Never on a Sunday - by CID
Text copied with
permission from "Clarion",
Volume 25, No. 7 (1976)
Remember this old song? Although it intrigues me, l just can't remember why that kiss was not permitted on Sunday. But it does seem that the writer of the song thought the Sunday to be some special day
. . . . A special day? Somehow I have the uneasy feeling that for many people the Sunday is not so special anymore, at least not in the sense it once was. Moreover, I have the proof that for many so-called Reformed people the Sunday is being neglected in an alarming measure. And what worries me most is that also in our churches there seems to be an increasing depreciation of the Day of the Lord, perhaps more than we'll admit to. Never on a Sunday, in the Scriptural sense, is not so common anymore in our midst.
In most denominations this appalling apathy towards the Lord's Day is due to a weakened sense of norms, in turn caused by spineless sermons in which ministers do not dare to lay it on the line. If the Word of God is not being preached diligently in fullness, then, of course, the Law of gratitude will meet growing depreciation.
In the sixties, our sister-churches in The Netherlands have known quite a conflict concerning the fourth commandment and the significance of the Sunday in the life of the church. Giving rise to this conflict were statements to the effect that the "sabbath is not an ordinance of God from the beginning of the world, but only an institution for Israel" (G. Visee in Opbouw, 1963). And behind all this was the misleading teaching that the whole Mosaic law (including the 10 commandments!) was fulfilled by Christ and THEREFORE abolished, and that we now have only the obligation to ' follow Christ" in the love towards God and the neighbour. However, it was pointed out "fulfilling" does not mean "abolishing" (Matthew 5:17), and such undifferentiated teaching only disrupts the life of the church. In the end our sister-churches rejected such an interpretation of the law's significance for our life today (Synod of Hoogeveen, 1969).
In many Synodical churches in The Netherlands the ten commandments are no longer read in the morning services as an accepted part of the regular liturgy. Is that the reason behind the rather spectacular statistics which ! recently came across in NEDERLANDS DAGBLAD concerning the Sunday? A recent analysis of church attendance has shown that "while the attendance of the morning service is stabilizing, the afternoon services are being neglected more and more."
The survey - done by Dr. J. Hendriks of the Pastoral Theology department at the Free University of Amsterdam -points out that church attendance started to decline sharply after 1960. There has even been a decrease in attendance up to 54%, i. e. more than half of the members still attending twice in 1960 only go once now. As reasons for this decline are given: changed attitudes towards faith, doctrinal conflicts in the church, and more desire to "go out" on Sunday.
Well, we haven't had any outright conflict about the Law or the Sunday in our churches, and I'm sure the 10 commandments are still being read every Sunday-morning in our congregations. Weekly we hear the words, ' Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. " In this respect we are still very fortunate.
How come, then, that I keep hearing these stories about diminishing attendance also in our afternoon services, and this especially during the summer months? Okay, in most churches we have established ' oncers" and all the admonishing in the world doesn't seem to change them one bit, spiritual lazybones. Looking around, in my local situation the afternoon service is indeed less beloved than the morning one. And in a church I recently attended elsewhere, the afternoon produced slightly more than half the participants of the morning. No kidding, at least 45% less. Must really have been a " black Sabbath."
I tried to figure out, where have all the flowers gone? Even Houdini would be impressed with this disappearing act. Church visitation elsewhere? I heard that other local churches couldn't report a noticeable increase. Baby-sitting? Perhaps, but c'mon, here and there whole families were missing, and you don't need six people to baby-sit one baby; I call that "baby-crushing". Besides, with morning and afternoon nurseries in most churches, staying at home to watch junior should be a last resort, not a first excuse. Holidays? Fine, but how do same people manage holidays all summer long. Weekend trips to go hunting, canoeing, fishing? How is it that the fish always seem to bite better on Sunday?
l wonder, have we become somewhat perfidious since we have become somewhat prosperous?
l wonder, have we become somewhat perfidious since we have become somewhat prosperous? Like Israel in Canaan, taking it all in, but giving so little in return. Moses warned them aforehand, "But Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked, then he forsook God Who made him and scoffed at the rock of his salvation" (Deuteronomy 32:15).
Is it true that for an increasing number of our people the Sunday is not fully a special day anymore and that church-attendance TWICE each Lord's Day is no longer a FACT but a QUESTION. If it is, this is the beginning of the end, for the heart of church life beats in the public worship on the Day of the Lord.
Another example. If we buy summer cottages, why does it have to be in a remote area, at least far away from any Canadian Reformed Church? If we go on annual vacations, why must it be in a place where there is no church with which we have fellowship. Attending church DILIGENTLY, as we promised at our confession - doesn't seem to be an undoubted rule anymore.
And don't sell me the line that the Bible doesn't command us to go to Church TWICE each Sunday. "Keeping it holy" does mean FULLY sanctifying it in the service of God. As the Psalm-writer said "I was glad when they said, Let us go to the house of the Lord" (Psalm 122:1). And the writer to the Hebrews admonishes the church not to "neglect to meet together, as is the HABIT of some . . . " (Hebrews 10:25). They must have had oncers and noncers already in those days.
If the fourth commandment does not function positively, as a blessing, for us and our children and everyone connected with us, we're in trouble. If the Lord and His service are not in the CENTRE of attention and we do not find joy and strength in that service, we're even in deeper trouble.
The Lord gives us a day off so that we will be busy with Him. It is a day of rest from ALL our work, so that we find our true rest in the mighty works of God in Christ.