The news story about the Lutheran woman who won a case because she didn’t want to be forced to work on Sundays interested me. Here are some thoughts that have been swirling in my mind regarding when we worship and if there are alternatives provided for worshipers. Don’t expect any logical conclusions or logical progressions of ideas here. Hey, I’m Lutheran; I live in the “tension” and in “the question.”
When I was a child, the pastor preached from the pulpit that women shouldn’t work, and people shouldn’t work on Sundays. Well, his wife was a nurse. When they needed her income because their boys would soon be going to college, she went to work. And being a nurse, she often had to work on Sundays. Of course, that was explained away as being one of those necessary jobs.
And, of course, when I was a child, most stores weren’t open on Sundays. Or evenings. People actually had to plan better. And the economy wasn’t as vigorous. I really don’t know how families got their business done. Dad would have taken the car to work, and by the time he was home, mom could shop, but many of the stores were closed.
Sunday worship was a given. Most churches I was aware of had at least two services on Sunday morning, so there was some choice and flexibility. Large churches had many Sunday services.
In the area where I currently live, most of the churches have only one Sunday morning service. My church has toyed with the idea of an alternative worship time for years, but there were always arguments against this, such as the pastor’s preaching not being as fresh, the organist had too far to drive to do it twice; we would lose the “sense of family” which one service provided. [Wednesday evening Lenten services are attended by a committed group of about 50 people.]
Meanwhile, the local Catholic Church with a priest who is already stretched by serving churches in two towns has provided a Saturday alternative mass for years.
And the culture has changed. The Big Box stores opened on Sundays.
The local stores have to be open at least a few hours on Sundays to keep from losing too much business. More restaurants are open on Sundays. Lots of people have developed a tradition of going out to eat after Sunday services. And we pick up groceries of the way home from church, as well. At the grocery store close to church, they have a predictable “Lutheran Hour” as well as a “Baptist Hour.”
We used to have a Sunday School class at church for teens. Now the conventional wisdom is that “they have to work on weekends.”
And people travel more on weekends.
Last year my pastor said to me, “People don’t go to church as much as they used to.” We all know that. But the next weekend, as I was eating in a restaurant on a Sunday morning because I was on my way to my daughter’s concert at a Lutheran College, I suddenly had this light bulb moment. Christians are contributing to this cultural change of people not attending church “because they have to work on weekends.”
That begs several questions for me: Are we commanded to worship on Sundays? Is an alternative worship time acceptable (to God) Biblically? Do our churches serve our populations by providing an alternative worship time?
Two other notes: While surfing some other Lutheran blogs, I ran across opinions about worshiping on other days being wrong. This made me wonder about doctrine of various churches on this point.
I recently received a book in the mail from an acquaintance called, “Ten Commandments Twice Removed” by Shelton and Quinn. This apparently has Seventh Day Adventist overtones, but doesn’t overtly say so. It does promote worship during the OT Sabbath day. On the back cover it says, “Is our defense of the Ten Commandments triggered simply by a sentimental interest of Christian culture? Is it possible the Church stands before God as guilty as our government for discarding the Decalogue?”