Summary: Worship means loving, with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Are You A Multi-Dimensional Worshiper? Becoming A Festival pt. 3
Feb 15/16, 2003: Mark 12:28-34
After attending church one Sunday morning, a little boy knelt at his bedside that night and prayed, "Dear God, we had a good time at church today--but I wish you had been there!"
Let me assure you, God is here. And He longs for us to know that. He longs for us to open ourselves to express our love for Him. A big part of our preparation for each of our worship services is time in prayer specifically asking that God would enable us to be free to worship Him and express ourselves to Him, and in turn to receive back from God whatever He might desire us to hear, feel, or experience of Himself. God is here, and I believe that He desires us to worship Him more deeply, more expressively, more holistically. With all of ourselves.
Context and a bit of review…
We have a vision for worship in our church – it is a vision of expression. The picture is of the church as a festival – meeting God, entering into His presence as we talked about last week in Hebrews 12, joining with angels and other Christians and even creation, and meeting God personally. And then we respond to Whom it is we have met. We respond to God. We learned last week that our response should be characterized by thankfulness, reverence, and awe. I want to say one further thing about that before looking today at Mark 12. I didn’t elaborate on what it might look like for us to worship with reverence and awe, for a couple of reasons including primarily the fact that the form of that response will be different for various groups of people that are part of our church. But there is one I would like to mention for all of us, and let me mention it as a request.
Could we agree together to make a greater effort to arrive on time? (put up picture). This is what our sanctuary looked like at 9:30 this morning, which is the time we start. This is what it looked like at 10:00 (put up picture). I know it isn’t a great characteristic of our culture, that punctuality isn’t highly valued. I know sometimes there are things that prevent us from being on time, and I don’t want to get rigid. But let me say it is difficult for us to worship when we come into a service part way through – when we rush in, things are already happening, and we scramble to catch our breath. It is also difficult (and frustrating, to be honest) to plan and to lead a service where the majority of people aren’t here until 20 minutes in – to call people to worship or have a moment of silent preparation as we did last week, or even to share announcements when there are only a handful of people to participate. I don’t want anyone to feel guilty or not welcome or anything like that. But could we agree to make a strong effort to be here, sitting down ready to worship, right at the beginning of the service? I think that alone would greatly enhance our worship individually and corporately. Could we agree to that?
We are pursuing a vision of worship as a church. We are seeking together to bring to God an offering of worship which is pleasing to Him and which, as a result, will change us. It is the purpose for which we were created. I want to look at Mark 12:28-34 as we seek God through His Word to discover how to be a festival. (read)
It’s a familiar story. Jesus is in the midst of an in-depth debate with the religious leaders of the day; they’ve been trying to catch Jesus in something He says, trying to trip Him up, get Him to teach Himself into a corner where they can then pounce on Him and discredit Him. We come to this story, where another one of the teachers of the law (likely having a similar status and function to a lawyer today) approaches Jesus with another question: which law is the most important? I like questions like that; they tend to help put things in perspective, to remind us in the midst of complexity of what the most critical parts are. Let me make several observations about worship out of this question and response, starting at the end:
The Most Important Part of Worship is Love (vs. 35):
This teacher comes to a critical conclusion at the end of the conversation with Jesus: loving God and loving others is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.
I want us to catch what a radical statement this is from one of the “teachers of the law.” The purpose of that group of people was to guard and enforce all of the ritual commands – there were lots of them governing all aspects of life and conduct, and the ones they took most seriously were the worship commands – how to conduct the burnt offerings and sacrifices, which were at the heart of the outward expression of worship. We know from many of Jesus’ other conversations with the religious leaders that these external commands had superseded all other considerations – what was most important was that they looked right on the outside, that all the details were conducted exactly according to the “policy and procedures manual,” that people admired them for how “religious” they appeared to be. One of the major reasons Jesus conflicted with them was because of Jesus’ emphasis on the internal – on the state of the heart. This teacher seems to grasp this, and agrees with Jesus that the internal state of the person is more important than the outward form. “love is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” That is a very significant statement from this teacher, very radical.