Why aren’t the morning and evening worship services the same?
Last week I know I said one final thought on worship, but I guess I had second thoughts on that thought…
I wanted to answer the question today on why the two worship services on Sunday are not exactly the same. Maybe that question hasn’t even crossed your mind. Maybe you haven’t looked at the differences between them.
In the morning service there are several items that are not in the evening service. We sing the Gloria Patri and the Doxology in the morning. There is a prayer of confession and the Lord’s Assurance of pardon. We have both Old Testament and New Testament readings from Scripture. We collect tithes and offerings. We celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
In the evening service there are some differences as well. We have one scripture reading (currently the minor prophets). We do a Psalter reading where we read through a Psalm together. Currently we are going through a topical study of the doctrines in the Westminster Confession of Faith instead of working our way through a book of the Bible.
There are more similarities than differences in our worship services, but they are not carbon copies of one another. Why no offering and the Lord’s Supper at night? Why no Psalter reading in the morning?
The easiest answer to the question is the fact that our worship services are complementary to one another. We don’t view them as stand alone entities. Yes, if providence does not allow one to attend a morning service we do have an evening service and vice versa. However, we should never view them as separate, instead we should begin to think of them as two parts of a whole. As believers in Christ we look at the Lord’s Day as an entire day. A day in which we are given the blessing to separate ourselves, as much as possible, from our day to day work and temptations and the stress of the world around us and, instead of all those other things, we rest in Christ and we rest in worship with God’s people.
Too many times we get the rest aspect of Sunday wrong. We are not called to rest from our labors because we need a break (that is secondary). We are called in the fourth commandment to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Holy, think about that word for a moment. It means sacred or set apart. So we are commanded to keep the day holy. How? By ceasing from our labors the other six days and from all that may distract us so that we are able to worship the Lord. The purpose of the day is worship, not rest. That “cease and desist” order from God to stop our labors one day in seven is for our good and is not a burden. And we also get the added benefits of physical as well as spiritual rest on Sunday.
Instead of thinking that an evening service is only there for those who cannot make it to a morning one, let us reconsider how we spend our Lord’s Day each week. One hundred years ago virtually every church had an evening service and virtually everyone attended. What has changed in one hundred years? It isn’t God’s Word. We didn’t suddenly come up with some new exegetical thought on Scripture that caused churches to do away with the evening service. No, instead it was our turning away from the fourth commandment and viewing Sunday as the Lord’s Day for an entire day.
Most everyone reading this can remember a time when nothing was open on Sunday but the church. That was leftover leaven of a Christian influence in society. It was a remnant of what God says over and over in His Word. One day in seven belongs to me. The world would rather be anywhere else but in worship with God’s people on Sunday. The believer should never desire to think the same thing.
Our book of church order points out this morning and evening pattern of worship that God has given to us in Scripture:
“It is highly advisable that a congregation assemble for public worship at the beginning and the ending of the Lord’s Day. God established this pattern for his Old Testament people when he commanded morning and evening sacrifice and incense burning. Moreover, he sanctifies the entire Lord’s Day to himself and gives his people in it a foretaste of their eternal enjoyment of him and his people.”
Worship is a foretaste of our eternal enjoyment of God and His people.
“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.”