We’ve been “strengthening our core” at FUMC, Monroe during this Lenten season in the hopes of becoming Christian to the Core. We’ve been focusing on those “core” practices of discipleship found in Acts 2:42-47–
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Sometimes, I think we forget how important worship is to the core of our discipleship. With the continuing decline in worship attendance across the United States, it’s almost as if worship has become optional, or at the very least “convenient.” Has worship really become like this video:
Worship is important because we are made to give glory to our Maker. I have my phone here. It’s a Nokia Windows phone. I use it every day to make phone calls, text, check my calendar, e-mail, and the weather. I even use it as a GPS when I’m driving. Every time this phone performs as it’s designed to perform, it reflects well on the Nokia employees who made it. That’s what great creations do—they reflect well on their makers. And that’s what worship is: reflecting well, or giving glory to our maker—and at least on occasion, gathering with others to acknowledge our gratitude for being made and provided for.
The Bible’s opening chapter says, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Very good things give glory to the one who made them. They can’t help it.
Perhaps the most challenging verse in the Bible for 21st Century western culture is found in the book of Hebrews. It’s challenging because it addresses the competing allegiances that vie for our sacred “weekend” time—things like sporting events and weekend getaways.
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
The Bible says it’s good for us to meet together so that we can spur one another on toward love and good deeds. That’s why we get together. The second reason worship is important is because it’s God’s will for us to gather weekly. We need to “meet together” because when we’re here, we grow and give God glory. Worship is part of spiritual growth. Worship is part of the “core of the core” that we talked about last week. When we’re not here, we’re missed and everybody else who’s gathered is missing something because one of us isn’t here. We need what meeting can do for us.
Gathering weekly for worship is a primary, foundational habit, because it resets our priorities every week, before the week begins. My DVR freezes up from time to time. The cure for its ailment is to unplug it for 30 seconds (according to the technician on the other end of the phone). I’ve often wondered why 30 seconds? What would happen if I plugged it back in at 29 seconds, or left it unplugged for 31 seconds? Regardless, unplugging the DVR resets it, and it has to be reset occasionally to function properly. Our lives are a non-stop blitz of messages and inputs. We read books and magazines, we watch television shows, we listen to the radio while we’re driving and to our smartphones while we’re exercising or doing whatever. All of these inputs are telling us something about life. “Vote ‘em off the Island” shows communicate a certain way to win. Sit-coms and dramas tell us how they think we should dress and talk and treat others. We may not agree with what they say or how the people on those shows act, but the DVR that is our memory is always running and storing what we see on our mental hard-drive. All these inputs influence us. The average person saw 500 ads per day in the 1970’s. Today, the average person sees 5,000 ads per day. Our brains absorb every message. Many of those messages distort our view of God, other people, and the world around us. Worship is the place to clear up the distortion.
It’s good to be reminded that we’re not the center of the universe, that the one with the most toys doesn’t win, or that the things we buy, try, taste and wear aren’t going to make us happy over the long haul. Worship is a reminder that this is my Father’s world. In worship the songs, the message, and the people remind us that despite how we’ve seen people treated all week, people matter to God and ought to be treated with respect and dignity.
In worship, we’re reminded that we are significant and that God has good plans for us. Worship reminds us that God has a purpose for all of us, and it reminds us that He wants to use us in bringing salvation of His creation. Worship reminds us that character matters and the Lord wants us to act with integrity, honesty, justice, love, joy, peace, and patience. In worship, we get the interior of our soul reset, and our priorities can be repositioned.
The challenge of worship goes beyond these walls, though. Worship is a way of life, too. The Apostle Paul gives us a clue in Romans 12. Eugene Peterson’s The Message says it this way:
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”
How do I place my “walking around life” before God? I’ll answer that in a minute, but first let me clue you in on something. This “offering” we put before God, many other translations say “your spiritual act of worship.” That word “spiritual” literally translates as “logical.” Paul is saying the most logical thing we can do is worship God because of all that God has done for us.
Back in Paul’s day, the Jews still worshiped God by bringing a bull, a ram, or a lamb, or pigeons or doves to the altar in the Temple; slit its throat; and then placed its body on the altar as a sacrifice. The difference for us is, instead of being a dead sacrifice, our logical response to all that God has done is to become living sacrifices. We are walking-around sacrifices that give God honor all day long. Some people believe worship only takes place in church on Sundays. Sunday worship is incredibly important, but from God’s perspective, worship is more than that. Let’s put it this way–worship is a verb.
Worship is not a noun that describes a person, place, or thing. It’s a verb that describes an action, something we do. Honestly it’s really not something we “do”, it’s part of WHO WE ARE. Like my phone gives Nokia credit by doing what it does well, we give God glory by doing everything we do well. Have you ever worshiped while doing household chores? Our attitude while serving can please or displease God. Tomorrow morning, when we get up, we can give God glory by saying, “Thank you, Lord, that I get to live another day.” When we get in our car, we can give God glory by how we drive to work, and the attitude we maintain toward the drivers around us (I never preach a sermon to someone else until I preach it to myself). When the car next to us cuts us off, we can choose to give God glory…or not. By all means, if you have a Jesus bumper sticker, or a Christian fish on your car, please choose to give God glory.
At work, at school, on the athletic field or social functions, our intensity, our teachability, or attitudes, our openness can all be either acts of worship, or not. Again, the Apostle Paul reminds us in Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as if you were working for the Lord and not for a person.” That is worship.
Parents, investing in our children, raising them well, loving them, teaching them to love God is an act of worship. Children and teenagers—how you treat your parents, your attitude when you help with chores, how you treat your brothers and sisters, are all acts of worship.
Listen again to how Peterson translates it in The Message: “Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering (an act of worship).” That’s how we worship!
So, let’s worship. We were made to do it, God asks us to do it, and in view of who He is and all that He’s done for us, it’s the least we can do on Sundays at church and during the week in every aspect of our lives.
Worship–it’s at the “core” of who we are!
Until next time, keep looking up…