To give God the first
It is Friday today, isn’t it? I ask this because here in Tenerife each day is the same. I can see us missing the flight home through not knowing what day it is! This is in complete contrast to life at home as a vicar. For each day has its own particular routines, even its own personality. So Friday is the day by which all services on the Sunday need to be in place, talks prepared and so on. Consequently, a day of mild panic. It doesn’t help that Friday is not a running day. I am still trying to beat Victor in the Saturday ParkRun and so need to be fully rested for top performance. And of course, Friday is blog day. But this Friday is different, no routines in place. I guess that’s why we are here, for our post-Christmas break. But as Christians our week is to have a focus. Wherever we are, Sunday is always the Lord’s Day. That’s what first set the Christian church apart right at the outset, even if it did cause problems. Their day of worshipping together shifted from the seventh day as directed by the Old Testament to the first day of the week. Why the abrupt change? As ever the resurrection victory of Jesus changed everything, even a tradition as deep-seated as Sabbat observance. So we find Luke recounting his visit with the apostle Paul to the church in Troas: “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.” (Acts 20:7). And Paul himself writes to the church at Corinth concerning the collection for the Lord’s people: “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.” Of course the first day of the week was a normal working day and so meeting together certainly caused problems, not least for those Christians who were slaves. Typically the church in Corinth made a mess of it, with the leisured members refusing to wait for their fellow disciples to arrive from work. In response Paul could actually write “I am getting the picture that when you meet together it brings out your worst side instead of your best!” (1 Corinthians 11:17 Message translation) But despite everything those first Christians persevered. Worshipping together on the first day of the week became so definitive that by the time that John was exiled at Patmos he could write: “On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit” (Revelation 1:10) And for us, there are all kinds of reasons why we should uphold this tradition, even in our individualistic age. Surprisingly it is Albert Schweitzer who exhorts us: “Do not let Sunday be taken from you. If your soul has no Sunday, it becomes an orphan.” The primary reason for so honouring Jesus is the first fruits principle. That is all firsts should be given to the Lord - the first part of the day, the first day of the week, even the first fruits of our harvest (or equivalent). As we read in Proverbs “Honour God with everything you own; give him the first and the best” (3:9) So when we offer God our first fruits, we present to him the whole of the day, the whole of our week, even the whole of our lives. Naturally it’s not always easy, often inconvenient and sometimes sacrificial. But it does seem to be a God-given principle as taught in scripture and as such we can pray: “God, I want to do this, but I can’t do it without you.” So this Sunday we will be going to the excellent South Tenerife Christian Fellowship just down the road by the bus station. Meanwhile, today – off for a run, even if it is a Friday!