Questioning our Worship (II): Why ruin my weekend?

This article is part 2 of a 10 part series written for my church newsletter. Go here for the intro, and here for Part I.

“How was your weekend?”
 
Every Monday morning, as the parents of St. Richard’s pre-schoolers file into the narthex for Monday chapel, this is the question du jur. Usually the answers contain summaries of Saturday outings, perhaps a child’s birthday party, maybe a sick family member, or a date with the spouse. Occasionally, though, someone will mention church: “Church was really great; our pastor preached a really good sermon!”
 
Now, I of all people rejoice when folks approve of their pastors’ sermons. And I don’t want to make too “loud” of a point here, but I am often tempted to respond, “Wow, that’s great! But … I asked about your weekend.”

 

Surely such an odd response would produce blank stares of consternation. And yet, the underlying point is valid, even if unsettling: we don’t go to church on the weekend! We go to church on Sunday, the first day of the week.

 

About 10 years ago I started asking my nephew (around 5 years old at the time), “Why do we go to church on Sunday?” The programmed response (taught to him by me!) came back, “Because that’s the day Jesus rose from the dead!”

 

And so it is. In chapter 20 of St. John’s Gospel, the risen Christ makes three appearances to his discouraged and confused followers, and each time, the writer is at pains to stress that the risen Lord comes to his people on the first day of the week. (See verses 1, 19, and 26 of John 20.) In precisely the same way, and for the same reason, the earliest church we know of – the apostolic church of the Book of Acts – gathered to break bread together not on the “weekend” but on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).

 

There are some powerful implications here upon which to meditate, especially during this season of Lent. First, as Christians we enter in to joyful worship and rest before we work. This is to show that all of our work, indeed all of our lives, should and can be permeated by rest and worship and joy.

 

Second, as theologians down through the ages have pointed out, the first day of the week is also the eighth day of the week. (It is significant here that circumcision in the old covenant took place on the eighth day, which is one reason many baptismal fonts are octagonal in shape.) That is, the first day of the week, Sunday, is the day of new creation. Now that Jesus has risen from the dead, there is a new creation in which we live and work and love. God has triumphed! This is his world. As reigning Lord, he is bringing his purposes to fruition in his own time. Hence, we worship on Sunday, the first day of the week, the day Jesus rose from the dead, conquering all our enemies and dysfunctions and sins and fears.

 

For me, this so often means that I must “rest by faith” or “feast by faith.” Which is to say that Sunday worship, setting apart this one day of the week for this “royal waste of time” (to borrow a phrase from theologian Marva Dawn), is actually a kind of discipline (both for me individually and for my family). Even when I am all burdened with stress or anxiety, I am called – especially on Sunday – to “let go” and to rest in God, knowing that it is his job (and not mine) to make everything right. Indeed, knowing that I am not God is a great relief, and this fact makes it possible truly to rest! 

 

Now, for a over-scheduled person in our hypermodern world, this is a very strange mindset, is it not? Indeed, it is. Maybe that’s why the New Testament describes us as “strangers and aliens.” Perhaps that is why St. Paul exhorts us to “be transformed by the renewing of our mind” into radically different ways of thinking and living.

 

And as our frenetic, volatile, violent, unsustainable culture teeters along the precipice of its own decline, God’s faithful people are quietly and compellingly modeling a better way to live. A way of rest and peace. A way of faith and festive joy. A way which begins not on the weekend, but on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week. 

By going to church on Sunday, we are not “ruining our weekend.” We are, in fact, saving the world.

 

 

 

 

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Here here!

Great to hear from you, Jason!

I’ve always hated Sunday. But I totally agree with what you say about knowing that we are not God making it possible for us to rest. Maybe I’ll give it another try.

Thanks Lib. Yes, as we have discussed many times, I also had always hated Sunday. Til I began to see it as a “day of rest and gladness” associated with church and feasting (liturgical and otherwise). Certainly all throughout college I hated Sunday.

What I have noticed over the last few years is that if I get “cheated” out of my Sunday festive leisure, or if that somehow doesn’t happen, my whole week sucks: filled with fatigue and frustration. This is how it has been week, in fact.

[…] Question #2: Why ruin my weekend (I need to sleep in on Sunday morning!)? (Sunday as Day of Resurrection.) […]

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