Helps for Worship #4: Preparing for Worship (Part 1)

William Shishko

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." (Ex. 20:8)

Why does the Lord tell us to remember the Sabbath day? The Larger Catechism (Q. 121) answers that this is "partly, because we are very ready to forget it." Knowing our weakness, the Lord tells us, as part of his moral law, to make special efforts to keep the day for rest, worship, and works of necessity and mercy, separated unto him. (Holy means "separated unto God.")

It is sobering to realize that failure to keep the Sabbath day separated unto the Lord is on a par with idolatry, blasphemy, murder, adultery, stealing, and lying. That alone should be a powerful rebuke to us when we regard the Sabbath day as our day rather than the Lord's, and when we seek our own pleasure rather than his (see Isa. 58:13). If we think of the Lord's Day for anything beyond what God has ordained it to be, we are guilty of a serious form of idolatry of self.

As a major part of your preparing for Lord's Day worship, plan ahead—that is, "remember"—to keep that whole day separate for God's purposes for it.

  • Plan ahead, so that you can be present for all the church meetings of that day (including evening worship).
  • Plan ahead, so that you can eat simple meals that do not take too much time and effort for those who prepare and serve them.
  • Plan ahead, so that you can get some bodily rest on this day that was made for our physical and spiritual rest.
  • Plan ahead, so that you can do some works of mercy for others on the day that is to be kept free of our regular weekly work.
  • Plan ahead, so that you can have some time to nourish your own soul by private Bible and devotional reading and by prayer.
  • Plan ahead, so that you can have some time to reinforce your children's Bible and catechism lessons.

For Reflection

  1. Do you take the fourth commandment as seriously as the other nine?
  2. What do you need to change today, so that you can better keep the Sabbath day holy?

The author is pastor of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Franklin Square, New York. Reprinted from New Horizons, January 2006. First article in series. Next article. Index.

New Horizons: January 2006

Not to the Mountains, but to Heaven

Also in this issue

Turning Points in American Presbyterian History
Part 11: The Confession of 1967

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