Sunday Sermon: Deep Worship

One of my favorite worship songs is not found in many hymnals. This includes the one we use each Sunday or some more recent editions. It is a powerful song that has been recorded by several artists. If you listen to K-Love or Air1 it is very likely you have heard this song.

The song is “Here I am to Worship.” Written by Tim Hughes in 1999, the song reflects on Paul’s words in Philippians 2 that calls us to humble ourselves in the same way as Christ humbled himself in becoming human. I first heard the song when I lived in Chapel Hill, N.C., and was a member of Christ United Methodist Church. It was frequently sung during the contemporary worship service as a transitional piece. The song would help move the service from a time of praise to a time of reflection.

Listen to one of the verses:

Here I am to worship./Here I am to bow down./Here I am to say that you’re my God./You’re all together lovely./All together worthy./All together wonderful to me.

The words are simply beautiful. They remind me of some fond memories of a community that helped me to see God’s grace and God’s call for my life. At the same time, it is also a song that reminds me of why we are here today. This morning, we gather as a community to worship the Lord.

What does worship mean for you? If I was to make a guess, I would suggest that we have many different understandings or feelings when it comes to worship. Some look forward to this time of worship all week. Others are here because it is expected of a good and faithful Christian. As well, there are probably some who wonder why we need to come to worship at all.

Worshiping as a family is one the most important things that we do as a community of faith. It may also be the most puzzling. I believe worship can be the most misunderstood and confusing activity in our relationship with Christ. Often, we believe worship only takes place for one hour, and no more, on Sunday mornings or other special occasions. We also think worship is about a certain style, whether it is traditional, blended, emergent, or contemporary. Yet, deep worship is about none of these thing.  Deep worship goes beyond any of our expectations.

Deep worship is not about a specific style or about what music is played. Worship is more than about our time together each Sunday. Worship calls us to a deep relationship with God. Worship of God is our response to God’s action and love. It is our communal and personal act of rejoicing, remembering, revering, and responding to the Father’s love, as witnessed through the life of Jesus Christ, and revealed to us through the Holy Spirit. We were made for deep worship and are called to deeply worship the Lord.

We need to turn to Psalm 95 to help us to understand what it means to deeply worship the Lord. Traditionally, this Psalm has been seen as a call to worship. It was written for the Feast of the Tabernacles, which was one of the most important feasts for the Israelites. During this feast, the people would remember their journey in the wilderness after being rescued from slavery in Egypt. Even though it was intended for that specific context, there is much for us as we consider what it means to deeply worship.

The Psalm begins with the word, “come.” Have you ever notice how often we use a form of come in our communications? Will you come overhere? Are you coming to dinner? Will you come to church with me? In each of these usages we are inviting someone to join us. We want them to participate in something that is taking place and care about, whether it is something new or something that has always occurred.

With this opening word of Psalm 95, the Psalmist reminds us that we are invited to come and join in the worship of the Lord. Worship is already taking place when we enter the church. During our time of worship, we join the community of saints, those throughout the world and those in heaven, in worshiping the Lord. Deep worship is a beautiful act where we come together as one body to worship the Lord.

When we come to worship, we are invited to experience the presence of the Living Lord. That is why we say we come expecting that something will happen during worship. We expect to meet Christ here, to feel his presence, to feel his love, and to be transformed in these moments together. This is a joyful expectation. It is this joy that calls us to “sing to the Lord.”

The joy of the Lord gives us a clue about deep worship. Authentic and deep worship is a time of rejoicing. One of the biggest complaints about worship today is that it is boring. Some say that reciting old creeds and using liturgies from the church’s earliest days is the cure for insomnia. Some say worship is not enjoyable unless it includes loud music, big lights, and a production that equals something you might see at a concert. Friends, let me let you in on a little secret: The style of worship is not important. The style of worship is not what leads us to a time of deep rejoicing of the Lord.

Deep rejoicing occurs when we approach the Lord with thanksgiving. Rejoicing is our act of praising God because he is the “great King above all gods.” It is a way of giving thanks. Deep worship inspires us to praise God for all that the Lord has done. We rejoice because God created this world. We rejoice because God created each of us. We rejoice because God never stopped loving us. We rejoice because God sent his son to live among us. We rejoice because God is right here with us today. In all of this, we give thanks. Rejoicing is our way of expressing our love of the Lord as an offering in response to everything the Lord has done.

That brings to mind another aspect about worship. Not only is worship an invitation to experience the presence of the Lord and a time of rejoicing, but it is also a time of remembrance. Deep worship is like a family reunion. Every reunion includes a retelling of old stories about family members that have been passed down through the ages. It is an act of remembrance of those special moments that remind us of our loved ones.

This is similar to what the people of Israel meant by remembrance. An act of remembrance would call to memory God’s actions in such a way that it would inspire current and future obedience. 1 Chronicles 16:24 speaks of this type of remembrance. It says we are to “[t]ell everyone about the amazing things [the Lord] has done.” In worship, we remember what God has done throughout the generations. We remember them so it will inspire us to tell everyone about the Lord. Often we believe we do not need to be reminded of what God has done, because we have already heard the story. Friends, we need to be reminded again and again. Remembering what God has done through the generations and in our lives gives us hope in difficult times and helps us to live in faithful obedience. We must always be reminded about what God has done. This act of remembrance calls us to a deep relationship with the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit.

Remembrance, we hope, not only calls us to a deep relationship through faithful obedience, but it also inspires in us a sense of awe and reverence. This is what the Psalmist hints at in verse 6. He writes, “let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker.” Deep worship should take our breath away. In the living room of the parsonage we have a photo of a forest. I’m not sure where this forest is located. The photo is stunning. Its central feature is the rays of light beaming through the trees. It overtakes the entire photo and leaves you breathless.

That is what deep worship feels like. Deep worship inspires awe and wonder when we experience the presence of the Lord. Worship should humble us before the Lord. Showing reverence is our spiritual offering to the Lord. Reverence is not impersonal, as if it is something we do at a distance. When we meet the Lord and have a personal relationship with the Lord, worship is not only a communal act, but is also intimately and deeply personal.

Deep worship also calls us to respond to these experiences. Worship calls us to make a response. Our response to worship is found in how we will continue worshiping after we have left the sanctuary to go out in the world. This is what the reader faces in verses 9-11. When tested, the people of Israel refused to follow the Lord at Massah. They left the presence of the Lord by trying to find their own way and refusing to trust in the Lord. As a result, those in the wilderness did not experience the Promised Land.

Worship calls us to respond through faithful obedience to God’s act of salvation. Our response should be to always worship the Lord. Worship is not limited to one hour on Sunday mornings, but it is a daily act of rejoicing, remembering, revering, and responding to what the Lord has done in our lives. We deeply worship by living our lives as committed followers of Christ, who seek a deep relationship with our Lord. We respond to our worship, by recognizing that worship does not end when the final hymn is played. It continues by the way we live out our lives.

Friends, deep worship is truly powerful and transformative. It calls us to come and experience the presence of the Lord. It brings us to a place of rejoicing and calls us to remember why we worship. Worship brings us to a place of reverence and calls us to respond to what we experienced.

As you leave today, my hope is that you will take some time to think about what worship means to you. Think about each of these perspectives of worship. Which has been the most important in your walk with the Lord? Which might you need to ask God to show you how to embrace? Which have you never considered before?

For each of us, my prayer is that these words will be our deepest desire:

Here I am to worship./Here I am to bow down./Here I am to say that you’re my God./You’re all together lovely./All together worthy./All together wonderful to me.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Sunday Sermon: Deep Worship

    • I think we all do. I worry about younger generations (40-and-under) that are more focused on worship being about the songs we sing or the style of worship. I’ve talked with a lot of people who truly believe worship is only found in the song, and is absent in everything else. This is only going to continue as we walk more into a post-Christian American culture.

      All churches need to do a better job in explaining and teaching what worship is about. We don’t do a good job in this. I’m grateful for friends like Jonathan Powers who have taken a deep interest in teaching what true deep worship is about. He doesn’t post much, but you can read his writings here: http://jonathan-powers.com/

      • I agree! “Style” is something many Christians today are concerned about. For example, I once saw a church with a sign advertising a “blue jean service” and a “traditional service.”

        Sure, some may feel more comfortable in one atmosphere or another, but a close look at true worship is what’s needed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s