6:00 p.m. Saturday night
Sunday’s for us typically begin Saturday night with preparations. Having three kids five and under means we have to allow plenty of time. As the end of Saturday draws near, we begin with baths for the kids, laying clothes out and packing a bag of things to color, some picture books to look at and a few small snacks. During this time, Brittany and I double team the food preparation for the Sunday lunch that will follow the worship service tomorrow. This week we are making meatloaf, salad and some sweet tea. We Southerners fear running out of sweet tea at church lunch, similar to the fears of running out of bread during the depression. One of these fears is likely irrational, but nevertheless it’s real. This meatloaf isn’t the standard ketchup topping meatloaf, so it requires a few ingredients, sitting overnight and then being taken out to cool off before being put in the oven. The salad will await its preparation until morning, but the tea will be made tonight, to ensure its even sweeter by lunch.
The kids are bathed and ready for bed, but they will stay up another hour or so playing, reading an whatever else they want to do that doesn’t make a mess or hurt their father too badly. If all goes well, normally one of their parents (you can guess which one), will get them a light snack before bed.
The kids are taken to bed for a time to pray for tomorrow’s Lord’s Day, read a quick story and call it a night. Brittany and I will then gather our clothes for tomorrow or do one or two other things before we call it a night. We will talk, read a book, or something else for a short bit before we go to bed around 9:30
5:00 a.m.ish Sunday morning
I get up and ready first every Sunday. After getting dressed I make a cup or two of coffee, take the meatloaf out the fridge to thaw, and sit down to review my sermon notes one last time, pray, read over the sermon passage, the morning’s reading from the worship service and sometimes a book that encourages the mood to preach.
I begin my Sunday’s in the living room until Brittany and the kids wake up and then I move back. Sunday is typically the only day of the week I don’t have breakfast with the family so I can gather my thoughts and prepare my heart to lead in worship.
Brittany feeds the kids, bastes the meatloaf every ten minutes until ready and throws the salad together while the kids get dressed. I will come out around 9 to load the kids, bags and food in the car before and we head out around 9:15.
We arrive at church as everyone else starts coming. We are currently meeting at 9:30 a.m. for Equipping Hour for further teaching of a different variety than what would come from the Sunday sermons. After the crock pots are plugged in, we settle in for Equipping Hour. I enjoy this time because it starts discussions and thoughts on things we might not have considered. It’s also helpful to slow down and not get to church feeling like we spent the first half of the service recovering from the rush.
Equipping Hour ends and others begin to come with crockpots and drinks in hand. We will spend the next 15-20 minutes catching up with others, meeting new people, getting the elements prepared for the Lord’s Supper, Placing and passing out bulletins, giving assignments for the morning prayers, readings and confession. This also begins the inner church war for control of the temperature. I fight weekly for those who want to worship free of heat and in the bliss of cool temperatures.
After the victor in the war of the thermostat is declared, one of the men of the church will come forward and lead us in our congregational prayer. Here we pray and offer praises and thanks to our Triune God, confess our sins privately and pray for each other collectively, while also praying for two households each week. If there are urgent requests we offer those up to God as well. We also pray for those who are serving in the mission field, and near the end a prayer is offered for the worship service, and finally for our town, society and country. It should go without saying that this portion of the service is highly important. Since my family is included in the collective prayers for our church, knowing I am being interceded for by the one offering the prayer and by those who give their AMEN is a blessing. God hears our prayers because we come in the name of Jesus and ask them according to His will. This allows us now to proceed forward with prepared hearts.
Another man comes forward and leads the congregation in our reading and recitation of our faith from the Apostles Creed. Upon preparing to enter into the worship of God, we acknowledge who we worship, trust and put all hope and faith in. Reading this together is for us to remember that we aren’t alone, but have God’s people, both in the room with us, with all those around the world and for all time who have made this same profession from the same heart, with the same hope. This time has been particularly enjoyable for me since my children have been learning the Apostle’s Creed at home and can recite much of it in corporate worship. Their presence in worship is important, but their participation is the goal.
We give our AMEN to this confession and then hear from the reading of God’s Word from the Old Testament. The reading will connect to the sermon text for the day and allow us to hear from the works and words of God that we may again say AMEN. After this reading we sing a hymn of praise to our great God that praises Him from what this reading has revealed. After the hymn, we hear the reading of a Psalm that connects with the sermon text. This Psalm reading is followed by either a Psalm singing which we have recently begun singing, or another hymn. Lastly, we hear a reading from the New Testament, that shows the work and person of Christ as we prepare to hear from the preaching of God’s word. This reading is again followed by a hymn of praise. Once the singing is finished, we offer praises and a prayer for the sermon.
Since I am the main teaching elder, The time of readings and singing are important to me because this is where I get to sit with my family for worship.
I come forward and read the sermon text for the day. Today’s text is from 1st Corinthians 15:1-11, a great primer on the nature, power, historical acts, objective work and nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ, with the resurrection being it’s foundation. While every Sunday is a day of celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, this month we are focusing on it explicitly from 1st Corinthians chapter 15. My goal is to preach a sermon, not deliver a lecture. To do this, I must show how the Christian gospel of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is central to every text, and why it is of utmost importance to this particular congregation, in this particular time and place in history.
When I finish, I try to allow some time to reflect and offer the assurance to all who have or would receive the gospel by repentance and faith that they are truly forgiven of their sins through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Upon this I offer praises to God for what has been revealed and prayers for the congregation. We then sing a hymn of praise and transition to partaking of the Lord’s Supper.
Typically, I’m simultaneously drained, emotional and excited after a sermon. I delight the pause to sing praises to God with my family for a few minutes.
I and four men come to the front and I give a short talk connecting the Lord’s Supper to the sermon text and extend the offer to participate to all baptized Christians in good standing with their local church to partake of the Supper. After the elements are passed I tell of what sins from this text we have seen that Christ broke his body and spilled his blood for to provide remission of sins. We then eat and drink the Supper, knowing that God has shown us again visibly, that what this meal tells us is as real true as the elements we held in our hands to eat and drink. Finally, the church rises to hear the benediction and receive a final blessing from God and from His word. As hands are opened and hearts prepared to receive, our God blesses us and then we end with a final praise to Him by singing the Doxology. From here, we go in peace and enjoy the gift of the grace of God in His Son Jesus Christ by sitting down together and enjoying the fellowship of the saints and their gift of grace in what they brought to the meal. This will go on for at least the next two hours and often three to four. We laugh, talk, encourage one another, discuss the sermon, things from our lives and the world, get to know those better than we don’t yet know very well, and other things that pop up. During this time the kids are playing inside and outside and enjoy a full day with their friends. This is Lord’s Day, a foretaste of that Great Day when we all sit with Him and He serves us the greatest fellowship meal we will ever have.
Sometimes, we stay late enough that it’s time for dinner (or supper if you’re a true Southerner), and if we are feeling up to it, a couple of families will head to a restaurant, get a table for 15-25 and cap off the day with more good food and good company, filled with laughing, talking and hearts full of gratitude.
We leave the restaurant and the kids fall asleep before we get out of the parking lot. Brittany and I talk about the day on the drive home, and what might lay ahead for the week. We get home, grab the exhausted, dead weight little bodies and put them in bed, but not before they make one last request to stay up and have a snack. After being denied this grace of God, we put the kids in bed and they are out before we can leave the room. Brittany and I get in bed, talk for a few more minutes, tell each other good night, turn the lights off and finish off a typical Sunday, grateful that in seven more days, we get to do it again. This is the Day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.