My route to church each Sunday morning takes me past a beautiful river and several tennis courts. More than once I have mentally rebuked the boaters, sunbathers, and tennis players. I would think, ''It's a shame so many people have forgotten the sabbath. When will they see the need to love and worship God more than recreation?''
Recently my smugness was punctured when this question came home to confront me with surprising force. For several months I had been looking forward to participating in an annual tennis tournament. Sure enough, the second round of play in my division was scheduled for Sunday morning at a time that would have precluded my attending church.
In the past, I had been able to reschedule such matches, but on this occasion my efforts failed.
The challenge wasn't deciding where to go - I felt certain church was more necessary and important than recreation - but how to go. It seemed to me that obeying the form of the commandment ''Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy'' n1 without really loving the substance of it would be dogmatic and willful. Or, to put it another way, it would be dishonest to get my body to church if my heart was still on the tennis court.
n1 Exodus 20:8.
On Saturday night I tried to meet this predicament with human reasoning: ''Perhaps I would have lost tomorrow's match''; ''I'm rather tired from today's matches''; ''It's supposed to be quite warm tomorrow.'' But these attempts to convince myself failed to bring either comfort or understanding.
Christian Science has taught me that true comfort and understanding come from communion with God and reasoning on a spiritual basis. So I turned wholeheartedly to God in prayer. I saw that there could be no loss of joy or satisfaction from worshiping God with other believers in church. I was able to peacefully accept the assurance that God completely governs every aspect of my life. Not that I couldn't glorify God while playing tennis. But the one hour in the week uniquely designed to allow me to honor and love God with undivided attention.
My motive in attending church was not only to glorify God and seek His blessing in my life, but to pray that each person attending the service would feel God's tender and very practical care. Mary Baker Eddy n2 instructs members of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts: ''The prayers in Christian Science churches shall be offered for the congregations collectively and exclusively.'' n3
n2 Mrs. Eddy is the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.
n3 Manual of The Mother Church Art. VIII, Sec. 5.
Through continued prayerful reasoning I determined not just to attend church, but to "remember the sabbath'' with an honest, grateful, and unselfish heart. Needless to say, the service that morning at the branch Church of Christ, Scientist, that I attended was particularly inspiring and helpful to me. I prayed that others would also find encouragement and healing. And I took several hours during the afternoon to pray specifically to love God more. I felt no disappointment in forfeiting the tennis match.
One can remember the sabbath day outside a church service when necessary. But so much of the activity that fills our sabbaths opposes or crowds out our worship of God.
It is natural for man, God's creation, to love and praise his Maker. Depending on God and communing with Him, not only on Sunday but every day, is a central part of understanding our identity. We are never, in truth, separate from our life-giving Father, and we need not accept the temptation to ignore Him.
We need God. We need to learn more of His omnipotence and ever-presence. We need to regularly praise and thank Him for His goodness. And we need to express His love toward those around us. We can begin to fulfill these needs by honestly and courageously remembering the sabbath. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name for thou only art holy. Revelation 15.4t. VIII, Sect. 5.