I often wonder suspiciously about worshiping communities that gather outside of the Lord’s Day. I wrestle with calling it lazy or uncommitted. Perhaps it is no big deal. I have strong initial feelings on this matter. I get all emotional and stuff.
I would contend to those that gather as a worshiping community outside of the Lord’s Day weakens the symbolic meaning which is proclaimed in the reassembly of the body of Christ. We gather to worship on the Lord’s Day as part of the incarnation that is the Word and flesh present in these days, visible among us. We gather on the Lord’s Day to celebrate and worship the all encompassing body of the risen Lord as his body. As Allen states in his essay entitled, Lord’s Day-Lord’s Supper, “This we might say, reversing current and somewhat conventional wisdom, that is not the case that “Sunday is a little Easter,” but rather that “Easter is a big Sunday”…” Allen enforces the idea of a celebration of what Jesus Christ did for humanity upon rising from death’s grip. Absent the symbolic meaning of the Lord’s Day we fall into the trap of offering another product to be consumed by this material culture we exist in. The gathering symbolizes the radical call to which Christ exemplifies. Preparing us and compelling us to go out into the world and share the “good news”.
It is important for the body of believers to gather and celebrate the Lord’s Day in conjunction with the Lord’s Supper as it provides the very foundation for our salvation and the basic construct of our faith. Worshipping on indiscriminate days lessens the intended purpose of the Gathering. Every week we are to both gather and proclaim to the world that Christ died and rose to reach out to humanity, a fallen creation.
I understand and affirm the desire to reach out to a community of saints that has yet to accept, believe, or submit to this amazing and powerful reality. I ask that we consider the intent with the reality. We do have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters, as we all are created in God’s image and we all are depraved. Let us accept this responsibility with an active participation.
If we are to celebrate and proclaim the gospel to those who hunger for it, are we serving them properly if we offer a watered down version of why we believe or how we celebrate? How are we serving if we bring members to feed from a diet of cultural consumerism? We have an obligation to recreate the true reality which is offered by Christ and lived by the body via the Holy Spirit.
How can we in a postmodern context speak of a faith based not in proclamations accented with fancy taglines, bright colored packaging, and a complete list of ingredients? Faith is the one ingredient that brings authority, revelation, and infallibility into sync. It is the one ingredient that is the most difficult to produce. A present and hungry desire to believe in something “more” is seeking a home. How do we speak to a generation of hurting, mistrusting, longing souls? We demand evidence, productivity, and quantification. We want the incarnate Christ that bears the pain that we bear. The Jesus not of public access or gilded halls, we want the Jesus that dares us to be free and calls us to live for the other.
Traditions and ritual bind us to those that have come before us. This is not to say that tradition and ritual supersede scripture as authority; rather it is to say that tradition and ritual provide the framework to understand and mature in the Holy Spirit as we gain faith and seek understanding. With this we must also dare not hold too tight to these precooked idols, just waiting to be heated and served.
I offer we serve this world best as we create and serve space for creatures to journey in faith towards the divine. How this looks is not formulaic nor is it a thing you just add some of this or that too. We must not water down the gospel message. We must not water down our traditions or rituals. We must not judge outsiders entering the sacred space we also inhabit. We like the workers in the fields; it does matter when you arrive in the vineyard to work. The manager pays we they will.
We should keep worship service on the Lord’s Day. Is it possible in this consuming culture, seeking mass to find evidence, production, and reality in a watered down encounter with God? The fulfillment they seek, the evidence they hunger for can be offered in relationship with those that seek humbly and in community the divine presence of God in Christ. We support the stranger in our midst as the community is educated and readied to be witnesses to the radical life changing power of Christ. In tradition and ritual we are sharpened as we wrestle with such things and how they ought to be performed.
A mentor of mine shared with me this statement, “You can build a church with seekers of the truth, but you cannot build a church with possessors of the truth!” I agree with this statement. We must stop the commodification of Christ. Christ is to be consumed only in reverence and understanding of what his actions mean. It is my prayer that we may become a more effective tool in combating this consumer culture of ours. We must reflect upon what we proclaim in the tradition of the Lord’s Day and the subsequent practice of Christianity. The ideas I offer are invalid if they are received and commoditized. It is my goal to offer an alternative voice to the consumption of Christ. It is my greatest hope and my constant prayer that as we gather we encounter God in ways that inspire us to reach out to this world and be transformed into the radical calling that is modeled by our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.
· Miller, Vincent J. Consuming Religion: Christian Faith & Practice in a Consuming Culture Continuum International Publishing Group New York, New York
· Presbyterian Church, USA Book of Common Worship Westminster John Knox Press Louisville, Kentucky
· Presbyterian Church, USA Book of Order The Office of the General Assembly Louisville, Kentucky