In working on the music selections for this Sunday, I got to thinking. What does it mean to worship God? We tend to think of the music section of the Sunday Service as the "worship" section. But is that really all worship is? And is that even how we approach Sunday Morning at all? What are we supposed to be doing at our worship service?
The first time the word "worship" appears in the Bible is Genesis 22:5 -
Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the boy will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.”
This is the story where Abraham is asked by God to actually sacrifice - kill and burn on an altar - his son, Isaac.
All through the Bible, worship is connected with sacrifice and humility.
Revelation, the last book of the Bible, has the elders falling off of their thrones onto their faces to worship God (Revelation 11:16-17).
And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give You thanks, Lord God, the Almighty, the One who is and who was, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.
What has worship become for us? How has it changed from a sacrifice we offer God in humility to something that we require for ourselves?
Why do we go to church demanding that it satisfy our needs? We want to hear our favorite music, which can't be too fast, slow, loud, or soft. We want the pastor to preach a message we like, usually one that will let us know what great Christians we are. It also can't be too long, short, or difficult. We want to be in comfortable seats, not too hot or too cold, and not made to sit or stand for too long.
The disciples' last view of Jesus in the flesh prompted profound worship on their part, as recorded in Luke 24:50-53. This took place after Jesus had been crucified and come back to life, and just as he was being taken up to Heaven for the last time:
And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God.
They were continually in the temple praising God!
This is our proper sacrifice. We no longer have to slaughter animals in order to worship God. He no longer requires blood, because Jesus shed his own blood for the forgiveness of the sins of the whole world. (1 John 1:6-7)
If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
And this brings us to the final part of worship. Fellowship with one another. This can be the hardest part. It is easy to revere a perfect God. It is not always easy to deal with each other. It is easier to slip in and out of the church service, maybe only getting there for our favorite part and tuning out or not showing up for the less exciting elements. We can go home and say we went to church. But the church is not a building or a service. The church is a group of people who are commanded by Jesus to love one another; John 13:34-35 -
"I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another.”
We cannot love each other from afar. It just doesn't work. For us to love each other, we have to spend time together. We have to get to know each other in a real way. How much do you know about the people you sit near every Sunday?
I tell my teenage daughter that she needs to be able to approach people. It's easy to say "they didn't talk to me," but did you talk to them? God's people need to be able to love each other, even if they don't seem to have anything in common. We are all part of one family, and even one body (Romans 12:4-5).
For just as we have many parts in one body and all the body’s parts do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually parts of one another.
Now we need to start acting like it.
I pray that you are able to worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). I pray that you are able to find a church where you can enter into fellowship and worship with other believers. If you are near Dover Plains, NY, I invite you to come to the Second Baptist Church.
We are not a perfect church. We are a small congregation. There is nowhere to hide. But there is plenty of room for growth, and we invite you to be part of our mission to bring the love of God to those all around us.