When I ask Confirmation classes to turn in sermon notes on sermons I preach, it's always an eye opener as to what they get from a sermon. For instance, in answer to a question "What was the sermon about?" the answer is one word, "sin." In answer to "What did the pastor say about the
topic of sin?" the reply would be, "He was against it." So, I'm wondering what sermon notes will be from today's sermon, "Drinking It All In."
Today's Gospel lesson reading was one of the longer ones in the lectionary. Only longer would be the reading of the Passion story. There are really two stories in today's reading and there is a great deal to focus on, and material for many sorts of sermons.
I'm basically going to focus on one aspect of the story of the Samaritan woman that Jesus encounters at the well. She's talking about water, H2O-quench your thirst water-and Jesus is talking about 'spiritual' water. Jesus says his followers must worship in "spirit and in truth." He
says that "God is spirit and God's worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth."
That's a phrase that's hard to really sink your teeth into: "worship in spirit and truth. It's really an abstract statement. Eugene Peterson's, THE MESSAGE translation says it clearer, I think: "The time is coming-it has, in fact, come-when what you're called will not matter and
where you go to worship will not matter. It's who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their
worship. God is sheer being itself-Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration."
That makes a lot of sense to me. I can drink that in. I can understand that we don't always come to worship in the right frame of mind-to worship from our "very being." We don't come with hearts ready to worship. That's why at the start of worship we have a Confession. It's a time
to clear our minds and hearts of whatever we have brought with us that could block us from a worship experience, a true encounter with God.
We come with problems on our mind. We come with anger or grudges. We come with last night on our mind. We come with broken relationships, people on our mind that we have not forgiven. We come with scattered minds, thinking about what's happening after the worship service or later in
the day, or even tomorrow or the week ahead. We come with minds not focused on worship or on God.
The worship service is constructed to help us focus on God-especially everything that happens up to the sermon-all to get our heart and mind focused on God. But we have to be participant in that. You have to give over your self to the Holy Spirit and let the Holy Spirit help our
spirit get in tune with what's going on. You have to be yourself. That is, you have to admit your mind wanders and give that over to God. In the confession you have to connect with the words, not just let them roll off your tongue as you read them. You have to give yourself over to
You have to let yourself be filled with the Spirit. You have to be thirsty for the Word of God. You have to hunger for the Word of God so you can be fed. There are so many parts of the worship service that can do that. Not just the sermon, but the Scripture readings, the hymns (and
if you don't like the tune, concentrate on the words-and do that even if you LIKE the tune-concentrate on the words you're singing), the anthem, the Creed, the Offering (think of what you are giving back to God-which is such a miniscule portion of what God has given you); and if you
give your offering once a month, or if your offering comes to Trinity through the Simply Giving program, you should never let the offering plate go by without putting something in because it is a deep connection to the experience of God that you are missing. The offering is a time of
tangible recognition and acknowledgement of God's gifts to you. So, even if you give monthly, each week you should put in even a dollar to make that connection a tangible reality of recognition on your part.
The worship service is constructed to give you opportunity after opportunity to worship God from your deeper being, your spirit, being who you really are. Many folks don't bring the "sinner-self" to worship. They think they have to bring some "better" person to worship. Not so. To
be forgiven you have to bring that sinner part of yourself and acknowledge that before God. We often get caught in the "good person" syndrome because we're attendance at worship. But we have to bring the sinner in us. That part of us needs to be forgiven and that part of us needs to be
so very grateful for that forgiveness, so that we worship God in thankfulness and praise God for God's mercy. That person then is caught up in the worship service and is not sitting back in judgment on whether particular parts of the service are done to his or her satisfaction.
You have lost your connection to God in the worship experience if you are caught up in judging parts of the service, or even judging other people (why don't they control that child, what kind of parent are they), why are they talking to someone during worship, why are they falling
asleep, why do they sing so loudly when they sing off key, why can't the organist play without making mistakes, why can't the organist use the organ and not the Clavinova, why can't they play the hymns I like to sing, why can't the youth dress more appropriately, why can't this or why
can't thatů.. Well, you get the idea. There's no connection to God in those kinds of judgment thoughts. There's no worship-no praise and Thanksgiving toward God in that kind of thinking. All the more reason to recognize the sinner in ourselves and let God forgive that and bless us. We
are lost to God's blessings when we do not truly acknowledge our sinful self at worship, but are some sort of "good person," who can sit back in judgment on others who come to worship, or sit in judgment on parts of the service, as though the service is constructed and conducted to
please and entertain the worshippers.
When you put negative energy into your worship experience, you will not get anything positive or rewarding from it.
So drink it all in. Drink in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Drink in the everlasting promises of Christ. Drink in the continuing creation that God provides for you. Drink in the continuing support, comfort, guidance. Drink it all in. Be filled. Be satisfied. Be saved. Be born
anew. Praise the Lord!
Let the people say: Praise the Lord! Like it says in the Psalm for today: "Come let us sing to the Lord; let us shout for joy to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving and raise a loud shout to him with psalms." So, let the people SHOUT: Praise
the Lord! Praise the Lord!