I had lunch yesterday with a woman from my former church. She is a dear lady, and we have shared many moments of authentic fellowship in the past. At that meeting, though, we stayed away from the topic of "church" (which is fine, as we have some conflicting ideas around what that term means). She did, however, ask me what I now did on Sundays. Did I get together with others? I know she was asking me how I marked the Sabbath in terms of a set apart "worship" time. I was a bit unsure of what to say, but just said that no, I do whatever I do on Sunday, but meet with others 2 or 3 times during the rest of the week. I explained my hope to at some point be meeting with others on a Sunday.
This has got me to thinking about the Sabbath. I have heard some teaching around the "Lord's Day" being a day to set apart. There are varying opinions regarding how we should keep to the Mosaic Law's interpretation of keeping that day holy. Everyone has their own convictions around that. At this point in time, I am in the process of re-learning a lot of "church" stuff that I once took for granted, and keeping the Sabbath is surely one of them.
I recently learned that in Old Testament times, the Pharisees and other law makers of the day added 1500 "extra" (not from God) laws around the one commandment that God gave to keep the Sabbath day holy. I'm sure we can all testify of many modern day man-made regulations that we have attached to this law. Today, the most widely accepted means of keeping the Sabbath would be to attend church.
I have to admit that for the first little while after I stopped "attending", I felt a bit strange on Sunday mornings. Before, I would have been at 3 services each Sunday; two in the morning and one in the evening. Even though this took up most of my day, and my husband didn't attend with me, I felt compelled to go. Even though many other denominations had only one service on that day, the fact that my church had 3 was enough reason for me to faithfully attend all of them. And truth be told, most of the time I truly wanted to . But there were many times, expecially near the end of my time there, that I really didn't want to. Times I would have loved to skip the first service and enjoy a leisurely coffee time with my husband. Times I was tired, and overwhelmed at the thought of going back to work the next day, and really should have stayed home and given myself time to prepare for the week ahead.
The compulsion I felt to go was very strong, and if I stayed home on a Sunday night, I would still feel that I should at least listen to a sermon, or do some extra Bible reading or study during that time. For instance, if I stayed home and did some badly needed catch-up on my ironing, I felt justified somehow if I listened to a taped sermon while I did it. That almost made up for two things: missing church and doing ironing on a Sunday.
I look back with sadness on the perceptions I had then of what God expected of me. The reality is that I wasn't really doing what He wanted. I was doing what tradition and the attitude of the leadership and membership of my church required. It was implied, and said directly from the pulpit, that to be a faithful "member" of that body, one should attend as many services as possible. Especially important was the Breaking of Bread service. Those who didn't attend that were perceived as not quite as "spiritual" as the rest of us.
Hebrews 10:25 states that we should not stop "assembling" together, but we should meet to encourage one another. I would never want to stop meeting with other Christians. In all my years of church going, the best times were still when I met with another believer for lunch or coffee, and we just shared with each other our zeal and experience of Christ in our lives. That is what this verse means to me. It doesn't mean a bunch of us sitting in an auditorium listening to one man talk about God. It means being with others and sharing the life of Christ that is in each one of us. Sitting mute in a pew does not allow for this exchange. And as far as worship goes, well I think we all know it is not meant to mean only that one hour a week when we stand and sing hymns, and sit and listen to a sermon. It has to be a whole heart, whole life attitude.
"The woman said to Him, 'Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.'
Jesus said to her, 'Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.
You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers.
God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.'" John 4:19-24
Jesus spoke these words 2000 years ago. He said that the hour "now is." How much more should we now be seeking to know how to worship in spirit and in truth.