What is Church – Worship
You know I can’t help but think that as a church we are getting in to an exciting period of time. We have huge challenges in terms of our continuing to follow Christ in our communities and in bringing others to follow Him. In most people’s view we are an anachronistic and futile organisation. Who would really miss us if we stopped being church here? Really who would notice?
How do we express our faith in Jesus Christ to our communities? How many times has that question been asked? – and how difficult it is to answer.
What is it that we have that we want to share and which we want others to believe?
This is where we can get excited about the time ahead. We must have something to share – to promote – otherwise why are we here, every, or most Sundays? What draws us to this building to sing songs together and pray? To sit in uncomfortable rows to hope to catch a glimpse of God’s purposes. What is it that makes us want to be church in North Knapdale?
That is what makes me excited – how do we gather and distil this wonder which we share, this faith in knowing God, this assurance of life in Jesus Christ, this communication of love from our Creator? How do we gather this to share with others?
I think we need to talk to one another, to discuss our faith and our hopes, our doubts and our assurances. Wrestle together with our faith, and doubts – share our certainties and assurances, describe our experiences and sudden understanding. – and then we can with confidence demonstrate and talk to those around us – This is who we are – this is our faith – this is how we see life and this is how we live.
Is that not exciting? – to get together and work out our faith and beliefs – to grapple with what does following Christ mean for us? It will take effort, it will take thought, it will take time – is this not what Jesus is warning us about ?– life with me can be uncomfortable, if you are going to follow me you will have to prioritise my Kingdom – don’t look back on where you have been – look forward to where we are going.
And look at what Paul is saying to the church at Corinth – we are God’s fellow workers – we are all asked to plant and water so that God can give the increase – we are all asked to build on the foundations laid which is Christ – we can choose our building materials – gold, silver, wood or straw – high quality and substantial or cheap and useless – our choice to build to endure or to build for loss. And what are we building – people , not monuments; lives, not bricks and mortar.
We can have the excitement of building people of God, to be built by Christ into the church of God. That should be exciting.
Now what is Church? How would we define a church? And what does a church do? I think that just as we need to gather and distil our understanding of our faith, we equally have to re discover what church is, and what should we be doing as church?
There have been many attempts to define the essence of Church – and if we had a range of theologians, and denominations here we could spend the rest of the day disagreeing and possibly agreeing on some factors.
So give me some of your thoughts – What is Church?……….
I am going to propose four aspects without which a church would be incomplete.
WORSHIP MISSION DISCIPLESHIP COMMUNITY
Now my hope is that today I will be able to consider “Worship” – and if you give me the opportunity, I will cover the other aspects over three other Sundays – whenever there is space.
Worship – we talk of Worship services, worship leaders, places of worship, times of worship – but consider for a moment how does this word make you feel? What emotions does it convey?
I have been reading a book by an Australian minister – exploring new forms of church and he says:
“..We believe that worship is a core, indispensable, and non-negotiable function of the church. … worship is an irreplaceable function in the Christian experience We should worship because our God is worthy to be worshipped”
We think of the 24 elders in revelation – Rev 4 vs 10
“The 24 elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne saying –
You are worthy O Lord to receive glory and honour and power”
The church must worship – it is in our spiritual genes – we worship as our response to our God who is overall and above all, and yet is loving and caring, who is behind all creation, and yet is personified in Jesus – who hovered over the waters at the dawn of time and yet is in us and with us in the Holy Spirit – such a God we can only worship.
Worship is not necessary for God – but it is necessary for us. It rises up from us in awe and thanksgiving as we contemplate this complex and wondrous being.
God does not experience inadequacy if we do not worship – but we deny ourselves a vital part of our beings if we fail to worship Him.
We have the joy, the privilege, the honour of being able to know a little of God, to experience His love, to accept his grace – and so we must worship, we can’t help ourselves.
Worship is some way of our giving back to God, offering all he has given us – our lives, our resources, our time, our world back into being under His Lordship.
“all of life belongs to God, and true holiness and true worship means bringing all the spheres of our life under his supreme lordship.”
As we worship together or separately is offering ourselves, our beings, to God.
Jesus says to Pharisees in Mark – the first and greatest commandment is:–
Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Mk 12 v 30.
We can use our hearts in emotional outbursts of thanksgiving and wonder, our souls in searching the depths of our faith and our grasp of eternity with God, our minds to lift our worship as we wrestle to try to comprehend our God, and our strength in physical representation of our worship – arms held up in openness to our Father, hands held out in supplication to receive blessing of the Holy Spirit, kneeling in submission and acceptance of His authority.
All demonstrating – “Thy will be done..”
Worship has an element of sacrifice – of self sacrifice to make room for God to direct our lives – of giving up ourselves to allow him to lead and guide us. Paul writes to the Roman church –
“ I beseech you therefore brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
Rom ch 12 v 1
We worship together as we are His body and should look to be led together, to be built together, to serve together – but also worship all the time, not places, times, buildings.
When Jesus is speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well she asks – should we worship God on this mountain here or in the temple at Jerusalem?
He says – forget that – the time is coming when you won’t worship either here or in Jerusalem – for worshipers will worship in Spirit and in truth” – not in a place but in our hearts –
Not in a building but in our Spirit, not due to custom – but out of our wonder at the truth of God’s kingdom.
There is no designated place for worship – there is no designated time for worship – there are two styles –
as individuals as we seek to submit ourselves to him,
and together, as a group of Jesus followers, as his church, as we seek as a body to present ourselves as a living sacrifice -looking forward in submission to His will.
Paul follows this immediately with
“Don’t be conformed to this world – but be transformed …..
that you may prove the good, and acceptable and perfect will of God”
Paul makes adirect connection between worship and discerning God’s will. Is that not exciting – as we worship together we can experience a greater understanding of God’s way forward for us.
Worship is woven into the fabric of being church – and from this grows out all the other vital parts of being church together –
Community, discipleship, mission –
And we can explore those at another time. –
But can you feel the excitement growing as our church worship’s together looking forward to what next God has for our lives together?
We worship because we need to worship such an amazing God,
We worship and we are drawn close one another as hids body
We worship and are brought to a closer understanding together of God’s plans for us as his body here.
Together, and separately,
Here or anywhere
Now or anytime
We worship to bring all the spheres of our life under his supreme lordship.