Opening Prayer: Gracious Lord, too often we come to worship assuming that this is a social club, a theological society, or we think the main point is to have you pat us on the back and tell us “It’s Ok.” But you are fierce in your mercy, and your judgments are justice and truth. Come to us now by the power of your Spirit and blast our foolish assumptions to pieces. For you are God, Father, Son, and Spirit, and there is no other, and we plead with you to empower Your Word now, for your glory and honor, through Jesus Christ, Amen!
We’ve considered worship as sacrifice, worship as covenant renewal, and worship as empowered by the order and militancy of the Spirit. We now turn to the time of worship. We call Sunday the Lord’s Day or the Day of the Lord preeminently because it marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But Jesus’ resurrection is not the first or last Day of the Lord.
The Day of the Lord
To begin to speak about the day of the Lord, we have to begin with the first days. We learn in Genesis 1 that a day of the Lord is the time of God’s working and structuring of the universe. When God comes on these days, he comes to create, divide, name, and evaluate. Where there is harmony/communion with God this meeting is joyful and blessed, but where there is sin, there is pain and cursing (Gen. 3). This motif continues throughout the Scriptures where the day of the Lord is also referred to as the “day of visitation” and “day of judgment.” The day of the Lord is the day of God’s fierce judgment (Jer. 46:10), a day of battle (Ez. 13:5), a day of de-creation (Is. 13:9-10, Joel 3:14-15), a day of thick darkness and clouds (Joel 2:1, 11, 31, Zeph. 1:14-15). This reminds us of the covenant renewal at Mt. Sinai where God’s presence was in the thick, black clouds. The day of the Lord is also a day where God shakes the heavens and the earth (Joel 3:16). This great judgment/battle/destruction occurs while God shakes the heavens and the earth, but in all of these passages God’s people are saved and preserved (Joel 3:16, Jer. 46:28).
Some of these “days of the Lord” refer to judgments that God brought against his people, but others (Joel cf. Acts 2:16, Mal. 4:5-6) refer to the work of Christ. Even Hosea refers specifically to being raised up on the third day (Hos. 6:2). We also need to remember that the third day was also the eighth day, the day of renewal, cleansing, and circumcision (cf. Lev. 9:1, 12:3, 14:10). In Ezekiel 43, the prophet sees a vision of the renewed temple, and it is on the eighth day that sacrifices and offerings are accepted (43:27). After the resurrection, the disciples immediately began meeting on this day, and it was the day that the risen Christ appeared to them (Jn. 20:19, 26, cf. 1 Cor. 16:2). It was on this day that John was in the Spirit in Rev. 1:10. What does John see occurring in heaven on the Lord’s Day? He sees a worship service. The Lord gives exhortations to the seven churches, and then John witnesses the worship of heaven and the consequences of this worship. When worship takes place (ch. 5) the Lord goes out to conquer (6:2) and to bring about great destructions (6:4, 8, 15-17). Then again the numberless multitude worships God (7:9-12) and great judgments are poured out on the earth (8:5, 7, 11ff). When heaven is filled with worship there is a great storm of earthquakes, lightening, and thunders (11:15-19). John is witnessing the Day of the Lord.
The Lord’s Day
If we remember what God’s Spirit presence is like: a great and terrible storm of battle, the day of the Lord is the meeting of heaven and earth. It is not as though God is normally lounging on a Persian rug, eating grapes and once in a while he gets really mad. God’s presence is a storm, life in abundance, overwhelming joy. The presence of God is as Isaiah said: it undoes us. And John shows us that it is this intense life and joy that we enter in worship.
Interestingly, the only other place where something is described as the “Lord’s” is in 1 Cor. 11:20 in reference to the Lord’s Supper. This surely is not an accident. It is the meal where God promises to meet us that is the center of the Lord’s Day. Here, the apostle says, God judges us. Those who receive the favor of God in faith and childlike trust are blessed and strengthened, but those who despise the goodness of God are cursed (1 Cor. 11: 29-30).
Applications and Conclusions
This cuts several ways for us. First, when we gather for worship on the Day of the Lord, we are gathering in the storm presence of God. It is the day of God’s judgments and destructions. But this day of the Lord is the day of resurrection, the day of the vindication of Jesus who passed under the judgment of God. When we worship God, he comes and shakes the earth and heaven, dealing with our sins but also with the sin of the world. Our worship is not a private event. It occurs in the heavenly places and from the throne of God issue judgments and destructions. This means that worship is not only our response to God’s salvation; it is also the enactment of God’s salvation in the world.
Just as God came to Israel and the nations of the world to destroy them and raise them back up, in Christ, God comes and kills us week after week and raises us back up again to resurrection life. This is not because your salvation is in jeopardy; this is because resurrection life is learning to die. Do you want to live? Then you must die. This is the fierce storm life of the Trinity where the Father dies to the Son, and the Son dies to the Father, and the Spirit dies to the Father and the Son. You must not forsake this gathering because here God is teaching you how to die, how to die well. You are called here to die because this is the life that we offer to the world.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Final Prayer: Almighty and gracious God, we confess that you are life, and that your life is fierce and glorious and wild. Remake us now in your presence. Undo us, destroy us, and revive us. Teach us to live as you teach us to die; that our lives may be living sacrifices, holy and blameless before you.