Editor’s Note: This article was originally given by Mr. Vink as an after-recess program in the Sr. Mr. and Mrs. Society of First Church. I trust that you will find, as I did, that although the examples are local, the concern expressed is universal. Jon Huisken
“If because of the Sabbath, you turn your foot, From doing your own pleasure on My holy day, And call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord honorable, And shall honor it, desisting from your own ways, From seeking your own pleasure, And speaking your own word, Then you will take delight in the Lord, And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth: And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 58:13-14 New American Standard Bible
I would like to look at two aspects of our public observance of the Sabbath – the liturgy and practice in our worship services and our own attitudes upon entering the Lord’s House.
During the past several years, we have observed a number of changes in our public worship. Among these are:
– change in doxology
– several changes in the observance of the Lord’s Supper: elders partaking in unison, minister serving the elders, wine poured from the cup, organ music during the serving of the bread and wine to the congregation
– deacons and now elders sitting with their families during the service
– nursery during the morning service
-change in the time of the evening service
– serving coffee in church after the evening service and before a program
More changes have and are being discussed, such as:
– silent prayer in unison
– Psalter revision and/or use of hymns in the service
– choir or special music in the service
– responsive readings or other means of vocal congregational participation in the service
The thing that struck me when I read Isaiah 58 was – for whose pleasure were these changes effected- ours or the Lord’s?
Not too many years ago, it was common practice to have a “Sunday suit.” One wore a conservative, dark-colored suit and white shirt with a starched collar or, in the case of the women, a conservative dress which pretty well covered the torso and its various appendages. It was practically unthinkable for a lady to go to church without a hat.
This sabbath practice, too, has changed. While I would readily agree that “clothes do not the man make”, I do feel that what we wear and how we act and what we say are all revelations of our attitude toward and our respect of the Lord’s House. I have observed, somewhat askance, turtlenecks, rather extremely tailored and vividly hued clothes which would do justice to a preening rooster strutting about the barnyard, pants suits, hot pants, and other scanty attire in church. I wonder whether this “modern” practice represents rebellion, a spirit of independence, women’s liberation, irreverence, disdain for things holy or what?
Would I like to legislate our church or school dress? No, but I do feel that all of this represents what Prof. R. Decker in a speech termed “creeping compromise.” I would hope that as God’s children we might exercise a “sanctified judgement” toward these things. We are doing our part to introduce the vanities of the world around us even into our worship service.
Think back to the time of Israel. The Israelites had to observe all kinds of rules with respect to their worship, prescribed dress, removing of shoes, cleanliness, even abstaining from the marriage relationship. While we are no longer bound by these laws, we might do well to examine our own attitudes toward our deportment in the Lord’s House. In my observation, we are sometimes more concerned and more careful about our appearance and deportment when we attend a concert or some other public event than when we enter church. We would do well to remember in whose house we are and to what purpose, and for whose pleasure.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” Philippians 4: 8-9