Preaching: Pastor Rebecca Henry
Date Presented: Sunday, October 23, 2016
Scripture Reference: Matthew 7:16-20
Sermon: Committed to Christ: Worship
I am certain this was not a scripture many would have anticipated hearing when our focus on a life of being committed to Christ includes worship. Rather we probably expected to hear words like, “Come into his temple with praises,” or “Confess your sings before the Lord your God.” We would have expected to hear something that fits our more common understanding of worship, like singing, praying, giving offering.
I have to admit, these were the answers I was expecting at our Wednesday night service, but I was blown away by the actual responses of our children:
We worship because God sees us
We offer praise for birds we see singing
Praying or talking with God
Worship is sharing God’s name with the world
Worship is having respect for God and others
Getting to know God
Remembering to share
Aren’t these incredible responses? You hear these responses and you get a window into a much deeper understanding of worship, much more like what we hear in today’s scripture reading. Worship is a life of producing fruit and faithfulness in every moment of our living. What we do on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights is just the refueling station, if you will, for the rest of the week. Worship is not about coming here and being entertained, but of leaving here with our hearts charging, our lives being more devoted to Christ. So the question for us is how do we go from merely being a presence here on Sunday morning to a deeper commitment to Christ where we worship with charging hearts and lives? How do we engage our whole selves in worship so that we can produce fruit? That’s the real question and challenge for those of us here: how do we grow, not so much in our quantity of worship but quality of worship?
Perhaps we can learn something from Dancing with the Stars. In every season by about weeks 3 or 4, we start hearing comments from the judges like, “You don’t seem to be connecting with the music or your partner. You are doing the steps, but there is no feeling. You’re just going through the motions. We want to see that you’re invested, that you are part of the dance.”
Some would say the same about those of us in the pews on Sunday mornings. As we heard in the mystery guest presentation, people are looking for authentic worship. They want to see that we are invested and aren’t holding anything back. I found it interesting that this week of reflecting on worship happened at a time when I am struggling with a cold. Last week worship didn’t feel complete or great for me because I was holding myself back. I wasn’t invested as fully because I wasn’t singing so as to try and save my voice, and I could feel it. I didn’t feel as connected or part of the service, whether in my connection with God or all of you. I could feel it, and like the judges on Dancing with the Stars said, others can tell, too, if you are putting your heart into worship.
Only there tends to be a breakthrough week, a week when the contestants seem to finally get it. It is the week when their dance reflects the most important moment in their lives. Suddenly there is more to it than mere steps. They are emotionally involved because it is their story.
The same is true for worship and how we connect, so that this isn’t just a matter of time but something we put our hearts into. What I have found over the years in my reading, but then also in my experience, is a lot of it begins with my preparations for worship. My heart is more invested in songs of praise when I’ve taken time to reflect on my week, my life to see all that God has done for me. When I do, I am left asking myself, “How can I not afford to give God one hour, even 1 ½ hours out of my whole week after everything God has done for me? How can I not sing with gusto or put effort into singing a new song?”
Sometimes the preparation work, even when I am not the one preaching, is to read the scriptures ahead of time, to spend my own time studying and praying over them. I’ve found that when I do so I am more engaged on Sunday morning, better able to hear God speaking.
The preparations may even be as seemingly simple as laying clothes out the night before or anything else you might need so as not to be rushed or frazzled when coming to worship. All these preparations help us to be ready to engage in our community’s worship, to hear God speaking, to experience the Holy Spirit showing us what we need to do, to leave feeling refreshed and empowered to give witness.
Only the truth is even this is preparation for true worship. Paul says in Romans 12:1, “So then, my brothers [and sisters], because of God’s great mercy I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer.” In other words, worship in the sanctuary is base camp, if you will, a place to prepare and tend to our souls so that we can offer true worship the rest of the week when we are sent out into the world. As the kids said, this is where we remember who we are, where we remember the life we are supposed to be living. It puts us back on track for living as disciples to share God’s name with the world. It keeps us focused so that the fruit we are producing will be good fruit.
Can you imagine how much stronger our witness would be if we never missed worship? Can you imagine the impact we would have if we were fully engaged every time the community gathered – greeting others, taking to heart the message not only through scripture but in our prayers and songs that we sing? Can you imagine the difference it would make if we shifted our thinking from what do I get out of this hour to what do I bring to the community and our time together? Or, how has God just prepared me to serve this week?
Yes, worship is singing, praying, hearing God’s Word, making commitments, experiencing God’s grace in word and community, but it is so much more. This is only a small sampling of what we experience when we truly worship God by dedicating our whole lives in service to Him. Amen.