So after a recent post about under-realizing the Ascension, a joking comment about the possibility of an Ascension Day service (which happens to by definition be a Thursday thing) turned into a question of what the RPW has to say about midweek services. In snippet form, the exchange went:
Bruce: How does this fit in with the RPW?
MGB: And where is the command that the elders are only permitted to call the congregation to worship on the Lord’s Day?
RubeRad: That’s not how RPW works. You’re supposed to ask “Where is the command for what I’m doing?”, not “I want to do something. Is it forbidden?”
MGB: Read my sentence again. It’s Calvinistic, not Lutheran.
Bruce: Do you hold a midweek service because it is commanded in scripture or because it is not forbidden by scripture? Or is there some third option?
MGB: I see no command in Scripture that limits worship to the Lord’s Day only.
It would seem we’re talking past each other somehow. Zrim, trying to break the logjam, linked to two articles by OHS Hyde. I checked them out, and I have some thoughts.
First of all, the second article is not helpful to the question, except that it helps define the RPW as what we already know it to mean, namely that we don’t get to make up the ways we worship.
Second of all, most of the first article is not helpful. Stipulating that the early reformers may well have enthusiastically observed “Evangelical Feast Days” like Easter Monday or Good Friday or Ascension Thursday, that’s not an answer to the question “How does this fit in with the RPW?” Nor is an explanation of “The Benefit of the Practice.” The RPW question is identical to the question “Where’s the scriptural command?” so the only kind of answer that actually adresses the question is in the form of chapter and vesre. As far as I can see, the closest the article gets to answering the question is to note that “Hey, the Jews observed the extra-Mosaic feasts of Purim and Dedication.”
So in an attempt to answer the question (at least in the form I would be satisfied to call an answer), I suggest a discussion of Acts 2:42-47, which describes the life of the brand-spanking new Christian Church. In v42, “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers,” which I think is commonly understood narrowly to be describing elements of worship. V46 describes that “day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts.” So (unless there are other scriptures that come to bear, but I can’t think of any) it would seem that the question turns on whether v46 “day by day” applies way back in v42, and whether “breaking bread” in v46 is the same as in v42, or merely Horton’s “creation work” of “having friends over for dinner.”
Now personally, I have nothing against churches doing things midweek. That’s how I was raised, and even today, we’ve got home bible study on Friday, choir rehearsal on Thursday, and “Family Night” on Wednesday. But even Family Night — the closest thing we have to a midweek service — would not be described by anyone as a “worship service.” The study of the bible is in a more informal, interactive mode, led by unordained men, so it’s definitely not the Preaching of the Word. There’s usually some singing, but Col 3:16 is an admonition for Christians’ everyday interactions. There’s no question of administering Sacraments, and I bet somebody could articulate a qualitative difference between the elder-led Sunday morning Prayer of the Church, and whatever prayer happens on Wednesday night.
So as I see it, the kind of midweek less-than-services that I’m used to are not big-W-Worship, and are thus not subject to RPW. But (short of a favorable exegesis of Acts 2:46), that doesn’t help me with the concept of a Good Friday or Ascension Thursday service, which seems more like it would be full-on administration of Word, Sacrament and Prayer.
So how does that fit in with the RPW?