Worshiping in Spirit and Truth

What is worship? That is a big question for us to talk about before we get, more specifically, to, 'Worshiping in Spirit and Truth.' There's no one right definition, as is spelled out in our Book of Worship, so there's a diversity of responses on what worship is. What is worship to you? [Responses: praising God, a time of prayer, thankfulness, joy, a need to be together as a community, gathering with the people] All great answers, all part of the larger definition of what worship is. Scripture calls us to worship, and to praise God, and to give thanks. And I have a definition from the Book of Worship which I'll read for you in just a moment. But what is worship? In our denomination, responses from people are highly individual. Worship is a meaningful act where we give as well as receive. And there are certain things in worship that touch us more than other things. So it is something that would be individual to a point. But it is very important that worship be done with the gathered body. It is not just our service to God, but our praising God in community in the sanctuary.

I'll read from our Book of Worship: 'What is Christian worship? The answers to that question reflect the rich diversity of Christ's church and account for more than a few of its divisions. There is no definition that exhausts the scope of the question. Every answer raises more questions and cautions humility in the presence of all that is holy. Where definitions are elusive, descriptions become our alternative. Christian worship cannot be understood apart from the Jewish worship that first cradled and nurtured it. Like worship in Judaism, Christian worship is the glad response of total individuals through heart, soul, strength and mind to the saving acts of God in history. It is the communal and personal celebration in the universal church of God's love for creation and every human being.'

That sounds like a pretty good definition to me. We need to understand that worship comes from our heritage based in Judaism that moved into Christian faith. Worship has been passed down from one faith to another. Worship is something that engages us in mind and body and spirit as individuals and as the gathered body, and it inspires us with God's wisdom, it inspires us with God's justice, it inspires us to go out and to serve God. But what does it mean to worship God, and what does it mean to worship God in Spirit and in truth? How I understand that is to come to church with our full selves and be present, to come carrying with us those things that might have us be embarrassed, those things that might have us a little bit angry, or perturbed, or anxious, or fearful. It is to come and be part of worship no matter at what point we find ourselves in life, but to come as who we are, come with warts and all. God accepts us to be in his presence in this place. God accepts us and wants us to come together as Christ's followers to give worship and to be inspired by the Spirit to go out and serve.

You can do that somewhat individually in your own home in your own little worship space, but it is different when God's Word and God's will are discerned in the sanctuary with the whole gathered body in the church. As individuals when we hear God calling to us and shedding wisdom on us, it's usually also very highly individual. And because of our own experiences in life, we see that as the only truth, or at least our truth. But when we gather as the entire body and we hear God's Word and discern those things out of the myriad of perspectives and experiences that God has granted, sometimes a new way emerges. A new understanding that had never come to mind appears, and often that liberates us from our own selves. But when we come to worship God in Spirit and in truth and we present our full selves with humility, when we humble ourselves before God and ask God to really touch our lives in this moment of worship, that is when the Spirit can do some real work in us.

So in this summer series, let us understand that one of the important and critical functions of the church, the gathered body of Christ, is to come together to worship God in Spirit and in truth, to come as our full selves, as who we are, and to know that God accepts us and wants us here. Let us strive to accept each other and want to see each other here every week so that we all may grow in Christ.

Read other Sermons by Pastor Steve