January 20, 2019
Lord’s Day Worship
The sermon starts at 14:35 in the audio file.
Or, Liturgy for All Seven Days
Our working mission statement, though not yet ratified to back of a business card status, sets the organic and corporate tone and trajectory for the church, starting with the pastors and leaders.
We are laboring in joy TO CULTIVATE A TRINITARIAN COMMUNITY of worshipping, maturing disciples who acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord over all the world.
We’re making disciples, who are a certain kind of disciples who are related a certain way to other disciples who behave a certain way as disciples. It’s a process, lifelong even, so we’re happy with “maturing.” And in some ways, our joyful laboring starts with the “worshipping.”
When we talk about worship at TEC we usually mean the Sunday morning assembly of the saints as we follow the five part liturgy. We worship in singing, but we also worship in praying, reading Scripture, listening to Scripture read and preached, communing at the Lord’s Table, and receiving God’s blessing before we go. This connection between worship and liturgy is what we’ve been focusing on the last couple weeks and will do once again this morning for this go-round.
That is sort of the capital W worship, worship proper, similar to theology proper as the study of God Himself. All of the -ologies are God’s, so theology covers a lot of subjects. Likewise with worship. Everything we do, everywhere we do it can be worship (with the lowercase w), as in, our thoughts and affections and conduct are done with the intention of honoring God.
It’s easy to pit the capital and lowercase (W vs. w) against each other in competition. Admittedly, competition is better than strict dualism. Which one is more important is better than which one will burn. For the most part we’re maturing as disciples to understand that corporate, liturgical worship and individual, whether private or productive worship are complementary. What God has joined together, let no man rend asunder.
But how do Worship and discipleship relate? I remember a sermon about this from high school. The preacher made an acronym to explain it with W.I.F.E. since the church is Christ’s bride. He said, and I wrote it in the margin of my first “adult” Bible, that the church gathers for Worship, Instruction, and Fellowship, and then scatters for Evangelism. There have been worse acronyms, but it’s not quite sufficient.
In the past I’ve used the borrowed analogy, especially in the context of making disciples, of the Air war and the Ground war, or more accurately, the Air and Ground campaigns since it’s the same war. Whole groups can be covered from the air, whether with artillery or with supplies (food, medicine). Specific houses, even individuals, can be targeted more closely at eye level.
I still think that has profitable cognitive capital, but I keep thinking that there is more that needs to be said. The problem isn’t just with the militant tone; that part has a place. Maybe it’s that there isn’t enough magic. And also magic isn’t the best word itself, but getting after God’s supernatural and mysterious operations. It’s also that it can miss that both leaders and followers are worshippers, disciplers and disciples worship.
So back do the question, how do Worship and discipleship relate? How does the corporate relate to the individual? How does the one day relate to the six? How do the W and w connect?
Adoration is not merely an end, it is the end. The world culminates in praise. All things go towards God’s glory. But in this time of worship by faith, this worshipping in a season of waiting for Christ’s return, Worship also aligns us for all of life as disciples.
I’ve seen an increasing number of apps advertised to encourage “mindfulness.” I have a vague sense of what that means. I assume that it means slow down, shut off and out all the external noise, and just be calm. There must be mental exercises and more instruction on how to do it because most people I know have enough things to wrangle that are already inside their mental fence to keep them occupied.
But any moment we spend conscious of our life in God’s presence is not wasted.
Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
This does not require moving to a monastery. This is not perpetual quiet time. This is living coram Deo, before the face of God. He is there, and we are not always mindful of that reality. When I was in high school, a Christian friend and I spent a few months making silly poses and talking about being GK: “God conscious.” Yes, we knew that conscious is not spelled with a K, but iGC just didn’t sound enough like GQ.
The call to worship every Lord’s day liturgy is a call to attention with ready affections. If you’ve ever thought to yourself at the beginning of a Sunday service, “But aren’t I supposed to be worshipping God all the time?” the answer is YES.
When Paul was preaching to the Stoic philosophers in Athens he told them about “the God who made the world and everything in it” (Acts 17:24), God who “determined allotted periods and the boundaries of [all men’s] dwelling place” (verse 26). Then Paul quoted Epimenides, “In him we live and move and have our being” (verse 28). The special thing about Worship is not that this is the only time we do it. The world tries to pull us to forget the God of the world. You can keep driving a car and compensating for the constant pull to the right. But also you can stop for a worship alignment and it may keep your thoughts in the lane a bit longer.
The world fell into death because of a lie (Genesis 3:4-5). Eve believed the father of lies (John 8:44), and the father has many more offspring causing more death in our day. Christians should not lie.
The Greek word for confession is transparent, meaning that you can see what it’s about by breaking it apart. Homologeo (ὁμολογέω) has the basic idea of “saying the same as.” It’s used in the Bible in both a way to agree with God about our sin and to agree with God about the Savior. Both go together.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9). Note that on both sides of that verse (verses 8 and 10) John is concerned about deception and lies. The question isn’t whether or not we’ve sinned, it’s whether or not we’ll admit it.
And “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead we will be saved” (Romans 10:9). That is the saving truth.
This part of our worship, the confession of sin and of forgiveness in Christ, is crucial to our ability to process the world we live in. Our alignment with God’s revelation of the problem and the solution should lead to some of the following.
Pretentious liturgy is damnable. Liturgy that lets us hide behind lies is misused at best, and anti-gospel at worst.
Consecration is no less part of equipping and directing a disciple. It’s consecration that defines a disciple. We are not satisfied with converts, though getting saved is the start. The beginning of discipleship is faith, but being a disciple is learning to live by faith and be faithful.
As we try to rehearse regularly, the Great Commission requires evangelism, but the work of evangelism should promote not only praying a prayer but also practicing obedience. In consecration we are being set apart, and it’s not just part of you that it’s happening to.
In the Old Testament the burnt offering regularly followed the sin offering. The burnt offering was put on the altar and burned up in its entirety. The smoke ascended to heaven and the sacrifice was consumed. So in the consecration part of our service we are being completely affected. Think about the pervasive and lingering effects of fire and smoke. On Thursday you should still have a sooty look and a smokey smell. You are not a halfway sacrifice, you are not a halfway disciple.
When we hear the word we are being arranged and fitted. We are being fed. “Blessed is the man who” isn’t hanging out with the wicked listening to their hot-take on the current outrage. “Blessed is the man who” isn’t adding his cynical gas onto the cultural and political dumpster fire. “Blessed is the man who” delights in the law of the LORD and mediates on it day and night (Psalm 1:1-2).
He is like a tree
Planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
And its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
Worship is changing you. You are being made more holy/sanctified by the truth, His Word is truth (John 17:17). It happens when you read the Word for yourself. It happens when you discuss with others at L2L or over dinner. But it is happening right now.
You are not alone. Sometimes it feels that way, sure. Some persons are more prone to feel that way, some persons are in situations that do keep them more isolated. It may be because of geography, it may be because of sickness, it may be because of sin, as in, you’re keeping yourself away because you’re lonely but are too proud to admit that you’re threatened.
The fact is that you are being connected, and being reminded of that fact, every Lord’s day in our liturgy when we gather around the Lord’s Table. This is spiritual communion, with the Father through His Son. This is spiritual communion, by the Spirit with Christ’s body, the church. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, we partake of one loaf because we are one. We drink the blood together because it is Jesus’ blood that we all benefit from. By grace the Lord has not called us to be solitary disciples.
Every week in the final good word, the benediction, the announcement is made (using different words that amount to the same) that God goes with us. We’re commissioned with encouragement: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
God’s people, if they are wise at all, know that they shouldn’t try anything if God isn’t with them. God is omnipresent, but this with us is God’s favor, His strength, His presence. Numerous times in battle Israel pleaded for God to go with them. As far back as the Garden and post-flood, God’s blessing meant His intention to make fruitful.
You can see it with some kids. Some kids may be conforming to the rules but seem stressed out. There are other kids who aren’t necessarily more courageous, but it’s as if you can see them say, “My dad gave me a job to do, and I’m going to do it.”
Christian, your Father has given you a job to do. He does not send us as disciples to do the job as the stressed but as the blessed.
Sunday liturgy and Worship are not like one side of a teeter-totter with Monday through Saturday on the other side. All the days of our discipleship are like a merry-go-round, and worship is like the fat kid that gives the wheel another spin.
Last summer on our school trip to the U.K. I saw a sandwich board sign on the sidewalk outside of a restaurant called Scoff & Banter.
“A Sunday well spent, brings a week of content.”
We have something better than Sunday pot roast to keep us going. What happens in our liturgy is a liturgy for all seven days, aligning our W with our w.
It is a work to worship the name of the Lord. We do it one day out of every seven. It is a worship to work in the name of the Lord. We do it six days out of every seven. The entire week is a commitment of our selves to live before God and for God. He desires that we confess, ὁμολογέω, “say the same thing about,“ His name when we serve Him in worship and when we worship in in serving others. “Commit your work to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act” (Psalm 37:5).
For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge (ὁμολογέω) his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Hebrews 13:14–16, ESV)