DayOne incorporating the Lord's Day Observance Society
"The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath"
Mark 2 v 27
Rev Dr Joseph Fell
Chairman of the N. Ireland Committee
The Rev. Gareth Burke, Secretary of the Northern Ireland Committee of “Day One Christian Ministries” had been approached by Tern Television some months before and it was decided that the Rev. Richard Murray, a Committee member should present the Biblical case for the Lord’s Day.
The film included a section in which the Richard Murray gave a reasoned Biblical defence of the Christian Sabbath. In fact some of the first words spoken on the film were by Richard when he said “Call the Sabbath a delight”. Richard is Minister of Connor Presbyterian Church, Co. Antrim one of the primary seats of the 1859 Revival in Ulster. Included also from Connor were three young Christian men who were practicing for the Church Music Group. The three of them are committed to the Biblical view of the Lord’s Day and gave a good set of reasons for being so. The programme had got off to a good start!
Peter Curran then proceeded to take viewers on a whirlwind tour about how the traditional Ulster Sunday has changed over recent decades. I found this to be disturbing and somewhat depressing. The Roman Catholic St. Brendan’s Church was visited and Father John Forsyth gave some reason for falling attendances at Mass. The fact that Northern Ireland has became the home for many Polish people was highlighted and a University Lecturer Eweline O’Donnell was given the opportunity to explain why she regards the Church as being an important part of her life.
As the programme unfolded it highlighted Sunday Shopping at the well known St. Georges Market in Belfast and interviewed some young people in taxis who were coming home late on Saturday night to spend Sunday recovering from their hangovers. The programme also highlighted the Sunday Irish Dancing scene and a Sunday transvestite Club.
Remembering as I clearly do, the Ulster Sunday before what we call the “Troubles” I found the programme to be very sad. Surely there must be a better way. Our society has simply moved away from God. Many professing believers in Northern Ireland take a liberal view of Sunday and I do not know how “Slack Sabbaths” would have affected them. Surely it is better to worship the true and living God than recover from a hangover? Surely it is better to have a day of rest than continuous work remembering that the fourth Commandment is one of the greatest pieces of social legalisation ever enacted for the good of mankind and all his associates.
The programme should drive every Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ to their knees. His honour is at stake in N. Ireland. Our prayer has to be “Revive your work O Lord. For the sake of the glory of the Saviour, and for the sake of all the people, may He work in His own Sovereign way in our life time”.
What the programme did not show was thriving Gospel driven Churches with people, young and old, waiting for God’s Word to equip them for His service. It did not highlight the people who spend many hours teaching the children the stories of Jesus so that children’s minds may be shaped by Love, Goodness and Truth. Nor did it highlight the fact that freedom to shop etc on Sunday means that others are compelled to work, often against their Biblically taught consciences.
“Slack Sabbaths” evoked these and other considerations. But what has really changed? Sin is sin and comes in many guises. The first century Church faced these and many other situations that could have caused the early Christian preachers total despair. When Paul went to Corinth, a city so given to evil that the first century coined a verb, “to Corinthianize” i.e. to corrupt, and in that God dishonouring place Paul preached Christ and Him crucified, in as the Bible says “the demonstration of the Spirit and of power”. That is our essential and glorious Message and that is His Method.
Let our natural sadness about how things have changed became the spring board for our prayers and our ministry. We need to display love and grace to all. God is King and I am sure He is grieved for He knows more about the situation then we will ever do and yet He loves and is gracious to all. Let “Slack Sabbaths” spur us to action. If it does then we need to thank the BBC.
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