Bible reading: Isaiah 55: 1-13
Note: this sermon series is linked to Malcolm Gordon’s The Journey of Worship resource. We have a copy available for loan or purchase your own from MediaCom.
Last week we began a series on Worship called “The Journey of Worship”. Through this series we are exploring -and growing in our understanding of – the elements of Christian worship – as we continue to foster vibrant and engaging worship here at Athelstone – spirituality and worship being one of our mission priorities.
A quick recap from last week: Worship can be defined as the act of honouring God with a feeling of deep respect tinged with awe. At its simplest level it can be defined as worth-ship, the ascription of worth – ascribing worth to the object that has captivated our soul. We worship because we were created to worship; we are worshippers in the depths of our being. 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. Since we are worshippers, God asks us to direct that worship to Him – the most life-giving of sources, the ultimate source of worth.
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.
In this series called The Journey of Worship we are focussing specifically 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
- We are reminded of who we are and whose we are
- we pray for ourselves and for others
- we hear from God through the Word
- we celebrate the sacraments
- And we are sent into a new week, ready to serve and witness and worship in our everyday lives, whatever they might look like
Today we are focussing on the Call to Worship right at the start of the service.
This is that part of the service when the leader greets the people in God’s name, and calls them to worship.
Is that when the Call to Worship begins?
A few years ago I had the amazing experience of going with my Mum to visit her home village in Slovenia (which is was once part of Yugoslavia).
One clear memory is the sound of church bells. There were two churches: one big church on the top of mountain overshadowing Mum’s village, and another small church in the middle of the village. Throughout the day we would hear the bells ring, even more so on Sunday! This was part of the sound track of the village. Time was kept by the ringing of the bells – a culture centred on Christ!
And here too in Athelstone, I have discovered, church bells ring further down the road, to call people to worship! It’s so encouraging to hear those bells here – I don’t remember hearing church bells ringing in the suburbs before!
In a minute we are going to hear Malcolm Gordon speak further about the call to worship. Malcolm is a songwriter, liturgist, theologian, and writer. I came across Malcolm a few years ago when the Synod brought him over to Adelaide from New Zealand, to do a series of teaching workshops in this area of worship. Malcolm has recently released a teaching DVD, which we are using for this series. Let’s hear from Malcolm now.. Play video: 02 Call
So in our worship, we give God the first word – because it is God who is calling us!
Earlier we heard the prophet Isaiah speaking: words of assurance that God loves us, no matter what, reaches out to us even (or especially) in the worst of times, makes promises that we can rely on.
God promises what we most deeply long for: homecoming when we’re lost, a rich feast when we’re hungry, fresh water to satisfy our thirst, and a community of hope when we long for meaning—something greater than ourselves through which we might be a blessing to the world. And it’s all for free – no admission fee – and everyone (even the most unexpected) is invited to the party.
It is God who makes the first move – who initiates -who calls..
and it us – and all of creation – who respond
from the very beginning, it was God who acted first!
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
He has revealed himself to us through his wonderful creation, through the pages of Scripture, through people like Noah, Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, to mention a few, and through his son, Jesus Christ.
Our worship – our life – all of life – can be seen as God calling and all of creation responding.
So in worship we respond in praise to the glory and greatness God has revealed to us; we respond with thanksgiving for the saving grace God has lavished upon us; we respond in wonder and delight to the relationship God has initiated with us.
In worship we respond to God’s invitation to us, remembering that God is always present among us!
So how should we respond to the invitation?
Who deserves the first word in worship?
The fact is, we have been invited and ushered by God himself into his holy presence. God has taken the initiative and paid the cost. God is the host of this gathering, the subject and the object of our worship. God is the main event, our purpose for gathering.
Since God is the inviter, the host, and the one we honour, we hear first from him!
That is why we often begin with words from a Psalm:
“The heavens declare the glory of God”
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.”
“Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
and then we respond to him with our songs, prayers, and words of praise.
And so, God always takes the first step to reveal himself and to initiate a relationship with us; our part is to respond to God’s first move.
When God calls us to worship, we have no better reaction than to join the ongoing worship of the heavenly host and sing.
Man, Ron: Whose Gathering Is It, Anyhow? Why God Should Have the First Word https://www.reformedworship.org/article/march-2008/whose-gathering-it-anyhow
Jonathan Barlow: Worship as Response: Liturgical Logic, 1
Jackson, Chris: Worth-ship: understanding true worship
This is an excerpt from a sermon preached Sunday October 8th 2017