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Was Eric Liddell right? Is Sunday special?

September 7, 2011

In my present context one of the biggest issues facing Christians is Sunday worship. With our culture shifting, Sunday is now a day full of opportunities for sport, hobbies and pleasure and if we want to be involved or connect with those who are, then there is a dilemma about church on a Sunday morning. This can put huge pressure on family life particularly when not all in the family would call themselves Christian. I want to think through this issue in my next two blogs. In this blog I want to reflect on whether Sunday should be a special day for worship and in my next blog I want to reflect on the importance or not of a Christian attending weekly worship.

Traditionally Sunday has been seen as a day set apart for Christian worship and therefore a holy day. We meet on Sunday as this is the day Jesus rose again and the day the Spirit came at the first Pentecost. However we have brought in the principle of sabbath, the Old Testament and Jewish holy day, into our understanding of Sunday and have thought of it as being a holy day. In the Old Testament the sabbath was a Covenant drawn up with Israel of what it meant for them to be the people of God. However there is also a suggestion that the sabbath is a Creators design for human beings that he created, the need to rest 1 day in 7.

In the New testament we see in Christ’s demonstration an almost disregard for the Jewish sabbath’s laws and a proclamation that He was Lord of the sabbath. We see that Jesus came to fulfil the sabbath and this is clearly seen in the Churches decision in Acts 15 not to require the keeping of the sabbath by gentile believers. The writer to the Hebrews is not alone, but perhaps most fully gives the reason for this decision. He states that Christ fulfilled the sabbath and that everyone can enter into the rest that the sabbath was pointing to. As Christians we should be living a sabbath every day in the rest we have in Christ. We do not work at our religion, at being right with God, it is something we receive as a gift, a rest received by faith and not by keeping a holy day. As the apostle Paul writes in Colossians “do not let anyone judge you….with regard to a religous festival…a sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.’ (2:17)

Therefore as Christians the way we are to live and worship is to demonstrate that we have found our ‘rest’ in Christ and not in observing laws or traditions or even in a philosophy or pleasure or materialism. When we meet it should be a day of rejoicing in the rest we have found in Christ. I believe it is right that Christians meet weekly for worship (see my next blog) but that it is the Christian communities decision on when that is. In Revelation 1 we read that ‘On the Lord’s day I was in the Spirit’, this may well have been a Sunday, the day we remember that Jesus rose again but another interpretation may be that it was Caesar’s day, a day set aside for the worship of Caesar and John decided to set aside that day for the worship of Jesus. If that is the case in choosing a Sunday we are proclaiming  that rest is not found in recreation, materialism, family but in Jesus. Like wise it is exciting some of the newer churches are worshipping on Saturday night, a night traditionally set aside for getting a high on music and drink.

So in this way Eric Liddell (immortalised in the film Chariots of fire) was right when he refused to run in the 100m olympic final,  he demonstrated that Christ was the most important treasure in his life, and not a gold medal. Could he have run the race showing this as well, probably and therefore these difficult decisions must be made prayerfully and as part of a community of faith and if done in this way we must avoid judging one another. It is interesting more recently Jonathan Edwards the triple jumper did not and then did compete on a Sunday, and from my point of view did both for the glory of Christ.

When we choose to worship is the community of faith’s decision  and I believe most will retain Sunday worship as we proclaim on this day that the resurrection of Jesus is the most important day in history. However as we reach out into a postmodern context we must give the community the right to decide. In practice this can easily lead to a fractured community and perhaps divided community as those of different generations and personalities may feel drawn in different ways on this issue. In my next blog I hope to explore how we can allow this freedom while keeping weekly worship as a priority and a united community of all ages, backgrounds and preferences together as one.

Let us live our lives in a such way that we demonstrate Christ is the one who gives us rest, as we honour him with our time and put him first and as we remember the Creators design that rest for our bodies is important and that neither work or pleasure are our gods.

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