Sundays are special.
I don’t mean to me. Well, they are special to me, of course. I get to gather with other believers who have committed to me and to one another, and we get to serve, encourage, educate, and challenge one another.
And we get to worship God together. That’s what makes Sunday especially special: it’s special to God. He sees and hears people from almost every language, people, and nation—more than we can possibly be aware of—all singing to and about him, all thanking him, all rejoicing in him, all hearing what he has said in his Word.
Does that sound self-centered and egotistical of him?
Come on, you know better than that. When you give a sacrificial gift to someone you love, is it egotistical and self-centered to be pleased when she tells you how much it means to her? How much more should God, who has given us more than we can ever know, at greater cost than we could ever pay, rejoice when we thank him?
Egotistical? What nonsense.
Because God is unique—infinite, eternal, complete, unchanging—he sees things differently from the way we do. We think of Sunday as beginning in the morning, when we get up—maybe at 6 or 7. (I suspect that most American Christians with 8-to-5 jobs actually sleep in a little longer on Sundays, since few churches have services beginning as early as 8.) And Sunday ends when we go to bed at 10 or 11—or, if you’re a college student, shortly after 4 am.
But it’s not that way for God. Days and hours aren’t a part of his nature; they’re something he invented. So he’s outside of time, though well aware of it. (And of course he entered time and space in the person of his Son, but without becoming limited by it.)
So he’s not on Eastern, or Central, or Pacific Time. He’s beyond and above all of it. And that means that Sunday lasts longer for him than for us.
It begins on Kiritimati Island (Christmas Island) in the Pacific, which has the most forward time zone on the planet, 14 hours ahead of Greenwich. If believers there start their service at 10 am Sunday, it’s only 3 pm Saturday where I live, in Eastern Standard Time. That’s when God begins to hear the chorus of praise. And yes, he has his people there. It’s a small group, barely heard above the breakers, but certainly heard and relished in the courts of heaven.
The chorus moves westward with the sun. An hour later Tonga joins, then the Marshalls, then the Solomons—and with them the easternmost reaches of Russia—then Papua New Guinea. And at 5 hours in, the chorus begins to swell as thousands—millions—of worshipers from eastern Asia—Japan, the Philippines, and soon the behemoth of China—shout their loud praise to the one who is worthy. How joyously the thundering praise must crash into the presence of Majesty!
And we’re just getting started. Vietnam, Myanmar, India, Pakistan, Iran, Jerusalem—hour after hour the chorus mounts, with new, fresh voices and ever-changing accents joining the praise. With Jerusalem, Kenya has joined, and now the wave moves from Asia—the birthplace of Abraham and Moses and Judaism and Jesus and Christianity—to Africa. The voices are different now, even as they are different from those of their northern brothers in Europe, but the content and the heart are ever the same. Cape Town, Yaounde, Wa, Reykjavik, and across another ocean, to the New World, still far short of the New Earth, but praising God nonetheless.
Cape Verde; Rio; St. John’s. And then, 19 full hours after it has begun, the crescendo arrives at my church on Hudson’s Corners in Greer, SC—a place that no biblical character could ever have imagined would receive the gospel—and I am privileged to add my quavering voice to a song that supersedes time and place and culture:
See the destined day arise!
See the willing sacrifice—
Jesus, to redeem our loss,
Hangs upon the shameful cross.
Lamb of God, for sinners slain!
Jesus Christ, we praise your name!
And still we are not finished. Millions more wait to add their voices in places like Bogota and Tegucigalpa and Winnipeg and Salt Lake City (yes, some are there, too) and Spokane and Fairbanks and Adak and Honolulu and Midway. Then to Amchitka in the Aleutians, where U.S. airmen are the only human inhabitants, where at last the long shout subsides for another week. With the vagaries of time-zone organization, we’re much further west than we were when we started, but Sunday is just now arriving in the northern Pacific. And back at my house, the time is 5 pm.
The song that lasted only an hour for us has gone for more than 24—26, to be exact (or 27, if you stop counting at the end of the service). What a glorious ride it has been. And in just 6 days (not 7) it will start again.
God is worthy of much, much more. But he rejoices in this. Add your voice to the largest choir of all time. It meets every week.