Is Sunday so special?

Previously I have said that sometimes the most effective way to reform Sunday worship services is to pay less attention to them. Here is a word from the apostle Paul:

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. (Galatians 4:8:11)

Elsewhere, in his letter to the Romans, Paul softens this by saying the weak should not judge the strong, that those who consider every day alike should not condemn those who consider one day sacred. But the overall impact seems to be that we should focus on everyday worship, not Sunday worship. What happens for you when you hear that?

8 thoughts on “Is Sunday so special?

  1. Matt,
    I think Paul is making a point about Jewish boundary-markers- that’s kind of what Galatians is about, overall. I don’t think he means that we shouldn’t meet on Sunday.
    Historically, Christians met on Sunday right from the beginning. In fact, the first Christians got up very early and met before work; they didn’t have a “weekend”, and Sunday was a regular work day. It was the Christians’ commemoration of the Resurrection as the launching of the New Creation – the Eighth Day. I know you’ve read NT Wright, and it’s not hard to find him discussing the New Creation angle. It’s extremely meaningful, esp. with Christianity coming from Jewish roots and the fulfilled messianic expectation, etc.
    I can understand why folks may not want to meet on Sunday morning. But there is a real theological reason why Christians should try to meet sometime on Sunday (possibly Sat. night, as the beginning of the day as in Gen. 1). ISTM that the scriptural/ theological reason needs to be brought to the fore, not abandoned.


  2. I would wonder from the context whether there was not cultic service being rendered to beings other than God. I do think that this warning has some application to the idea of Sabbath observance as well. Enslavement to the Law and enslavement to these other beings seem to be linked in St. Paul’s mind in this book and in Colossians.


  3. Dana
    Yes I agree that Paul is primarily attacking the idea that Gentiles should be forced to maintain Jewish boundary markers, that Paul is not opposed to festivals and feastdays per se. And I think that’s why Paul softens the comments elsewhere. Nevertheless I think it should get us questioning how much emphasis should be placed on Sunday. It reminds me of what Jesus said of the sabbath being made for man, not man for the sabbath. Are our Sunday services preparing us for Monday to Saturday service, or are our Sunday services substituting Monday to Saturday service? Is Sunday the pinacle of our weekly (God) worship, or a reversal of our weekly (idol) worship? If our Sundays become a kind of escapism we have real problems.
    And this is where my comments come in. Have our Sundays become too escapist? Are they entrapping us in Churchianity and hindering our Christian service? Is so, getting bogged down in trying to force through stylistic reforms may actually be counter-productive, it may actually be reinforcing Sunday escapism and missional inertia rather than challenging it. In those situations the first steps towards genuine reform may be the counterintuitive move of giving up on Sunday reform … and refocussing on Monday-Saturday reform.


  4. Some of us at my church have been wondering how we ought to reform our Sundays. But the NT doesn’t have too much to say about organised worship, there’s a lot more about all-week worship.


  5. Yes, exactly. I think the answer to boredom is not more entertainment on Sundays but more risk taking on Mondays. Then we might actually have something genuine to sing about.


  6. I do agree that your questions are good, and that Sunday escapism is a real problem. I used to think the issue was *how much* emphasis is placed on Sunday, but now I see that it is more *what kind* of emphasis. If the Christian community ethos is that of service, of bringing the love of Christ to the world every other day of the week, then Sunday will reinforce that rather than substitute for it. That ethos must be made evident; if it’s not there, I agree, that’s a problem.
    NB As for the Sabbath, that’s the 7th day, when God rested, and we should too… I have a friend who says if you work all seven days of the week you *are* a slave. The Sabbath is indeed made for man, because God wants us to be free. But Sabbath is the 7th day. And Sunday is the 8th day, the Day of Resurrection- the radiance and meaning of which is meant to flood the other days, and we’ve strayed from the depth of that meaning.


  7. Constantine made Sunday the official state sacnctioned day of worship for Christians in most parts of the Empire. It was not uncommon forth Century(+/-) Christians to celebrate the Sabbath and worship on a Sunday. A lot of Hebrew Scriptural Traditions are making a come back here in Europe especially, such as tithing and keeping the Sabbath because people are looking for a sense of spiritual direction. I think that the Day of Resurrection is every day not just Sundays because we are to incarnate that in our lives.


  8. I have to wonder how much of that comeback is due to dispensationalism, which seems to elevate the Old Testament over the New at times. I agree everyday should be lived in the light of the resurrection, not just Sundays.


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