Sunday, October 5, 2014

Worship in Truth

We don’t know the circumstances of her life, or of her social situation.  We only meet her because of a chance encounter that she had with Jesus. 

Jesus and his friends were on their way to Galilee from Judea and on the way they passed by a village in Samaria and while the apostles went into the village to rustle up some food Jesus sat and rested by the village well.  It was while he was sitting there this woman shows up to draw water from the well.  That was just a part of her daily existence, nothing special about the day or about what she was doing.  Whenever I’m in Africa, regardless of the country it is always the women who are in charge of getting the water.

And so suddenly we see her life intersect with Jesus.  An ordinary task on an ordinary day suddenly has eternal ramifications.  And the conversation is kind of clumsy.  Jesus asks her for a drink of water, and that blows her away.  And we pick up the story in John 4:9 The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”
You see there were all kinds of reasons why Jesus shouldn’t have been having a conversation with her.  1) She was a Samaritan 2) She was a woman 3) She was a Samaritan woman.  None of those would factor in today but 2000 years ago in that culture each of them was a deal breaker. 

And Jesus just ignores the question and jumps into a spiritual discussion with her about living water, and when she asks where she can receive the water the conversation gets a little awkward.  John 4:16-18 “Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her. “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”
It is interesting that Jesus does not equate simply living together with being married, he viewed them differently, she had been married five times but now she was simply living with a man who was not her husband.
And I love what she does, she deflects the conversation.  She completely ignores what Jesus has said and jumps to a completely different topic.  John 4:19-20 “Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”
That’s kind of the default that most of us go to, if we don’t want to deal with something we just change the subject.
Now I’d probably say “Hey lady let’s stay on topic here.”  But Jesus was cool, he was “Ok if you want to talk about worship, we can talk about worship.”
Which leads us to where I want to land this morning and that is John 4:23-24 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”   It seems as if Jesus was trying to make a point about worship here, seeing he uses the word “worship” five times in these two verses.
Now it’s interesting that the lady wanted to talk about their preferences in worship, how come we worship at Mount Gerizim and you worship at Jerusalem?  How come you do it that way and we do it this way?  How come you sing these songs and we sing those songs?
It was in the book of Mark when Jesus was asked what was required to achieve eternal life, and this was his answer: Mark 12:29-30 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’
Jesus said that is the most important commandment, if you can only do one, this is it.  This is the one that you don’t want to miss.  And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ So we were created to be loved by God and the main purpose in our lives is to love him back.  He should be the most important thing in our life.  If we had to pick the one item that we couldn’t or wouldn’t do without it should be God.  
And that’s the question that you need to answer: what is the most important thing in your life?  But it wouldn’t be fair to ask you here in church, would it?
I’m sure we’d all answer “God”.  Kind of like the little boy in Sunday School Class, the teacher asked “What’s grey, lives in a tree has a bushy tail and gathers nuts?”  The boy thought for a minute and said “It sure sounds like a squirrel but I’m betting the answer is Jesus.”  So you are thinking “I know what the most important thing in my life is but I’m betting the answer is God.”
If we go all the way back to the beginning of the story you realize that Adam and Eve, the first couple, were created to be in fellowship with God.  There was a direct connection and they deliberately rebelled and walked away from the relationship.  And after they were banished from the Garden of Eden we have no idea what type of relationship they had with their creator. 
But it’s not very long into history that we read those words about their grandson Enosh, Genesis 4:26 When Seth grew up, he had a son and named him Enosh. At that time people first began to worship the LORD by name.  And they began to worship the Lord by name.  But what does that mean? 
Does it mean that they started having church and part of that was the “Worship” service?  Did they have drums and guitars and keyboards and sang songs by David Crowder and Matt Redman, or did they have an organ and piano and sing hymns?  Was it contemporary worship or more traditional worship? 
The problem is that we limit worship either to what we do in church or narrow it down even further to half of what we do in church and then we make it the least significant part.  And so we have the “worship”, that is the singing part of the service and it is the prelude to the important part which is the preaching. 
Sometimes you will hear people say, “I really enjoyed the worship this morning.” And what they mean is that the music spoke to them.  And that’s not bad, but it is personal and while it may be a small part of what worship is it certainly isn’t all of what worship is.  When we limit worship to music then it becomes very personal and anything that is personal we become defensive of.
And that’s why musical styles in churches can sometimes result in conflict, because it is so personal.  When we say that we don’t like a particular type of music then those who like that type of music take it personally.  In other words if I don’t like singing traditional hymns in church then in some people’s minds I’m saying singing traditional hymns in church is wrong and so by implication that means that I’m saying that those who prefer singing traditional hymns in church are wrong as well.
No, all that means is I personally don’t enjoy that style of music.  I don’t like classical music, I don’t like reading poetry, or putting anchovies on my pizza. And if you do like classical music, reading poetry and eating anchovies on your pizza you probably aren’t offended because I don’t.  But worship is more personal than just our preferences, because worship is how we connect with God, and if you do it different than you are questioning not just my taste but the relationship I have with God.
So when we narrowly define worship as one style or type of anything it boxes in God.
Worship can’t be defined by style because style is too individualistic.  And so worship music is really a mis-definition because it’s only worship music for some and for others it just plain annoying. 
Neat story, years ago there was an elderly pastor on this district by the name of Walter Fernley and he and his wife were an awesome couple, who have both moved onto to Glory, which is a euphemism for: They died. 
Walter’s wife’s name was Mabel but everyone called her Mabs.  One day Walter asked Mabs to say grace at dinner, which she did, very quietly.  To which Walter commented, “I couldn’t hear you.”  To which Mabs replied “I wasn’t talking to you.”
So when someone says I didn’t like the worship this morning, the proper response is “We weren’t singing to you.”   I don’t think God has a preference for any one style of worship music.  I think that we offer our worship to Him and if we do it with the right motives and a pure heart then He goes, “Thank you that was so cool.”  Because as good as it might be on any given Sunday he has heard much better.
Think about it twelve hours ago He heard the worship team from Hillsong Church in Sydney Australia sing, and two hundred and fifty years ago He heard Beethoven play his Fifth Symphony.  And heaven is filled with music, country music actually, it will sound a lot like Willie.  
But we are God’s children presenting our gift of worship to Him.  When your child gives you a gift that they made themselves do you say, “Well it’s nice but it’s not very good compared to other art I’ve seen.”  No you say “Thank you, that is so cool.”
So if worship isn’t what we do in church, and it isn’t just music, what is it?
Paul was writing to the early church in the book of Romans and this is what he said Romans 12:1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
So look at the last line, This is truly the way to worship him.   So how do we truly worship him?  By giving our bodies to God.  That sounds a little strange.  So let’s dig a little deeper. 
In the New International Version it says Romans 12:1 NIV 1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.   Hmmm, now it’s our spiritual act of worship.  So let’s go a little deeper again.
1) Worship is Something You Give We are told to offer or give our bodies and when you offer something it is voluntary.  From day one God created mankind with this incredible gift of free will.  He didn’t create us to blindly serve him without thought or choice. 
In 1942 Isaac Asimov wrote a short story called Runaround and in it he introduced us to the 3 laws of Robotics and there are some of you who know these by heart, and that is scary.  But for the rest of the 3 laws of Robotics state:  
1. A robot may not harm a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence, as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Those laws were fiction of course but God could have put very similar restrictions on humanity.  But then we would have been robots and not people and God wants us to choose to worship him and so he allows us to choose whether or not we will obey him and whether or not we won’t worship him.  He wants it to be a conscious decision where we in effect say, “I offer this to you” 
Francis De Sales summed it up when he said “There are no galley-slaves in the royal vessel of divine love -- every man works his oar voluntarily!”
Of course free will is a double edged sword, author P.J. O’Rourke commented “One of the annoying things about believing in free will and individual responsibility is the difficulty of finding somebody to blame your problems on. And when you do find somebody, it's remarkable how often his picture turns up on your driver's license.”
Nobody else can worship for you and if you don’t take that step there is nobody else you can blame for it not happening.  God won’t force you to worship him.
Sometimes we make decisions that are hard if not impossible to undo.  And you’ll hear someone say, “If only”.  And many times we can’t go back and unring the bell, sometimes we only get one chance to make a decision. 
But regardless of what or who you chose to worship yesterday today you can choose to worship God.
2) Worship Involves Who You Are So, next we are told to offer our bodies, and that simply means that you are to offer “You”.  While we are here we are here in our bodies, if we are going to do anything it will be done with our bodies. 
Every once in a while someone will tell me, “I can’t be here next Sunday Denn, but I will be here in Spirit.”  Do you know what that means?  “Nothing, zip, nada.”  If your bodies are not here then your spirit’s not here, they are interconnected and they go together.  In this life you can’t have one without the other.
And so by asking for our bodies God is in effect asking for all of us.  So understand you will be worshipping something and that will be indicated by what you are doing with your body and where your body is.  It defines our priorities. 
If you tell me “Denn I really want to be at church next Sunday but I have to be at . . .” What you are saying is “I really want to be at church but I want to be at . . . more.” 
Late in the last century, when I was in college I was up until two one morning at a hockey game and didn’t make it to an eight o’clock class I had.  That afternoon I ran into my Prof and said “I’m Sorry I didn’t make it to class Dr. K, I really wanted to be there.”  To which Dr. Kanzlemar uttered these words of wisdom “If you had of wanted to be there you would have been there” and then he added this gem “You do what you want to do.”
So when we offer our bodies we are offering ourselves in a practical way to God, it’s not just something that happens here in our mind, kind of like a card I sent to my best friend one year for his birthday, on the cover it said “When it comes to gifts it’s the thought that counts.”  And inside it said “And I thought about getting you a gift.”   And it’s not just what happens here in our heart, where it is a good intention.  When I was growing up my favorite Aunt would often remind me that “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  And Margaret Thatcher said “No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he only had good intentions. He had money as well.” 
So it’s not enough to think about worshipping God or even wanting to worship God if we don’t actually worship God.   
3) Worship Demands Something.  In the passage from Romans we are told to present out bodies as a living sacrifice.  A sacrifice is a sacrifice because it cost something.  Sacrifice would be a lot easier if it involved giving up something we weren’t really fond of to start with.  If that was the case my go to would be Brussel sprouts. 
And so worshipping God, offering your body to Him will require a sacrifice.  Sometimes it’s small.  Maybe it means being in church instead of sleeping in or mowing the lawn.  Maybe it means lifestyle choices.  I will do this thing and will not do that thing.  But ultimately it is large, it is saying “I will put God first in my life.  Before my family, before my career, before my recreation, before my habits even before my preferences.”  And that’s not easy, and that’s probably why Jesus said in Matthew 10:38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine.
Because he knew that it wouldn’t be easy, he knew that it would cost something, he knew that it would require a sacrifice.  If it doesn’t cost something then it’s not a sacrifice.  What is it that you are giving up, how are you making yourself a living sacrifice today?
Remember the greatest commandment?  Mark 12:29-30 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’
But what does it mean to love God?  Well, Jesus told his followers John 14:15 “If you love me, obey my commandments.
So ultimately Worship equals Obedience Too often I meet folks who claim to be Christ Followers but they have no interest in actually following Christ.  They like his love and his grace and his forgiveness, but they have no interest in following his commandments.   They enjoy church, they like to “worship” God, but they have no interest in really obeying what he’s asked us to do. 
They have captured the first thought of Augustine’s quote “Love God and do whatever you please: but they missed the rest of what Augustine said, because it doesn’t end with a period it ends with a Colon and Colin’s Dictionary defines a colon this way, Colon, noun,  the punctuation mark(:) :, usually preceding an explanation or an example of what has gone before, a list, or an extended quotation.  In this case it is the first definition, it preceds an explanation or an example of what has gone before, and so the quote finishes with these words. 
“Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.”  You can’t worship God and disobey his commands, just doesn’t work, your actions negate your words.  Because the first commandment tells us to love God, and then Jesus tells us we show our love by our obedience. 
So where are you at this morning, sometimes we are like the lady at the well, and when Jesus questions our life and our behaviour we deflect, maybe reminding him of our worship habits, but ultimately if we worship we need to worship in Spirit and Truth, and that means following the one who said John 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.

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