Bible reading: Philippians 2:1-13
It fascinates me to see how passionate people become about their team when grand final fever is upon us. Yesterday I witnessed folk speaking with great passion about the players, wearing their team’s colours, talking about the stats and the interpretation of rules, calling out pieces of advice to the players (even though it was quite impossible for the players to hear them all the way over in Melbourne!) and cheering at the top of their lungs when their team scored a goal. All of this done in community – clapping and cheering, then sadly commiserating with family and friends! Sport can bring out such passion in people and it draws people together as they share a common desire for their team to win.
Imagine if that’s what church was like! Each of us passionate about our church, speaking with excitement about what God is up to, cheering each other on, and celebrating Jesus, the One who has won the ultimate Contest on our behalf.
This is what Worship is all about – giving our focused attention to what we see as most worthy. Worth-ship!
This week we are beginning a series on Worship: “The Journey of Worship”. Together we are going to explore and grow in our understanding of the elements of Christian worship as we continue to foster vibrant and engaging worship here at Athelstone – which is one of our mission priorities.
A few months ago, my friend Ann Phillips and I led a workshop for the worship team at Adelaide West Uniting Church. Some of this morning’s material comes from that session. Ann has kindly given me permission to share it with you this morning.
So let’s take a closer look at worship. What is it?
The Macquarie dictionary defines worship in this way:
- reverent honour and homage paid to God, a god, or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred.
And in case you aren’t sure what reverence means:
- the feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe
So according to that definition, worship is the act of honouring God with a feeling of deep respect tinged with awe. I love that definition!
Over the last few years, I have been collecting definitions of worship from other sources. Here are a few examples:
- Jessica Leah Springer – “As John 4:23 says, Its time, as worshipers of God, to give him all we have. For when he is exalted, everything about me is decreased. So many times we stand in the way of really stepping into the secret place of worship with God. Just abandon tradition and the “expected” ways of Praise & Worship and get lost in the holy of holies with the sole intention of blessing the Fathers heart.”
- H. Rowley – “The first element in worship is adoration. The Hebrews expressed this by their posture and not alone by their word. For they prostrated themselves before God. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. They did not come with an easy familiarity into the presence of God, but were aware of his greatness and majesty, and came with a sense of privilege to His house.” H.H. Rowley “Worship in Ancient Israel” p. 257
- John Wimber -Worship, the act of freely giving love to God, forms and informs every activity of the Christian’s life.
- William Temple -To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, To feed the mind with the truth of God, To purge the imagination by the beauty of God, To open the heart to the love of God, To devote the will to the purpose of God.
- Gordon MacDonald – Worship – this most important purpose of the church – is the beginning and the ending of every week, the focussing point of all things eternally important, the central event that renews the heart and mind and encourages us toward the building of His Kingdom.
- Robert Webber – Worship celebrates God’s saving deed in Jesus Christ
Matt Redman -Worship thrives on wonder. We can admire, appreciate and perhaps even adore someone without a sense of wonder. But we cannot worship without wonder. For worship to be worship, it must contain something of the otherness of God.
- Gerrit Gustafson – Worship is the act and attitude of wholeheartedly giving ourselves to God, spirit, soul and body. Worship is simply the expression of our love for God, which Jesus said, should involve all our heart, mind and physical strength.
- Martin Luther – in worship the people “assemble to hear and discuss God’s Word and then praise God with song and prayer”
- John Calvin – The ultimate purpose of Christian worship is union with God: “We are lifted up even to God by the exercises of religion. What is the design of the preaching of the Word, the sacraments, the holy assemblies, and the whole external government of the church, but that we may be untied (conjungant) to God.
- George Florovsky – Christian worship is the response of men [sic] to the Divine call, to the mighty deeds of God, culminating in the redemptive act of Christ.
- Dan Block – True worship is “reverential human acts of submission and homage before the divine Sovereign, in response to his gracious revelation of himself, and in accordance with his will.”
- John Piper -The inner essence of worship is to know God truly and then respond from the heart to that knowledge by valuing God, treasuring God, prizing God, enjoying God, being satisfied with God above all earthly things. And then that deep, restful, joyful satisfaction in God overflows in demonstrable acts of praise from the lips and demonstrable acts of love in serving others for the sake of Christ.
Stacey Gleddiesmith– The most commonly cited definition of the word “worship” is based on the etymology of the English word: “Worship” is derived from the Old English word “woerthship.” So, when we worship God, we are proclaiming (or giving him back) his worth.
Think about whether you agree with what the writers have said. Do you agree? Where you surprised? Did you disagree?
As you would have noticed, there are many different definitions!
Blogger Chris Jackson asks:
Why worship? Why does the Bible so frequently tell us to engage in the art and practice of worship? Why is worship such an important arrangement between God and His followers?
And while we’re asking questions, what is worship? Is it singing? Shouting? Kneeling? Meditating? What does it mean to truly worship God? Is worship something that we do at church, or is it something we should be doing on our own? Do we do it for a few minutes during private devotional moments, or can we do it all throughout our days?
Why is worship such a big deal?
Three thoughts: first, of all worship at its simplest level can be defined as worth-ship, the ascription of worth. When we worship—whether we’re worshipping at church, a concert, a basketball game, in nature, or elsewhere—we are ascribing worth to the object that has captivated our soul. This leads to the second thought: we worship because we were created to worship; we are worshippers in the depths of our being.
Worship isn’t a church thing; it’s a human thing. Whether you are religious or not, worship is a part of your life. There is always something in our lives to which we ascribe ultimate worth or value. It can be a relationship, an object, our God, or even ourselves, but regardless of what it is we worship it. We prioritize it and ascribe ultimate worth to it.
Third, God asks us to worship Him because it is the healthiest, most logical thing for worshippers to do. Since we are worshippers innately, God asks us to direct that worship at the most life-giving of sources, Him. He’s not an egotist; He doesn’t need our worship. He’s not up in heaven hearing our praise songs and saying, “Tell me more!” Worship connects us to our purpose—remember we are worshippers—and it connects us to God, the ultimate source of worth. Thus postured—worshippers worshipping the ultimate source of worth—we begin to touch true life.
Why worship? When we worship we lift our eyes off ourselves and our day to day issues, and turn our eyes to God alone. We see Him for who He really is – we see the one true God.
Our worship is the only response we can give to God both because of who He is and because of what He has done.
Our seemingly overwhelming problems and life situations pale before His majestic brilliance.
We surrender all and respond on bended knee, saying Thank You Lord. Glory. Hallelujah!
When we sit in awe of God, we are transformed. We become new creations.
So worship encourages us in our faith, it brings us together, united in our common faith and it transforms us to be more and more like Jesus.
And that is what Paul is calling for as he writes to the believers in Philippi – that they be united in their faith in Christ, and like Christ in their relationships with one another. .
Verses 6 to 11 are said to be a hymn – one that captures the whole salvation story: how Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, equal with God the Father, came down to earth and became human. He did not do this out of selfish gain, but out of humility, obedience, service and for the sake of humanity.
Paul describes Jesus here as a servant: even though he was in the form of God, he chose to be human, to live like us, to face the same challenges we do in our everyday messy life. The fullest expression of God – yet human in every way. All for us – so that we have a way to connect with God and so that God could teach us how to live. And because Jesus acted as he did, in this self emptying way, even submitting to a humiliating death on the cross, God exalted him, raised him up to the highest place.
verse 11 makes it clear that whoever honours Jesus must also glorify God – because in Jesus we see the one who is in the form of God and who mirrors God’s glory.
And it is the cross that reminds us and that unifies us – it is Jesus who is at the centre of our faith.
Paul was encouraging the Philippians – and us – by describing who we worship and why we worship! Isn’t that awesome?
In this series called The Journey of Worship we will be specifically focussed on worship in the context of gathered worship – where the congregation gathers once a week
- A time to build up Christ’s body the church
- In worship and adoration of God (reminding us of who we are and whose we are)
- To pray for ourselves and for others
- To hear from God through the Word
- To celebrate the sacraments
- And to be sent into a new week, ready to serve and witness and worship in our everyday lives, whatever they might look like
In closing, I’d like to do something like what Paul did for the Philippians and encourage you with some wonderful words from a famous sermon. This sermon was preached by Shadrach Meshach Lockridge. Lockridge was the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, a prominent African-American congregation in California, from 1953 – 1993. He was well known for his preaching across the United States and around the world. Here are some highlights from a sermon he preached at the opening of a conference. To get into the mood, I want to encourage you not to be shy with a few Amen’s and Alleluia’s! Click here for Lockridge’s sermon
 New Interpreters Bible volume 11 p510
This is an excerpt from a sermon preached Sunday October 1st 2017