The Sunday rituals of the church goers in America is very interesting to say the least. Growing up in Texas in the 80’s and 90’s gave me a front row seat to the pageantry that was Sunday service. I remember getting up early to ensure we were dressed appropriately. We were required to have a full suit. We were also required to wear a tie. To this day I cannot stand ties! We would arrive at church and be whisked away to Sunday School where we were usually given a lesson and a snack, no of which I really remember. The adults would go to their Sunday School lesson, after which came the celebration service.
A Ritual to the Glory of Self
Everyone in their true Sunday best would sing songs, competing for who sounded the best or who praised hardest. This was followed by an hour and a half long sermon. As my nose did touch and go’s with my open bible the people would respond with amen after amen. But the real pageant would begin after service at the restaurant. I remember the church going out to Jim’s and taking up multiple tables. What I did not understand at the time was the pecking order. The most influential sat with the pastor, and the rest sat in “general population.”
The thing that really rubs me the wrong way about those times, now almost 30 years ago is the fact that all of the dressing up, jockeying for position and outlandish praise wasn’t to worship God. It was to showcase to the outside world how great we praised God. Church wasn’t about God, it was about how people perceived we worshipped God. Simply put, it was a praise competition and Jesus wasn’t even really invited, he was simply the theme of the competition.
The Importance of Thin Places
This was not how the early Celtic Christians viewed The Lords Day. The Celts believed in the concept of Thin Places. Thin places are times and locations where the divide between the spiritual and the physical is most thin. The Lords Day was considered such a place and time. The following is a poem from the Carmina Gadelica about The Lords Day.
THE poem of the Lord’s Day, O bright God,
Truth under the strength of Christ always.
The water of the Lord’s Day mild as honey,
Whoso would partake of it as drink.
Would obtain health in consequence,
From every disease afflicting him.
Far or near be the distance,
Every creature needs attention.
To allow a boat under her sail from land,
From land to the country of her unacquaintance.
Whoso would meditate my lay,
And say it every Monday eve,
The luck of Michael would be on his head,
And never would he see perdition.
A Celtic View of Sunday
What is striking to me about this understanding of The Lords Day is the fact that it is God’s day, given to us for the enjoyment of God and Gods creation. The day was simply about God, not about us. The Celts viewed this time as a sacred place to meet God, not compete over who worshipped God best. It was a time of reflection and drawing near to the personhood of God.
I think in the Western Church we do on Sunday, what we should be doing all through the week. Worshipping God in word and deed, eating and praying together as well as pouring through the knowledge of Scripture. These are not things that should be boxed into a packaged worship service for two hours on a Sunday, this is a way of life.
Sunday should be a time to personally draw near to God in the thin place of the Lords Day. Personal reflection and rest while close to the Almighty is a thing we need in the modern world. Instead of focusing on others seeing how good we worship on Sunday, maybe we could focus on showing God a true desire to draw near in the thin place God gave us. For this is where true rest is found.
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