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Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sunday Sickness

For most of us, if we are sick on Sunday morning, we abandon any hopes of worship and curl up in front of our favorite movie. Some will watch one of the preachers on TV, and after that curl up in front of their favorite movie. I’m assuming the movie thing to be common, if you haven’t noticed. If you’re very sick, there’s little else you can do, after all.

I think it’s good for a person to strive to honor the Lord’s Day even when under the weather. Not to say that it’s wrong to watch a movie at some point – this isn’t a post on the Sabbath in general, though I might give some thoughts on that later. But it is the Sabbath we are talking about, which the Lord has given for our blessing, and we should strive to honor it.

It is easy for us to assume that everything’s a wash if we can’t “go to church”. But one’s relationship with Christ isn’t so bound with the church and her ministry that one can’t continue in fellowship with Christ when Providence prevents our joining with others in public worship. We need to recover in our lives the reality that Communion with God and the Communion of the Saints extend beyond the one hour we spend together on Sunday morning. It also extends in worship beyond whether or not we are physically in the presence of one another. This isn’t to be used as an excuse for not attending public worship, though. Our Lord set up the church, her worship, and her leaders, as being essential to our salvation, and we don’t have the freedom to disregard it according to whatever suits us. Nonetheless, there are occasions (and for some people, the better part of a lifetime) when we are hindered from participating in these things in the way that God generally intended them to be. In those situations, we need to actively pursue the worship of God in whatever other ways that we legitimately can. This is especially true on Sunday.

There are many ways of doing this, but here are just a couple of suggestions specific to Sunday. For one, there is private worship. Those of us who grew up in Fundamentalism with its insistence upon a legalistic observance of a “Daily Quiet Time” will grow a little nervous at the mention of this. But we shouldn’t allow our freedom from legalism to keep us from freely worshipping God in private. I will not let the legalists control me, nor will I let my freedom give opportunity to my fleshly tendency toward selfishness and laziness. I draw from many traditions of the church for private worship, but try to spend time familiarizing myself sufficiently with a tradition before using their resources so as not to overly complicate things. In other words, don’t be afraid to draw from different prayerbooks or service books, but don’t complicate things to the point that you’re just playing around and not worshipping. Or you can pray straight through a liturgy, like the Morning Prayer service from the Book of Common Prayer. If all this is a bit bizarre to you, then just pray, and read and meditate on the Scriptures. Pray through a Psalm or two. Pray the Lord’s Prayer. Read an entry from a good daily devotional, like C. H. Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. There are many things you can do. I would recommend not turning it into a study time, though. Leave the Strong’s Concordance on the shelf. Worship isn’t about downloading more information into your brain, though there might be an aspect of learning to it.

Another thing you can do on a Sunday morning is to watch a worship service online. I’m sure there are others besides this, but I watch the liturgy of one of the Greek Orthodox churches online. Here is the link to the website of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of America, and here is the link directly to the page showing the different live worship services you can watch. It isn’t the same as being with other believers and worshipping with them. And the service is partially in Greek, so you won’t understand everything unless you speak Greek. But half or more of it is in English, so you can watch the liturgical action of the service and still receive the blessing that only hearing the Word (as opposed to reading) can provide. This is also a good way of exposing oneself to the Eastern Christian tradition which, while I have disagreements with elements of it, I think has much that can only help us as we reflect upon it and compare it with Scripture and our own traditions.

All of this is by way of suggestion. If you have a fever, stay in bed and try to break it, for crying out loud. Listen to a CD of hymns, maybe. Whatever you do, do what you can reasonably do. Don’t give up, but don’t beat yourself up over your circumstances, either. God alone is sovereign.

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