What if Churches Focused on Monday?

 

Paul Robertson tells us more about the thought behind the song ‘On Monday’ that features on the album ‘Church Come Alive’.

On Thursday was my Lord betrayed
And treated like a renegade
The judge of all unjustly tried
Then stripped and mocked, led off to die.
Hear the sound of soldiers jeering

On Friday he was crucified
Between two thieves he hung and died
Heaven’s brightest light snuffed out
His heart was speared beyond all doubt
Hear the sound of women weeping

On Saturday did silence fall
God’s goodness seemed beyond recall
Can God be dead? Has evil won?
Has darkness swallowed up the Son?
But wait…
In the east the sun is rising

On Sunday morning dawn awakes
Death unravels, the gravestone breaks
Now more alive than anyone
Jesus beckons us to come
Hear the good news – he is risen!

On Monday will we follow him
And go to where his light seems dim?
To show his love, to serve and care
Heaven’s hope and beauty share
Hear the Master’s invitation.

I’ve been asked to share a few thoughts about the song On Monday, a track I wrote for the recently released album Church Come Alive by the Scottish worship song-writing group, Satellite (see David Lyon’s November blog for more details) .  At the outset I should probably declare my potential conflicts of interest. I am not a career worship musician or songwriter. I work a regular job as a doctor in a microbiology lab in Glasgow, so I feel ill-qualified to offer too much in the way of song-writing technique and tips. More than that (and despite how much I love music and song-writing) I think musical worship has assumed an unhealthy prominence in many modern churches. “Worship” has too often become shorthand for singing. For some churches the expectation is that musical worship is when God is really present. And while we might agree with the idea of ‘whole life worship’, this is often no more thought through than aiming to have a quiet time of devotion each day or maybe listen to worship songs as we go about our daily business. So if you’re willing to bear with me, despite my reservations about musical worship, I’ll explain the motive behind the song.

A passion of mine is reconnecting work and worship. They are supposed to go together. Our lives are not supposed to be subdivided into categories of physical or spiritual, sacred or secular, work or worship. There is no sacred/secular divide to God. God is first presented to us in the Bible as a worker. In fact, he is The Worker - creating, ordering, naming, blessing and releasing potential. In turn, He commissioned humanity to work under God’s authority, tending and caring for creation in order to produce a place suitable for human flourishing – an extension of God’s original work. The Torah, God’s instruction to His people Israel, is full of instructions on how to behave ethically in the workplace – how workers are to be paid, how measurements should be made fairly, even prototypic health and safety advice! Further, the Bible is full of stories of God at work through His people’s work, even when they worked for people who didn’t fear God. Adam, Joseph, Ruth, David, Daniel, Esther and Nehemiah are just a few examples. He is not absent or inactive in our homes and offices (even if many today would wish him to be...).

But we’ve come to believe the opposite. Our secular work, everyday chores and daily interactions are spiritual deadweight. To be ‘properly’ spiritual we must do something specifically Christian with our free time – maybe attend a midweek church activity or volunteer with a parachurch organisation. There is, of course, nothing wrong with these things and much that is good. The danger lies in perspective. Is our aim of discipleship simply to increase our ‘spiritually valuable’ time from three or four hours a week by another couple of hours? Or is it to have our faith in God’s good news through Jesus permeate all of our lives, seeing our everyday weekly actions at work and at home as opportunities to worship God and engage with him in his mission to order, care for and restore the world? Most Christians spend most of their waking lives doing ‘secular’ work or everyday activities at home like shopping, cooking, cleaning and caring for relatives. These times are not less valuable to God. These times are not less useful to God. God can work through them to shape us, to minister to other people, to honour Him and to bring about His purposes.

At its heart, On Monday is an attempt to reconnect Easter, and our weekly Sunday retellings and re-enactments of Easter, to our everyday life during the week. I’d love to see our Sunday services - the singing, the preaching, the prayers - better connect with what going on in the everyday lives of people who come to church, especially their working life and their home life. I think too much worship music, old and new, is unhelpfully abstract or overly spiritual and so is divorced from the realities of life. There are many new songs describing how we should sing, but far fewer about how we should live; many about dancing and hand-raising, but almost none about working; many about our relationship with the angels, but fewer about our relationship with our neighbours. We have lots of musical worship leaders. We have lots of song-writers. We have lots of new songs. But where are the people who lead worship in our workplaces? Where are the Christians visibly bringing their faith and God’s values to bear on the health service, social care, banking, business, journalism, education, engineering, architecture, policing, law and politics? The heart of worship is not singing. It’s not even the quality of our gathered worship. It is found in the myriad everyday small and often unseen choices of following God in our homes, at our work and with our neighbours. What does it mean to worship God when we do the weekly shop? When we sit in on an important meeting at work? When we see a colleague being treated unfairly? When we sit with a friend going through hard times? When we care for an elderly neighbour or family member? When we take a toddler to the park? (And how does the toddler worship then too?) How can we as writers of songs or leaders of gathered worship better envision and equip people to see their everyday lives as valid (and indeed vital) expressions of worship and mission?

This song began as an attempt to write a fresh Easter song by following the Easter narrative. Starting on Friday, it would include the difficult and often skipped over Saturday, before concluding with a triumphant Sunday. I realised that Thursday had interesting things to say about betrayal and injustice. Eventually it dawned that by adding on a final Monday verse, the significance of Easter (or of our Sunday gathered worship) could be brought into the present. How does Easter change me for this week coming? How will what I believe about the injustice on Maundy Thursday, the suffering of Good Friday, the silence of Easter Saturday and Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday make a difference to my work and in how I interact with my family and neighbours this week? Can you hear the Master’s invitation?

Paul Robertson is a doctor in microbiology in Glasgow. He also forms part of the writing group for ‘Satellite’, a Scottish worship collective.