What should Sunday Morning look like?

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Sunday Morning

This (video below) is a funny spoof on what a lot of Sunday morning “worship” services have become these days. If you’ve ever attended one of these “mega-churches” or a church with “fellowship” in the name, this will make you laugh.

For the record, I am not calling into question the sincerity of the worship involved in these kinds of communities. In fact, I admire them for much and have many friends involved with them. I actually used to play in one of these worship bands for one of the very well-known and televised “Fellowships.” My experience there in particular reassures me of their sincere desire to worship, but it also makes this video that much more funny – funny cuz it’s true! It’s all in good fun and I believe it’s something everybody can laugh at. But it also hits on a very important point:

Is this what Christ and his apostles envisioned? Is this what the martyrs risked their lives to participate in? I don’t think so.

Worship services like these can be great. They can be uplifting. They can bring us closer to God. They can move us. They can inspire us. They can even be entertaining. All of those are good things. But they are not the Eucharist. They are not the “breaking of the bread.” They are not the Mass. They are not the fulfillment of The Lord’s Day. They are not “doing this in remembrance of me.”

Do them on another night. Do them some other time. Do them often. But they are no replacement for the Mass.

To give you an idea, here’s a quote from a very early Church document regarding what their Sunday morning “worship service” looked like:

“Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice [Matt. 5:23–24]. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations’ [Mal. 1:11, 14]” (Didache 14 [A.D. 70]).

And then here is a great account from St. Justin Martyr from little more than 50 years after the last new testament scripture was written! Please read it:

“No one may share the Eucharist with us unless he believes that what we teach is true, unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ.

We do not consume the eucharistic bread and wine as if it were ordinary food and drink, for we have been taught that as Jesus Christ our Savior became a man of flesh and blood by the power of the Word of God, so also the food that our flesh and blood assimilates for its nourishment becomes the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus by the power of his own words contained in the prayer of thanksgiving.

The apostles, in their recollections, which are called gospels, handed down to us what Jesus commanded them to do. They tell us that he took bread, gave thanks and said: Do this in memory of me. This is my body. In the same way he took the cup, he gave thanks and said: This is my blood. The Lord gave this command to them alone. Ever since then we have constantly reminded one another of these things. The rich among us help the poor and we are always united. For all that we receive we praise the Creator of the universe through his Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.

On Sunday we have a common assembly of all our members, whether they live in the city or the outlying districts. The recollections of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as there is time. When the reader has finished, the president of the assembly speaks to us; he urges everyone to imitate the examples of virtue we have heard in the readings. Then we all stand up together and pray.

On the conclusion of our prayer, bread and wine and water are brought forward. The president offers prayers and gives thanks to the best of his ability, and the people give assent by saying, “Amen”. The eucharist is distributed, everyone present communicates, and the deacons take it to those who are absent.

The wealthy, if they wish, may make a contribution, and they themselves decide the amount. The collection is placed in the custody of the president, who uses it to help the orphans and widows and all who for any reason are in distress, whether because they are sick, in prison, or away from home. In a word, he takes care of all who are in need.

We hold our common assembly on Sunday because it is the first day of the week, the day on which God put darkness and chaos to flight and created the world, and because on that same day our savior Jesus Christ rose from the dead. For he was crucified on Friday and on Sunday he appeared to his apostles and disciples and taught them the things that we have passed on for your consideration. ” – Justin Martyr (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]). [source]

[H/T to The Sacred Page for the video]

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Alice Linahan May 20, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Matt,
Great Post!! Exactly why I love the Catholic Church.

Blessings my friend!!
Alice

Kevin Francis Bernadette Clay May 20, 2010 at 1:49 pm

“The worship of the golden calf is a self-generated cult. When Moses stays away for too long, and God himself becomes inaccessible, the people just fetch him back. Worship becomes a feast that the community gives itself, a festival of self-affirmation. Instead of being worship of God, it becomes a circle closed in on itself: eating, drinking, and making merry.

The dance around the golden calf is an image of this self-seeking worship. It is a kind of banal self-gratification. The narrative of the golden calf is a warning about any kind of self-initiated and self-seeking worship. Ultimately, it is no longer concerned with God but with giving oneself a nice little alternative world, manufactured from one’s own resources.

Then liturgy really does become pointless, just fooling around. Or still worse it becomes an apostasy from the living God, an apostasy in sacral disguise. All that is left in the end is frustration, a feeling of emptiness.” – Pope Benedict XVI
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“While there are many motives that might have led a great number of people to seek a refuge in the traditional liturgy, the chief one is that they find the dignity of the sacred preserved there…

The liturgy is not a festivity; it is not a meeting for the purpose of having a good time… The grandeur of the liturgy does not rest upon the fact that it offers an interesting entertainment, but in rendering tangible the Totally Other, whom we are not capable of summoning…

In other words, the essential in the liturgy is the mystery, which is realized in the common ritual of the Church; all the rest diminishes it. Men experiment with it in lively fashion, and find themselves deceived, when the mystery is transformed into distraction, when the chief actor in the liturgy is not the Living God but the priest or the liturgical director.” – Pope Benedict XVI

Seth J. DeMoor May 20, 2010 at 1:51 pm

! Some interesting points, and I love the quotes from the early Church fathers, they may be rolling over in their graves right now.

Craig May 20, 2010 at 2:34 pm

“No one may share the Eucharist with us unless he believes that what we teach is true, unless he is washed in the regenerating waters of baptism for the remission of his sins, and unless he lives in accordance with the principles given us by Christ.”

You see that and there? That’s important. Support abortion? Please don’t share the Eucharist. Don’t believe in transubstantiation? Please, refrain.

On a lighter note, I’m a convert, and that’s a really funny and sad video; but on the same note, this could make some people pretty upset at you.

Matthew Warner May 20, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Craig – you think they’d be that upset? I certainly don’t want to make anyone upset. I think most of the protestants I know would have a chuckle at this – even the ones who attend similar churches. It’s an exaggeration for sure. But I was just using it to make the deeper point. I didn’t want to offend anyone.

And actually, it is a protestant media company that made this video in the first place.

Doug Sallows May 20, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Great job! I also really liked the quotes from the Church Fathers. I have been reading Justin Martyr and the other Church Fathers and I see the same things happening today as they happened then. I am glad to be a convert and I thank God everyday for bringing me home to His Church.

Cindy May 20, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Matt,
Right on! This is a great clip. I saw it last week on FishEaters and after doing a little research found that it was produced by members of a megachurch who were poking a little fun at themselves.
These are fantastic points being made regarding the big, power “services” versus the reverence and beauty of a traditional, Catholic Liturgy of the Eucharist.
For further exploration of the liturgy & Mass, particularly for our Protestant brothers and sisters, I recommend “The Mass of the Early Christians,” by Mike Aquilina. My Lutheran husband read it and has developed something of a distaste for the megachurch services he attended for years. He realized how central the Eucharist is to authentic Christianity.
Pax, Cindy

Craig May 21, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Matt – I was just letting you know that some people could be offended. Most of the people that I know would get a good laugh out of this, though.

This is how I always pictured these types of services before I became Catholic. It was actually a big part in my conversion. It all seemed so superficial, like an entertainment business rather than a forum for genuine worship.

Eric Nelson May 22, 2010 at 9:53 am

My sense is the Catholic & Orthodox churches do a good job of recognizing the majesty of God and the Charismatic churches do a similarly good job of recognizing God’s desire to have a personal relationship with us. I think we need both.

Lauren April 20, 2011 at 3:44 pm

True, but does it really get much more personal than consuming the Body of Christ?

B.J. June 1, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Well written. A friend of mine invited me to attend church service with her. I thought it was odd how I felt like I was attending more of a concert or a little get together, rather than setting a day aside for the Lord. I also found it odd how I did not feel God’s presence in the “church” like I do in all the Catholic churches I’ve attended all my life.

Ricky Jones July 14, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Thank you for posting this hilarious video and also for your brief article about this topic. My wife’s parents brought me into the Church, but are now members of a protestant congregation. We have been there a few times with them, as they were very pressuring in the beginning. The “service” is ok, but it doesn’t do anything for me. They spend two to three hours in “worship” which half of the time means standing and clapping to songs that you don’t even know. The one thing they do that I like is pray as a community, but once people start falling down all over the place or cause the pastor blows on them, that kind of just ruins it for me.

There are some very good people who lead true christian lives that we have met in this congregation and have become very close friends, so I don’t knock them. There are some great people, but it’s a shame that there Sunday “service” is more of a concert than anything. Praise and worship to God is due, but for me the ultimate praise and worship is in the Mass.

Thanks again Matt for this article… awesome.

Art March 12, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Thanks for the funny clip. Very true, I have visited some “seeker friendly” churches that have the love for God but very much lack intellectual convictions about the Christian faith. Just goes to show how vital sola scriptura and good sound theology is. And in all we do we need to always trust in the redemptive work of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew Warner March 13, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Thanks, Art! Except I don’t agree that sola scriptura is good sound theology. But other than that, i totally agree!

enness July 12, 2011 at 8:16 pm

I was part of the band for one of these and am laughing so hard right now. It was fun, but I think I kinda prefer being a straitlaced Catholic. :)

Alex September 19, 2012 at 9:27 pm

As an evangelical Christian, I do find that video pretty entertaining! Now obviously, we will differ on whether Mass is the only type of acceptable Sunday service. I don’t have a problem with those more contemporary types of worship services, because as Matt said, they are sincere and uplifting. However, I do prefer service that is uplifting and also reflective and reverent. I do miss breaking out the hymnals and the communal reading of Scripture!

I’ve seen this critique and seen similar types of satire about those contemporary style worship services before and certainly understand the point the video is making. But I wonder if we would be just as accepting of satires of worship in black congregations, which I find to be just as uplifting and just as charismatic.

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