Summary: The work of a believer begins with worship of God. Although we benefit from worship, worship is for God.
Called to Worship, Equipped to Serve
The Reverend Anne Benefield
Geneva Presbyterian Church, January 25, 2009
Introduction: Mark’s gospel begins abruptly. In the first thirteen verses, we learn that John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of the Messiah, and that John recognized Jesus and baptized Him. Then Jesus was tested in the wilderness. In our reading today, we hear that John the Baptist has been arrested. John’s ministry has ended; the time for Jesus to act has arrived. Hear now the Word of the Lord.
After John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.
As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea – for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed Him. As He went a little farther, He saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed Him.
Prayer: Lord God, as you called the fishermen from their daily work, so You call us in the midst of everyday life. Help us to hear Your voice and to discern Your call. Strengthen us as we learn to share the message of Your reign of justice and peace. Amen.
Our topic today is worship and service. I’d like to begin by telling a true story that happened to Reverend Forrest I. Sears. He writes:
Wilma had been a member of our church for many, many years. In her later years she needed the assistance of a cane to help in walking. As she was talking with me, she would make points by lightly tapping me on the chest or shoulder with the handle of her cane.
One Sunday after our morning worship service, I was standing at the back of the sanctuary and Wilma hobbled up to me and said, “That was a pretty good sermon.” In my true Christian piety I said, “Thank you, Wilma, but it wasn’t me it was the Holy Spirit.”
Without batting an eye she tapped me in the middle of the chest with her cane and said, “Oh no, if it was the Holy Spirit it would have been a lot better than that! (P.S. I had the honor of telling that story at Wilma’s funeral.) [Communion Misunderstood, Citation: Terry Fullam, “Worship: What We’re Doing, and Why,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 102.]
I love leading worship, but sometimes it is a humbling experience.
Jesus called His disciples both as individuals and as community to repent, to turn their lives toward God. Repentance means both a turning away from sin – those things that separate us from God – and also a turning toward the good. It demands a change.
In our reading, as Jesus walks by the Sea of Galilee, He sees people going about their everyday work, bringing in the daily catch of fish. In the midst of the ordinary, Jesus calls four fishermen, two sets of brothers, with the words “Follow Me.” Without hesitation, they follow Him. What compelled them to go?
Jesus told them that their new work would be to “fish for people.” Their work would be to care for others and to invite them to hear the good news that Jesus was proclaiming. From this point on, everything would be different for them. Responding to the call to follow Jesus means leaving behind a way of life and trusting in Jesus who calls us into an unknown future. [“Follow Me,” Seasons of the Spirit™ Congregational Life Advent, Christmas Epiphany, January 25, 2009, p. 96]
The question for us is, “Where does the work of following Jesus begin?”
It begins in worship. Theologians call worship “the work of the people.” Alan Peters explains:
Whenever Christian believers gather together to worship, they create the opportunity for a miracle to occur. Worshippers who have experienced this miracle describe it in a number of ways:
• “We all seemed to be thinking and feeling the same things.”
• “There was such closeness in the service.”
• “We felt such a spirit of unity while we worshipped.”
This miracle of corporate worship occurs when a spectrum of different individuals – dozens or even hundreds of them – come together and become one body, with a single mind and purpose. Each participant brings a special and unique cluster of life experiences, attitudes, knowledge, gifts and hopes, and then donates them to a common purpose: the praise of God.