It’s another Sunday in that time of the year. The overflow in the Kainji Dam accounts for the improvement in nationwide electricity supply, contrary to belief in the effect of a new political administration. Yea, the rainy season is well and truly upon us in this part of the world (sorry, no Winter or Spring here), and movement would ordinarily be restricted, but not on this day of the week. It’s the day of the Lord, the day people (should) rest from their day jobs and spend two (or three, or seven) hours communing with the Creator.
The skies begin to weep, but people in these parts are seldom deterred by wet conditions. They just have to get to church; they cannot afford to miss out on the motivational speeches, prophecies and laying on of hands that would last them for another six days. For them, their clothes get soaked to the glory of the Lord, and (for those who would get drenched for lack of a means of transport besides their feet), Pneumonia is a divine visitation.
For me, it’s a different kind of Sunday service. The weather preaches to me, and the sounds made by these raindrops as they hit the ground are enough to serve as a sermon for the day. The winds remind me of His presence, something that transcends the largest of basilicas, and has nothing to do with where we dress up to on days like this. The clouds get darker but the sky remains, and if that does not display the perennial nature of God’s love in spite of any and every situation, I don’t know what will. The rain descends at a turbulent pace and without warning, and I don’t see a better way for Nature to explain how God’s blessings fall on us at His own time, and how His gifts are without repentance. He wraps us in His love firmer than any blanket ever would, and in this cold world we live in, His Word goes farther in soothing our souls than cups of tea.
Well, no one can read my mind, least of all Sister Deborah, my widowed neighbour from the other end of the street. I see how she looks at me scornfully as she heads out to church, and how she points at me as she speaks to her three children, Jehoshaphat, Bathsheba and Habakkuk. She is probably telling them that they should never subscribe to my choice of staying indoors today, that I am a sinner, that if I die that day I would definitely end up in the fiery Lake.
Deborah is not alone in her ideology. We have all expressed it at one time or the other; that look we give to the guy who says “pray for me” as he plays Football while we head out to Sunday service, those thoughts we harbour about our grand-parents who have stopped going to church, that condescending manner with which we speak to our non church-going university roommate when we return from fellowship with an overdose of Holy Ghost anointing.
But then, who stipulated that Sunday be set aside as the day of worship? God, or man? See, this is the issue I have with the Church….for all its good intention, it appears to fall into the temptation of assuming the role of God every now and then. The Church is the bride of Christ, and when it tries to play the role of a groom, the essence of our faith is defeated. All of a sudden, not dressing up to some large, well-decorated building on a particular day of the week marks you out as a candidate for Eternal Damnation!
Those who tongue-lynch others for failing to show up to the chapel on Sunday forget that before Christ, the Sabbath which God referred to was actually Saturday, and that was the day observed as the Sabbath by the Early Church after the death of Christ. Heck, the Italian word for Saturday is “Sabato”. The resurrection, according to manuscripts, took place on the “first day of the week”, which we know to be Sunday (The issue of whether Jesus actually rose up from the dead after three full days, or rather after three 12-hour days, is one for another discourse.) Then again, shifting the day of synagogue worship from seventh to first day wasn’t part of the Great Commission, was it?
The “assembly of the brethren” which we are urged not to forsake in the Letter to the Hebrews cannot and does not specifically refer to Sunday. Nowhere was it stated in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles that “the disciples only gathered on the first day of the week”. All that was recorded was that the disciples gathered now & then to share scripture & break bread…that day could have been a Saturday, a Monday or even a Thursday.
With an in-depth study of church history, one would find, maybe surprisingly, that Sunday was fixed as the Christian day of worship in a bid to “Christianize” the pagan worship of the sun-god round the Roman Empire, which also fell on that day. It was Constantine, widely known as the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity, who in the 4th century A.D, first imposed Sunday as a day of rest. The Church subsequently placed its stamp on Sunday being the day of worship in the Council of Laodicea. In essence, the idea of Sunday worship was created by man, and when we try to make divine assessment of one another based on human tradition, it calls for a rethink.
After all, aren’t we “guilty” of “running foul” of the 3rd (or 4th) commandment when we fail to gather for worship on Saturdays? Can we confidently say that we keep the actual Sabbath day holy, considering what many do and where they go on Saturday evenings? (I am not trying to draw an inference that clubbing is sin, I’m just saying.) Shouldn’t the Seventh-Day Adventists be considered as the only true Christians?
We all refer to the concept of Grace and Justification every now and then, and if that be the case, then we have to stop verbally stoning and condemning the non-Sunday subscribers, or those who don’t feel the need to engage in divine conversations on any day of the week. Jesus didn’t, and it is only right that we all follow his example.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not a call for Christians to switch from Sunday to Saturday, nor is it an attempt to justify skipping church. This is only my way of saying our focus should be on the purpose rather than the day, on the presence rather than the location. By accepting salvation, we put on a divine nature and possess the mind of Christ, and if that is so, then we are each our own sanctuary, each our own temple, each our own church. Ultimately, it is not how we converge in large structures, but how our hearts assemble into the Saviour.
So, there, stop labelling people “pagans” and hurling them in your own Lake of Fire on the basis of a day stipulated by men. Sunday, Friday or No-day, Jesus loves us anyway….let the pillows say Amen!!