October 04, 2023
Do Christians actually prepare to worship God on the weekend? David and Karen Mains discuss the very real need to prepare for the privilege we have to join with other believers in a time of worship with this suggestion: “People who prepare themselves ahead of time are most likely to experience the miracle of Christ’s presence in His church.”
We believe the number is not that large of those who prepared themselves to experience the miracle of the presence of the risen Jesus Christ.
David: Two people go to the same church on a Sunday morning. One speaks about experiencing a marvelous sense of the Lord’s presence. The other leaves church in pretty much the same mood as when he or she came. Kind of, “I’ve been there done that.”
Karen: How come there’s this dark difference? That’s our agenda for this visit and thank you for joining us.
Intro: Welcome to the Before We Go Podcast featuring Dr. David Mains and his wife noted author Karen Mains. Here’s David and Karen Mains.
David: Let’s stay Karen at the outset that we don’t have a pat presentation that is going to fit every listener’s situation, okay?
Karen: Yeah, for example, some people habitually arrive in church late.
David: Yeah, it’s not a lot of times I think there are people who arrive in a bad mood. Maybe mean words were spoken in the car on the way to the sanctuary.
Karen: And more than a few church goers were up quite late on Saturday night. These folk didn’t get a good night’s sleep and most have a hard time staying awake in the service.
David: Some men have gotten themselves much more emotionally psyched to watch football on Sunday afternoon than to attend church on Sunday morning.
Karen: That’s really true. We believe the number is not that large of those who prepared themselves to experience the miracle of the presence of the risen Jesus Christ.
David: So how does a person prepare himself or herself to experience this reality of Christ’s presence in his church? I think that that’s an area where I can still improve. How about you?
Karen: Well, I think the COVID years have knocked a lot of the things. We didn’t go to church, you know, for almost two years. Just think about the Sunday society when you were a boy. Stores were closed. We didn’t have shopping malls that were open.
You know, things stopped on Sunday and that encouraged a sense of resting or renewing or taking time off, but we don’t have that in our culture at all.
David: There was a film here and it came out. 1981 was the release date. Eric Little was the name of the person, as I recall. He was the missionary kid. His folks were missionaries in China. They were Scottish. He was a runner.
Karen: Olympic runner.
David: Yeah, 1924 was the Paris Olympics.
David: And Eric Little was really thrilled about being able to go and run. And then he found out that his race was to be run on Sunday and he wasn’t going to do that. I mean, now that almost sounds silly, doesn’t it?
Karen: It sounds so unusual. I mean, who would do that these days?
David: The film actually is a very wonderful film. A lot of people remember it. Chariots of Fire. It was named the best film of the year. I do know that I’ve seen the film not recently, but several times watched it. And now I’m thinking, what a different world that was.
Now you can hardly even identify with him because, put it this way, in Old Testament Scripture, God is very, very concerned that his people keep the Sabbath. Now, we are not Jewish, but the point of the thing is, he is just as concerned, I’m sure, as to people keeping Sunday, Holy. And we’re losing that.
David: It’s become a secular day.
Karen: Right. Let’s go back to some of those scriptures. If you don’t mind.
Isaiah 58:13 and 14 says, “If you call the Sabbath a delight, if you honor it, not going your own way, then you shall take delight in the Lord.” Now, there’s a result of that. That’s the very topic we’re talking about.
How do we experience Christ’s presence when we’re in church? One other. “You shall rejoice in your feast,” that would be the Sabbath feast. “You and your son and your daughter,” and that’s from Deuteronomy. So, this was just a huge Old Testament principle. In fact, the Ten Commandments says that you were to honor the Lord’s Day and keep it holy.
David: All through the Old Testament God expresses through his prophets the importance of people not breaking the Sabbath, doing their work on the Sabbath. God has very strong feelings about it. Seven days a week, you’re a worker. And one day a week, as my special people, you will be worshippers.
Karen: And give that day to me. But that also is the day that he wants them to refresh and enjoy one another and not be consumed with the needs of the workplace.
Let me talk a little bit about something that we experienced. When we were leaving the church we had planted in the inner city of Chicago, we were there for ten years. You were the senior pastor. When we were going to take up the responsibilities of the Chapel of the Air Ministry, that congregation, see their average age was about 26 years of age, gave us this wonderful gift. This love gift for both of us to go together to Israel, which is something that had sort of been a dream you would have to visit the Holy Land. And so instead of a Christian tour, which is sort of important to Christianity into Israel, which is Jewish. We decided we would take an El Al tour. We were the only non-Jewish people on the tour bus.
David: The people were wonderful.
Karen: It was a ten-day trip. And they were just wonderful and warm. We just loved them. We began to hear on Wednesday, where will Shabbat be?
David: They were asking questions.
David: Tour guide.
Karen: Yeah, where are we going to celebrate Shabbat? You know, it just came up a lot. And we were going to be in Tel Aviv on that Friday.
David: Sabbath starts at sundown.
David: Most people, in our surroundings, would say Sabbath would be Saturday. And it is Saturday. But Sabbath starts at sundown.
Karen: Friday. So, they lovingly invited us to attend their Sabbath meal with them.
Karen: And that’s part of the Jewish Sabbath tradition. You include other people. You invite, you exercise hospitality. And so, we went through the whole ritual of Sabbath meal with these beautiful new friends, explaining what was going on.
David: It was very kind of them.
Karen: It was so kind. We came home, determined that we were going to learn something we had obviously missed. I mean, we lived in the generation where Sunday was set aside, but we had lost some meaning in it somehow that these people had retained.
David: America was changing.
David: America was becoming more and more secular. And now it sounds kind of silly to honor somebody, who as a runner, would not run on Sunday. Like Eric Little. Yeah.
Karen: Now there’s a beautiful play that we love. It’s a musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”
David: We’re talking scripture and musicals. You’re going to fit on them like a few are coming.
Karen: “So how do we keep our balance, Tevye?” He’s in Russia, Jewish person in Russia.
David: He’s a dairyman.
Karen: He’s a dairyman.
David: But it’s not a big dairy farm. He’s just got a cow.
Karen: He’s got one cow. “How do we keep our balance? I can tell you that in one word. Tradition.” I can hear the music rolling out.
David: Tradition. You know what of us can sing for sour apples, can we?
Karen: He goes on, “Because of our traditions. Here in Anatevka, everyone knows who he is and what God expects him to do. How to eat, how to sleep, how even to wear clothes. Tradition.” It’s wonderful. It’s just absolutely wonderful.
David: It has this same feel that the chariots of fire film have.
David: That’s a world that really sounds kind of neat. I don’t know how you get there. I think people would…
Karen: Yeah, to get there again. There was a commentary in a book written by a Jewish essayist toward an American theology. It’s written for Jews. And he underlines the vital function of Sabbath tradition in the history of Judaism that remember the persecution that Jews have experienced through the centuries. I want to just read this little section.
Karen: We can affirm without any exaggeration that the Sabbath has preserved the Jews more than the Jews have preserved the Sabbath.
David: Oh, that’s very strong.
Karen: Isn’t that gorgeous?
David: Yeah. It’s kind of like saying Sunday has preserved the Christians.
Karen: Christian faith. Yeah…
David: Not the Christians that’s preserved the Sundays, yeah.
Karen: The seventh day is a Sabbath of sound rest, a holy convocation. You should do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwellings.
David: Now, there is a ritual that is many, many generations in the making that Jewish people have. There isn’t that same ritual unless you’d say going to church is a ritual. And it could be that. Although we’re losing the new generation, Karen. The younger people are not going to church like their parents, or their grandparents did. So, somewhere we have to grab a hold and say, “What’s going on? This is not good.”
Karen: Yeah. What are we losing? Or have we lost that we need to restore? You talk to the rhythm of the sacred. And you have a chart about Wednesday as we saw in that Tel Aviv trip. Jewish people begin to think of how they’re going to make Sabbath special. So, Sabbath is the high point of the week but three days before that, they begin to turn toward the weekend, toward that Sabbath experience. And then, it’s so wonderful. That’s the high point of the week. Think of a chart goes up in the middle. But it’s so wonderful they think back on it. And they ask in the wonder of it. We don’t have that in contemporary modern Christendom. And we do need to restore it in our Christian faith because that’s one of the ways if we are living that way that we experience the presence of God and Christ in our church.
David: What did you experience on Sunday that you’re taking with you through the rest of the week? That’s the kind of answer we should be able to come up with those and say, “The Lord spoke to me in this way through the hymn.” “He spoke to me or through some friend who asked me this question on Sunday as we were a fellowshipping,” whatever. But it’s not good when it just become poop a little bleep.
Karen: Yeah. You do it. Forget about it. One of her books, Ingrid Trobisch, who is a religious writer in our generation, talks about her grandmother who had eight children and her husband had died and she raised them on her own. Can you imagine this? She always on Saturday afternoon began to withdraw and go into prayer and reading her scripture; and preparing herself for Sunday. So, that’s how it looks individually when a whole community of faith does it. Think of all the people in one church doing that. They come to church on Sunday with a holy different rational exposure than they did if they didn’t have that practice. So, when they sit in the pew or in the chairs, they’ve come ready to receive. They’ve already been practicing Christ’s presence and they experience it in the conglomerate as the congregation. Now that revolutionizes churches.
David: Let’s be very specific. And again, we may be talking in a realm that most people don’t experience. Okay here’s a sentence. People who prepare themselves ahead of time are most likely to experience the miracle of Christ’s presence in his church.
Say it again and then see if I can help with just a given phrase.
People who prepare themselves ahead of time are most likely to experience the miracle of Christ’s presence in his church.
How does one prepare himself or herself ahead of time?
Karen: We’ve lost this practice in our family because in the two COVID years we weren’t going to church. So, I’m being convicted or nudged. Let’s say I’m being nudged, to restore that Sabbath practice in our family. I’d like to also say that I’ve taken all of our experience and put it into book form: Making Sunday Special. And the subtitle is, Creative Ways, New and Old, to Make Sunday Your Best Day of the Week. Dean will give our email, if they’ll email us, and tell us that they want a copy of that book we can get it to them.
David: Okay that’s Making Sunday Special.
Let’s go back to the question. How does one prepare himself or herself? Because that means you have to get alone and say, “Lord, I want you to just do an examination with me of how I’ve lived and how prepared I am to come to your house. Am I looking back on the week and saying same flaws as I’ve always had? Fail again you know that kind of thing. What have been your victories? Maybe it’s a time of preparation as far as reading scripture? Well, probably for many people today it’s a big job even to say how do I just set aside maybe 15 minutes? And in that sense, I’m coming to your church. This is my intent. I want to experience your presence. I don’t mean that has to be some kind of a physical manifestation of yourself. I want it to be that in my heart I’m thrilled that I went. You spoke to me. The fellowship of the people was good. I didn’t just make it a hurried thing. Got through it fast. Find that’s… Check that one off.” You know that. Okay.
Karen: One of the things I would suggest, and this isn’t something you do in 10 minutes or 15 minutes of time, is I would take out my concordance, and I have done this, and just go through the Old Testament and write out in a journal or keepsake kind of place, something that you’re not going to toss, all of the Old Testament scriptures that deal with Sabbath keeping.
David: There are a zillion of them?
Karen: They’re zillion. No, I’d write them all out because that will show you how extraordinarily imperative this was to the Jewish people of the Old Testament time and God’s relationship with them. Then do the same thing with the New Testament scriptures. There are multitudes. If you’ve not ever done this before you will be overwhelmed with how many references there are. And you don’t have to do that in one sitting. That can happen 15 minutes here, half hour there. And then begin to pray, “Lord, help me to renew my Sabbath keeping practice. Help me to do that so that I will experience you in spiritual reality in the church that I attend on Sundays.”
That’s the approach that I would take.
David: There’s an advantage for people like me who live in the Chicagoland area. It’s kind of silly to say it. Professional sports really rules the day for a lot of men. I mean that’s what they get psyched about.
David: Fortunately, in Chicago, the bears are so terrible.
Karen: You’re not tempted.
David: There’s so much pain.
Karen: We haven’t won a game for how long it’s been.
David: I think it’s been only a year since they’ve even won a football game.
Karen: Okay, the Lord is helping this whole community out. We’ve never seen that.
David: We’ve seen revival break out in the country. It began in Chicago.
David: Well, it is wonderful in the sense that you say on the weekend the most important thing is meeting with the Lord and with His people on Sunday, which is the Sabbath principle. It’s just a different day of the week where the Christians met on the first day of the week. It can get into the same kind of a rhythm where, bang, I got that done now. Gotta get to the groceries.
Somehow, we have to establish this idea that we work for six days but we worship for one day. One day we can reset the whole world.
Karen: Yeah. If enough of us do that, we can reset.
David: Yeah. Where God is at the center, where I come and I say, “I’m very fortunate to be able to go to a place of worship because a lot of people in different countries, they’re not able to do this.”
You know, they have to do it in secret or whatever. “And Lord, I don’t want to just take for granted what I have and then treat it casually. I want to treat this as a wonderful potential in terms of my life to just change the pace of everything and say, ‘I love you, Lord.’ I’m pleased to be a part of the family and a church family where all of us feel the same way and where we can not only sing alone in a room somewhere, but we can sing our praise to you.”
And we can say, “Amen” as we’re reminded of the great principles of scripture by our ministers and so on.
Karen: I think the question we need to ask is “How am I, how is my family working to make Sunday special, the best day of the week?”
Outgo: You’ve been listening to the Before We Go podcast. And if you would like to write to us, please send us an email at the following address, firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please remember to rate, review, and share on whatever platform you listen. This podcast is copyright 2023 by Mainstay Ministries, Post Office Box 30, Wheaton, Illinois 60187.
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