Do you find yourself late at church? Being late may be dishonouring to God, hinder the work of the Spirit, and lead to hypocrisy. This article shows ways to arrive on time for the worship service on a Sunday.

Source: Australian Presbyterian, 1998. 2 pages.

The Sunday Family Fiasco

The chance of things going haywire on a Sunday morning are at least seven times greater than on any other morning of the week. Dead car batteries, hot water that is cold, milk that is sour, wet underwear, clogged toilets, stuck zippers, stained suits, cologne mis­taken for mouthwash, lost Bibles, curling irons that hiss, nylons that run, sick pup­pies, power failures, touchy tempers, grumpy attitudes and daylight-saving time. Thieves break in on Saturday nights just to steal one of a nicely matched pair of socks.

I chuckle at my childhood memories. We lived only one block from church, but it took three and a half hours, 97 gallons of water, and three cars to move eight Beckwiths from their beds, through the shower, and to the front door of the church. Moving the children of Israel from Egypt to the Promised land was a piece of cake in comparison.

To begin with, Sunday mornings were marred by a notable family tradition, a sies­ta soak in the tub. Leisurely draw the bath water, lock the door to the only bathroom in the house, and soak while reading the jokes in Reader’s Digest or clipping your nails. How the bathroom door survived the brutal beatings I’ll never know. Tempers flared at the thug in the tub:

“Aren’t you done in there yet? Come on, open up!”

“Hurry up! Church is going to finish any minute now!”

“Do you want dinner served in there?”

Church started at 9:45. A Beckwith nor­mally arrived every 10 or 15 minutes between 9:30 and 10:30. Nice schedule for an airline terminal, but not a church.

Let’s sharpen the focus on the Sunday family fiasco. What really is happening?

First, God is not honoured. Attitudes for proper worship are formed in advance. Isaiah spoke of those who worshipped the Lord with their lips while their hearts were far from God (Isa. 29:13). It is next to impossible to worship God with the latest family feud still on your mind.

Second, God’s Spirit is hindered. Enthusiastic song leaders or ministers grow discouraged trying to lead people who are still steaming over cross words fired 15 minutes ago. My family’s late arrival was discourteous and disrupted the service.

Third, hypocrisy is promoted –– harsh words one moment followed by blessing God the next. “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be” (James 3:10).

So what can be done to arrive for church on time with a minimum of frustration? Have the kids sleep in the car? Camp out in the church parking lot? Here are some ideas that may help.

  • Call a family conference to discuss the problem and discover solutions. Allow each person to explain his or her Sunday frustrations and offer suggestions, but don’t allow accusations to fly: “Yes, but you are always...” Write the plan down.
  • Guard Saturday night functions. Late Saturday nights are the prelude to a chaotic Sunday morning. Plan to get to bed early: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes Sundays a pleasant surprise.”
  • Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark. Set out clothes, shoes, socks, nappy bags, strollers, and Bibles ahead of time. Set the Sunday breakfast table on Saturday night. If hot water is a problem, schedule some family members for Saturday night baths.
  • Dad, help Mum get the kids ready and breakfast prepared. This is particularly important when the children are small. She’ll love you for it.
  • Start the day with some Christian music. It really makes a difference.
  • Set a departure time that doesn’t require split second timing and race-car dri­ving. Plan to arrive five to 10 minutes early. At our home, we set a departure time five minutes before the time we must leave. Anyone not in the car five minutes after scheduled departure time does the dishes for the next meal. So far Dad has done the dishes more often than anyone else.
  • Expect the unexpected. Satan will do his utmost to hinder your worship of God.
  • Reaffirm your commitment to fellow­ship with God’s people. “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another –– and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:24,25).

When you arrive for church early, spend those moments in prayer and reading your Bible. Ask God to speak to you. He will!

I should add, if you find yourself run­ning late on a Sunday don’t stay away. Just quietly slip in, smile at the usher, and hold up your watch and shake it. He’ll under­stand. We’ve all been there.

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