In spirit and truth…
We’ve been talking about spiritual practices for a few weeks now as a series for Lent. We’ve heard that a spiritual practice is something like prayer, seeking God’s will, fasting, and worship. It’s something we do intentionally to make space to keep company with Jesus and learn to know him better. Or, if you prefer, spiritual practices help us to get to age 70 or 50 or 30 without succumbing to crippling cynicism or to terminal grumpiness.
Today, we’re talking about worship as a spiritual practice. Worship as making room for Jesus in our life together here and now.
What is Christian worship? Christian worship is firstly God’s gift to us. As we worship God through his Son Jesus Christ, we are drawn by the Spirit to share the intimate spiritual communion of the three Persons of the Trinity. We learn to know God in his love, which is freely extended from Father to Son to Spirit and all around the circle of the Holy Trinity. We learn to know and feel that love within us and among us. Friends, Christian worship aims high.
What is Christian worship? It is also our response to God. We offer our service to God, in praise and thanksgiving, and in service to others. In this way, the life of God flows through us into the world, in Jesus’ name. Christian worship is linked to our witness and service out in the world.
Christian worship may be God’s gift to us. It may also be our response to God. But sometimes it feels like neither one nor the other. Isn’t that so?
These are the three things I want to look at today: worship as God’s gift; worship as our response; worship that is in spirit and in truth, as Jesus said:
God is spirit,
and those who worship God must worship
in spirit and truth.
Sermon for 10 August ’08
Let me tell you a story. It was January 1991, the first Gulf War, remember that? My daughter Erin was five going on six going on twenty six. The TV news was showing the late Saddam Hussein at prayer, kneeling and bowing low to the ground on his prayer mat.
“What’s that man doing, daddy?” asked Erin.
“He’s praying,” I said, “that’s how they pray where he comes from.”
“Does he want the war to end?” asked Erin.
“No,” I replied, “he wants it to continue.”
“Then why is he praying?” was Erin’s reply, which astounded me then and astounds me still.
Sermon for 3 August ’08
Remember the Enid Blyton books? As a boy I used to read the Famous Five books while looking out of the lounge room window at a cold, dismal, grey, wet, windy, miserable Yorkshire summer day, wishing I could join the Five in the perpetual sunshine on one of their smashing picnics, which always had thick-cut ham and turkey sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs, with simply super currant buns with thick freshly-churned butter and strawberry jam, and lashings and absolute lashings of ginger beer.
It very nearly didn’t happen that day when Jesus was surrounded by well over 5000 hungry people. There was nothing, not even a sausage, let alone lashings of ginger beer. Yet the people were fed, when five loaves and two fish fed the multitude.
Sermon for 27 July ’08
Sometimes, in the Walton household, an exasperated parent may be heard say to one of his offspring, “Did you hear me?” To which question the answer is always, “Yes, I heard you.” And this unnamed parent says, “Well, answer me then.”
Have you noticed that when a word is spoken, it usually requires a response? That’s what’s happening in our services of worship: a word is spoken, the Word is spoken, and a response is made. I’m reminded of the Book of James, which says:
Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. (ch. 1.22)
The Word of God is living and creating; it forms us as disciples of Jesus. So, if we truly hear the Word of God as the Scriptures are read and preached, we will encounter the living God. We will become doers of the Word.
Worship is an encounter with God. In any encounter, two things happen: we begin a two-way process of communication; and we are changed.
Sermon for 20 July ’08
Week by week by week, something happens in this place that seems so mind-numbingly ordinary that we hardly ever give it any thought at all.
People gather here. What?, you may well say. Of course they do! How else can you go to church? And people gather for all sorts of purposes—for football matches, for parties, to buy the latest iPhone… So what can we say about our gathering? I’m glad you asked that question.
Firstly, we gather to be formed as the Church, here and now, in this place. We say we come to church; but more accurately, we come to be Church—the people of God, the body of Christ, the fellowship of the Spirit—right here and right now.
Sermon for Easter 4
In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we catch a glimpse of the early Church daily gathering with one another around “the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers”. And this group of people, who gather together for worship, grow in love and concern for one another—and for those outside. They reached out to meet the needs of the poor, and they spread the good news to the world.
Let’s just note this for today: people who gather to worship the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ grow in love and concern for one another.
It’s beautiful, this picture of the infant Church daily worshipping together. It’s a picture that has inspired me to value common worship together with the people of God as my highest calling, whatever part I play in that worship. In the service I exercise as a minister of the Word, I value leading the people of God in common worship, communal worship, above all else. It’s very dear to my heart.
You may see then that for me it’s not just a small issue that after our service today, we’re meeting to discuss whether we have one or two morning services here at Centenary. So I want to speak about worship today.