“At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, ‘Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath’…’He said to them, ‘have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.'” (Matthew 12:1-8)
Nurses, doctors, hospitality workers, first responders, and missionaries may have to be “on duty” on the Sabbath. Church leaders and volunteer who serve during services are also working. Most pastors are employed every Lord’s Day. I was on duty many Sundays while serving as a missionary at a children’s center where adults and children were coming and going all day. Looking back about three decades, I was a Realtor and worked every Sunday. Then Jesus transformed me into a new creature, and missing worship was unacceptable. My new love for the Redeemer, who rescued me from condemnation and a self-absorbed life would not be quenched on Sunday mornings to work. So, I quit selling real estate, trusting that God would provide a new occupation. The Lord answered my prayer very quickly; in less than two weeks I was working with the local MLS, Monday through Friday. I write this so those of you who feel similarly will be encouraged to ask for the Lord’s help to be available for worship on Sundays.
However, I confess to you that the reason this has come to mind is that I am not going to be in church Sunday, and I will miss it, especially with my friends at my home church in Texas. I will be visiting with family, who are not Christians. Sunday morning is the only opportunity for us to meet, for the first time in about a year. It would be unwise, frankly, if I neglected my family this particular Sunday while I am in their city for less than twenty-four hours.
Fast forward to ten years later when I was a missionary in Africa. Not always being in church on Sunday was a painful sacrifice for me, because God has kept my love for him burning strongly. I was breaking God’s commandments to worship Him and keep the Sabbath, wasn’t I? But I remembered that my Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath and asked him to give me the one particular thing that makes Sunday so unique for Christians. It wasn’t the pastor’s sermon or the music, which I could listen to online. It’s not being in a church building, as the Pharisees mistakenly thought. Worshipping isn’t about keeping rules legalistically. I missed worshipping with like-minded believers in a community, with my spiritual family and those we love. Jesus was, after all in the grainfields with his disciples, and not sitting in a room watching a screen or in bed listening to a podcast. He was giving a sermon on the Sabbath with his disciples and the Pharisees in the middle of a field. Jesus owns the Sabbath-it’s his possession. He offers us the opportunity to share it with him, as he shares it with his bride, the body of Christ.
Where will you be on Sunday? If you are not in church, what provision have you made to worship with others at another time? As for me, I was privileged to have a time of worship at my conference Saturday with 384 like-minded sisters in Christ. Have you made it your intention to attend worship with other believers?