Check. Pay bills? Check.
But I was recently reminded that the gathering of believers on Sundays is a very sacred thing indeed. I would encourage you to slowly read the following quote by N.T. Wright:
In particular, the gospels (especially John) and the early practice of the church (as in Paul) reflect the very early understanding of the church that the first day of the week, the day of Easter, has become a sign within the present world and its temporal sequence that the life of the age to come has already broken in. Sunday, kept as a commemoration of Easter ever since that event itself (a quite remarkable phenomenon when you come to think about it), is not simply a legacy of Victorian values but a perpetual sign, joyfully renewed week by week, that all time belongs to God and stands under the renewing lordship of Jesus Christ.
Of course, worship should be “seven whole days, not one in seven.” Many Christians will find, for all kinds of reasons, that Sunday is a difficult day to attend long church services. But we should remind ourselves that the earliest Christians lived in a world where Sunday was the first day of the working week, much like our Monday, and that they valued its symbolism so highly that they were prepared to get up extra early both to celebrate Easter once again and to anticipate the final Eighth Day of Creation, the start of the new week, the day when God will renew all things.
Surprised by Hope (pp. 261-262).
In other words, every time we come together, we are experiencing the reality that the future kingdom of God has broken into our present, broken world, and we are anticipating the time when Jesus will return to make all things new.
When rednecks, white collars, blue collars, nerds, housewives, homeschoolers, and public schoolers gather together to worship Jesus, that is a small taste of the glorious friendship and fellowship we’ll experience in the new heaven and new earth.
When a black man, white man, Jewish woman, and a Korean teen all share the Lord’s Supper together, it’s a foretaste of the day when we will all tuck into the Feast of Lamb – a feast that will make Food Network’s thanksgiving dinner look like prison food.
Something very, very holy takes place when men and women gather together to worship in Jesus name. Every gathered church is like an outpost of the new kingdom, a bright beacon shining in the midst of a sinful world. Jesus himself dwells in our midst, and we experience a deep fellowship with Jesus and with others that is only possible because Jesus has risen from the dead. The kingdom of God has broken into the present, and we get to taste it every Sunday morning.
All of this raises the crucial question: Do we take the Sunday morning gathering seriously?
How can you know if you take it seriously? Here are a few simple diagnostic questions to ask yourself:
- Do I get sufficient sleep on Saturday night so that I can energetically worship, attentively listen, and joyfully serve on Sunday morning? (guilty as charged)
- Do I wake up early enough on Sunday morning so that my morning is not frantic, stressful, and distracting?
- Do I arrive at church early enough to drop of my children at class and be in the sanctuary before the service starts?
- Do I turn off my phone during the service so that I am not tempted to text, Tweet, Facebook browse, or play fantasy football? (guilty as charged)
- Do I stick around after the service long enough to actually engage with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ?
These questions are not intended to be a legalistic checklist which must be followed to the letter. Rather, the questions are simply intended to get us thinking about where our priorities lie.
I gotta admit: I don’t always take Sundays seriously. But I want that to change. Sundays are sacred.