Another Easter has come and past. Many of us have put away more than our fair share of candy and ham over the last few weeks. Likely the bunnies, baskets, and eggs have been stashed away ready to come out again in March.
Even some of the celebrations have ended, in reality, Easter has not. Easter is never finished. Easter is not a one-day celebration. It is not even a 50-day season focusing on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter is more than that. It is a way of life.
Easter, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, is the grand announcement of God doing something new. It is not something that can be contained in one day or season. The Resurrection is a truth that defines everything and calls us to live with the hope of the Living God every day. Every day is a celebration of the good news that Christ is alive and is with us all today.
I think this is something we all struggle with. It is natural to think of the resurrection in the abstract terms of something that took place on the third day after Jesus’ death on the cross. We think of the impact of the resurrection in the theoretical. Thinking of the resurrection in the terms of how it affects our life and how it calls us to serve in our community can be harder to think about. Jesus’ resurrection changed the game and calls us into a more intimate relationship with the Lord, but what does that mean for us today?
Over the next six weeks that is a question that we are going to examine. We’ll do it by looking at six values that can guide us in being people who live the hope of Jesus’ resurrection every day. My prayer is that these values will not just transform our daily life, but will also inform how we will live into the next generation of this great community of faith as a people transformed by the hope of Jesus’ resurrection.
We start today by looking at this passage from Psalm 96:1-9. It is a Psalm that is found in other parts of Scripture. Among those passages is 1 Chronicles 16:23-29 where it is a part of David’s prayer of thanksgiving. It is written after David has made Jerusalem his capital and placed the Ark of the Covenant in the city. As we read Psalm 96:1-9, we see its common theme being the idea of worship being how we show our love of God. Each of us, and our community of faith, are called to offer our love of God through the ways we worship the Living God.
To be honest, though, worship is one of the values of the church that is often defined by our own understandings of what it should like. We think worship is the experience of the community that gathers at a specific time to sing songs, hear the Scripture read and proclaimed, and reconnect with our family and friends. We label our worship celebrations based on our ideas of what we think worship should look like, such as “traditional,” “blended,” or “contemporary.” Many of us may describe worship with terms such as “fun,” “holy,” or maybe even “boring.”
None of these ideas or thoughts are bad. The thing is that the worship is much more than a one-hour celebration of songs, Scripture, and the gathering of a community. Worship is a way of life. Worship is about praising God and celebrating in the Lord’s truth, hope, and joy.
Worship is the act of our heart engaging the Lord with our deepest devotion. It is about praising God. Worship is about announcing our adoration for God. It is the heart expressing its deepest love and joy for the One who has made all things and has given us everything.
At the heart of deep and true worship is our love of God. Our love of God is centered on the activity of God and what God has done for us. It is God alone who is worthy of our love and worship. Think for a moment about all that God has done. The Lord created the heavens and the earth. He created the beauty that exists around us. He breathed life into us. The Lord redeemed us and rescued us. The Lord taught us love through Jesus’ very presence. God saved us through his gracious act of salvation. God is with us always through the power of the Holy Spirit. For those reasons, and many others, we give God our first devotion that comes before any other devotion of our heart.
One of the ways we express this devotion is by worshiping the God with our love and joy. Typically though, we like to think worship begins when we show up on Sunday morning. The truth is worship began before we gathered on this morning. Worship had already started.
Worship begins by God’s act of reaching out to us. It is God who draws us into a relationship with him. God is the actor who is at work opening our eyes to his very presence in our lives. A presence that has been with us before we know it. A presence that is most notably there through the life of Christ who came, who taught, and who lives with us today through the Holy Spirit’s guidance and presence. It is God’s presence and grace that works in us, calls us by our name, and lets us see that God is love and God is there. God always seeks after us.
If God is the one who initiates our worship by seeking after us, then God is already present when we gather for our communal time of worship. God’s living presence goes before us and prepares us to receive his truth and hope, so we can respond with our deepest devotion and love. We worship in anticipation of God’s presence meeting us and, thus pouring out his love upon us.
With this anticipation on our hearts, we gather as a community to “sing a new song.” That song is an announcement of God’s actions throughout time and in our own life. The song we are called to sing is the song of the great things God has done in creation, throughout history, and with each of us. Worship is about remembering what God has done.
Singing a song of remembering God’s great work reminds us that God stands before all things that we could ever give our complete and undivided attention to. It is only God who never fails, who is always true, and whose promises are always fulfilled. Nothing else we could ever devote ourselves to can claim that. Not our jobs. Not our sports. Not our hobbies. Only God is worthy of our complete worship and devotion, not just because God never fails but, more importantly, because God’s love is all around us.
Another important aspect of singing the song of God’s love in our worship is the reminder that we gather with a specific song that we tell as a congregation. Claylick UMC has a story to tell to our community about God’s love and presence. We sing a song of the saints who have gone before us. We tell of how God has been at work in our community. We announce to our corner of the world of the great things God is doing in our midst. That is a story we tell on Sunday mornings and every day as we interact with our community and share the great story of God’s hope and love.
Worship is about what we do as a community, but it is also about what we do in our personal lives to express our hope in Christ. Remembering God’s love as a way of worship allows us to retell the story of God’s actions, through our worship, so we may never forget in our heart the things God has done. It is easy to live day-to-day and forget the presence of God and the work God has done. We remember God’s acts in our worship, together, so that we will never forget God’s presence in our lives.
Our personal worship of God allows us to see everything we do as an opportunity to worship God. Everything we have comes from God and everything is a chance to give praise to God for his love, his creation, his joy, and, most importantly, his saving grace through Jesus Christ. We worship through our prayer life, the way we serve others, the way we raise our family, the way we share love with the people around us and the people whom we do not even know. Every day, every moment, and every breath is a chance to praise God for what we has done and for what he has done in our life.
This aspect of worship as a response to God’s love reminds us that God is our first devotion and is to be above all other devotions in our life. That is something we all struggle with. Sometimes it is like we are having a competition about who should get our devotion, time, or attention. If we live with a mindset of worship is part of everything we do, then it allows us to see that our love of God remains our first devotion that informs how we interact with everything else that seeks to grab the devotion of our heart.
Worship defines everything about us and our love of the Lord. If worship is a way of life in response to our love of God, then worship is something that does not end with the singing of the closing hymn and announcing of the benediction. It is not something that just happens and then we leave it for a day or so. It is an everyday reality of a heart that sings for joy the Good News of the Lord. It is an ongoing reality of expression our love to God and remembering the great things the Lord has done in us and through us by his great grace.
Worship is the community and individual response to our love of God. It is not something that we receive. It is something that we participate in every day. It is something that defines our response to God and who we are, both as a community and as individuals. We are people who are made for worship and who are made to worship our Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
In a moment, our time of community worship and celebration will come to a close, but worship is not over. We are always at worship. So, let us continue worshiping with every breath and announce to all the world the great things God has done for you, for me, for our community, and for the entire world.
Let us always worship.