Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Sunday Evening Worship Tradition

The following post is actually a letter just sent to the editor of our local newspaper. I don't know if it will actually get printed. But I mention this only to explain the flavor and consistency of this little dish. It certainly lacks the depth and diversity of a full dinner. Space restrictions in local newspapers greatly impact what the menu can offer. Some will likely find even this tiny morsel a bit tough to chew and difficult to swallow. Others will consider it a virtual culinary catastrophe. But if I do nothing more than stir within someone a deeper desire to plunge into the scullery of Scripture and create a more robust regale, I will consider my labors worthwhile. Bon appetit!

Traditions. They are the sweet fragrances of the past casting forward with fond memories the rich aroma of days gone by. Many reading this letter will remember fondly the tradition of morning and evening worship on the Lord’s Day. Sundays were special. Shoppes and stores were closed and only those employments of absolute necessity or mercy were generally engaged in. Life slowed down on Sunday in a sort of humble reflection of our very Redeemer and Creator’s rest. But times have changed. Gone are the days of the “Closed – See you in Church” signs in business windows. Gone, for many, are the days of a warm home-cooked Sunday afternoon meal with friends and family gathered around a table at which Scripture was read, sermons discussed, and catechisms recited. And gone, it would appear, is the long standing tradition of Sunday evening worship. Of course, for many, the idea of any Sunday worship has been sadly forgotten. But today my heart and thoughts go out to those who remember the time when the curtain on this spiritual “Market Day” was closed by gathering with the people of God to worship, sing, and give thanks to the Lord.

This letter is written to encourage my neighbors in Upton and the Blackstone Valley to re-establish this helpful tradition from our past. Immanuel Chapel in Upton, MA has a Sunday evening worship service at 6:00PM. If your church cannot offer an evening service, would you consider coming to join us? You will hear the gospel of Jesus Christ - that glorious heaven-born provision for sinners like you and I - preached and proclaimed with passion, faithfulness and love. You can join us in singing psalms and the best hymns of our past and present; rich in content and penetrated throughout with holy affection and zeal for the Lord. But most importantly, Sunday evening worship offers us the opportunity to close this first day of the week in the worship and the presence of the Most High God. Psalm 92 is entitled a “Song for the Sabbath Day” and in it we read “It is good to give thanks to the Lord…to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, and your faithfulness every night.”

I am under no illusion that beginning this tradition again will be easy. For some it may seem utterly impossible. But for those who sense the value of Sunday evening worship, and desire to commit this time to the Lord, allow me to offer a few brief words of encouragement and advice. First, let me assure you that it can be done. I am married, and a father of four children with busy lives, hoards of homework, countless commitments, and insane schedules. It is only by the grace of God that it happens, and I give Him all the glory, but He has enabled us to worship together as a family on Sunday morning and evening all the years of their lives. Second, let the Lord know the desire of your heart. Do you want to worship Sunday evening…but simply do not see how to do it? Bring this request to the Lord, and keep bringing it, until He shows you a way. Psalm 37:5 says “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.” Third, plan for it. Think ahead to Sunday. What are you going to be doing at 6:00PM? Can you adjust your meal time, your shopping, your family events, or your work schedule? It is a piece of time-trusted wisdom that those who “fail to plan, plan to fail.” Proverbs says that “the plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty.” And I would pray that the Lord blesses your plans and leads you to worship Him on Sunday evenings, for He is worthy to be praised.

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