I’ve been thinking recently about the typical Christian Sunday morning, especially in America. In western society especially, many Christian practices are cultural tradition rather than biblical. And Sunday church is becoming dangerously close to becoming a cultural tradition rather than a biblical Sabbath, if it hasn’t already gotten to that point.
In some really big churches, I see people rushing and driving like madmen/women to get there on time, and then people cutting each other off to get into parking spaces. Then they put on smiles for one another as they enter the church. They sing to the Lord in praise and worship and listen to a message that they can take with them for the next few days (because it never really lasts the whole week, does it?) Then they all rush out to get out of the parking lot before the chaos begins. Because when it does, you have people cutting each other off to get out of the parking lot, giving each other dirty looks, not following the “every-other” rule at T-intersections. And most go back to their regular lives after that.
Obviously this doesn’t apply to every single person in those churches. But how many people does it sound like? If it sounds like even only one, we have a problem on our hands.
In some medium-sized churches, I see people being considerate, giving each other parking spaces, talking to each other outside the church. But then, I see people go inside looking tired and exhausted after a long week, eagerly waiting for the service. And after the songs and message, I see people come out of the church looking exactly the same - tired, exhausted, and unsatisfied.
Obviously this doesn’t apply to every single person in those churches. But how many does it sound like? If it sounds like even only one, we have a problem.
In some small churches, I see community - everyone knows each other, people go to lunch with each other afterward, they grab coffees with each other during the week, and they work together as a fellowship to make the church run. But then, I see people not coming every week. Either they’re busy with other things, or they feel like sleeping in, or they just don’t feel like making the journey to church. None of these things are bad in themselves, but it’s a matter of the heart - can those other things really not wait? Why don’t you want to wake up early in the morning? Why don’t you feel like making the journey?
Obviously this doesn’t apply to every person in those churches. But how many does it sound like? If it sounds like even one, we have a problem.
Here’s my question - do any of these people sound like you? ‘Cause I’ll be honest, they all sound like me at one point of my life or another. I’ve rushed to church like a madman, I’ve entered and exited church exhausted and unsatisfied, and I’ve prioritized anything and everything above even going to church.
Something funny happened this Sunday morning.
Tim was going to an 8:30 service at Beracah (a Cambodian church) while I stayed in to rest a little more and practice guitar to lead worship in a church I’ve been going to recently. We thought we were the only ones in the building, so I told him to lock up and just leave the keys inside where I can get them to get out. He leaves, and I get a text message soon after saying “the keys are in the outer area, didn’t lock the inner gate.”
Ok, pause story real quick - let me give you a little picture of our buliding. There’s the outer-gate, which connects the first half of the restaurant with the outside-world. Parallel to that, there’s the inner-gate, which connects the first half of the restaurant and the second half of the restaurant and guest rooms. So the keys were in the first half of the restaurant, in-between those two gates, with the inner gate being unlocked.
Ok, unpause story - While practicing, I got this feeling that I really wanted to have a true Sabbath - a day of rest, bible reading, and prayer. But I was already responsible for a prior dedication.
So, I get ready to leave, grab the guitar, lock my room door, and go downstairs to leave for church. When I reach the gate, I notice something a little funny - the inner-gate is locked. With the keys about 10 feet away from me. So close, yet so far. I look around past the gate and don’t see any motos or bicycles other than my own and a random bicycle that’s always there. So I’m the only one in the building.
I call Tim in a very frustrated state, saying how the inner gate was locked. He said that he had definitely left it unlocked, but that he’d call our landlord [I don’t have his phone number (but should)] to come let me out. We hang up, and I reminisce on how on earth the inner gate could have gotten locked. And then I remembered…
As I was playing guitar after Tim left, I heard food cooking downstairs. I didn’t think it was odd at all, because I live in a restaurant - someone’s always cooking. But that means that Tim and I weren’t actually the only ones in the building. So, what happened is that they left for church after Tim left, and locked the inner gate - probably assuming that I had left with Tim.
So I go upstairs - wait, ok, pause again. More detail about our building.
So there’s the ground floor which is the restaurant. Go up one flight of stairs, and that’s our guest room and bathroom. Go up another flight of stairs, that’s our kitchen and living room. Go up one more flight of stairs, that’s our landlord and his family’s room.
Ok, unpause - I go upstairs to the kitchen to make some breakfast and cool down, realizing that it wasn’t completely Tim’s fault. I turn up the gas and click on the burner - no fire. I click the knob a few more times - no fire. Then I remembered - our burner had run out of gas a few days ago, and we hadn’t gotten more yet. Sigh.
Then I hear something funny - a phone went off upstairs (in our landlord’s room), as if it had just received a text message… or a voice mail. A few seconds later, I get a text from Tim saying that our landlord isn’t answering his phone. “Seriously?” I thought to myself. Our landlord left/forgot his phone when he went to church.
But somehow immediately after I said “seriously?” to myself, I calmed down. There was no frustration in me. Praise the Lor, because the next thing I did was call Tim. I asked him to ask Joko (who was at Beracah) if he can lead worship at the other church for me. He’s good at doing that stuff on the spot.
So I go down to go into my room, when I notice something funny - my door is locked. I locked it when I first went downstairs.
Ok, quick pause - about how we lock our door. We have one of those door knobs with the push-button lock, and the key can only unlock the door. So we push in the lock from the inside and shut it to lock our door.
K, unpause - I locked my door when I first went downstairs. I thumped my head on the door and let out a big sigh. When all of a sudden, I remember where my landlord keeps the spare keys! So I go down to the restaurant, get the spare keys, and unlock my door. It was a bit of a scare, but ended up working out. Praise the Lord!
So now here I am - locked inside my building, writing this blog. Today, I’m going to have the Sabbath that I wanted and that our good Lord clearly wanted me to have.
So here’s my challenge for you. This coming Sunday, have a Sabbath day rather than a more culturally-acceptable church day. Stay home, find a comfortable spot to spend most of your day, and pray and read your bible. It’s not supposed to be something you discipline yourself to do, so try to stay away from that mentality. The Sabbath is a gift, and it’s meant to be a time of rest in Jesus. A time for you to encounter the Lord and be refreshed.
Matthew 11:28-29 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Remember what Sunday is supposed to be, and what church is supposed to be. Keep the Sabbath day holy. God bless you! :)