Saturday, September 21, 2013

Worship on the Lord's Day

[This entry is taken from an unpublished piece I wrote a couple of decades ago. Pastor Jackie]

For two thousand years the overwhelming majority of Christians have gathered on Sunday to worship God through Jesus Christ.  Historically, Sunday has been both a Sabbath day and a Feast Day.  As a Sabbath day it is a day of rest and remembrance.  It is a holy day that belongs to God.  On the seventh day of creation God rested and so he decreed that creation rest and renew its devotion to its Creator.  On the Sabbath all the ordinary activities and engagements of life are set aside in order to focus fully on God and his Word.  This holy day is intended to actualize and reinforce the fact that God is sovereign over all of his creation.  As such, Sunday is a time of surrender to the lordship of Christ who continues to work in history by attending to his creation, especially his people.
Sunday is also a feast day, a day of celebration.  The first Christians moved their Sabbath from the seventh (last) day of the week to the first day of the week.  Their reasons were simple.  Sunday was the "day of the Lord."  It was the day of Christ's resurrection and the day of his post-resurrection appearances. For them, attending to the Word of God meant meeting with the living Word of God and living under His direct sovereignty by the powerful, personal presence of the Holy Spirit.

Early in the second century Christians began referring to Sunday as the "eighth day" of the week.  For them
it was the last day of the first order of creation,  the order and age that was passing away because of sin.  In the resurrection of Christ, God had brought into final completion the first order of creation by conquering death, hell and the grave.  The resurrection was a restoration from death to life for someone (Jesus) who was fully human.  Therefore, in the resurrection Jesus entered into an ultimate rest.  In so doing, He split the veil of separation between God and humanity. As "Son of Man" and "Son of God" He entered into the eternal rest of living in the presence of God.

Jesus is the second Adam, the firstborn of a new order of creation. Through faith in Him believers also become a whole new creation and share in the life he gives.  The hope of the resurrection should be a vibrant reality. When the early Christians met together they understood they were sitting together in heavenly places in Christ. When they ate at the Lord's table they considered they were at the marriage supper of the Lamb of God. They were feasting on the presence of God and understood themselves to be living in His Kingdom.  Sunday was by its very nature a day for celebrating the righteous reign of Christ over creation.  It was a day in which the believer's future resurrection was a present reality.

Thus, on Sunday believers gather as members of God's family to attend to the things of God.  On this day they meet together as one body to make real the Lordship of Christ over all creation.  The past is remembered and brought into the present as a sacrifice of praise.  In hope, the future is grasped and made real in the present. The old is passing away; the new is breaking in.  Sunday gatherings for worship infuse believers with the grace and strength they need to walk with Christ until that day when He splits the eastern sky and gathers them together in the air.

But in this time in which we live Christian seem to have lost both of these two understandings of Sunday. We neither rest nor enter into the coming presence of Christ. Can we recapture a sense of it being a sacred day? What would that be like? How would we be changed? How would our worship change?