The Heart of Worship
SCRIPTURE READING: Luke 7:36-39
Today we’ll talk about: WORSHIP. Now when some people hear the word WORSHIP, they think of the singing part of a church service. But the truth is that worship is far more than singing some songs. In fact, every part of a church service is an act of worship. We are worshipping when we read scripture, give our offering, pray, take time to greet each other, listen to preaching of the Word, take the Lord’s Supper --- in fact, the entire service is an act of worship.
And worship is more than a “Worship Service.” Everything that happens before and after the service is also an act of worship. Everything we do ---and everything we are --- can be offered to the Lord as an act of worship.
When it comes to Worship, the HEART of the matter is a matter of the HEART. In fact, this morning I’m using the word H-E-A-R-T as an acrostic. Hopefully this will help us remember what worship is all about.
The H of Heart stands for Humility
In the TEXT we read this morning, Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus and other religious leaders to his home for a fancy banquet. Everything was going as expected until an uninvited guest crashed the party. A woman of ill repute wandered in off the street, and then --- horror of horrors --- she made a spectacle of herself by sobbing, spilling perfume on Jesus’ feet and then wiping his feet with her hair.
This woman shows what true HUMILITY looks like. She knew she would be criticized and scorned by a room full of Religious Leaders. But she did not care about her own reputation. In fact, she focused on Jesus so completely that she seemed unaware that anyone else was in the room.
Meanwhile, Simon the Pharisee condemned the woman’s behavior. In response, Jesus pointed out that the Pharisee did not wash His feet, give him a kiss of greeting, or pour oil on his head. (Now it may have been some time since you entered someone’s house and they kissed you, washed your feet, and poured oil on your head --- but we need to understand that these were basic courtesies any well-bred Jewish host would offer to an honored guest.) The point is, Simon treated Jesus like a run-of-the-mill dinner guest, not like the Guest of Honor.
There’s a clear lesson for us here. Pride is the primary hindrance to Worship. Pride will cause us to be consumed with thoughts of self. Am I comfortable? Do I look good to the people around us? Is everything up to my standards? If we hope to have a true Heart of Worship we must enter God’s presence with a Humble Heart.
The E of Heart stands for Emotion
Luke 7:38 describes the Woman’s worship this way: And as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears … This woman did not hold back a genuine --- and visible --- emotion.
And how did Simon the Pharisee react to this display? Was he sympathetic? Was he impressed? No, like any self-respecting Religious Leader of his day, he was highly offended! Why would Jesus allow such a display? Why this woman was ruining the dignity of his banquet.
There is a lesson here for any of us who tend to be put-off by the way others worship. We need to realize that someone may be crying their eyes out … and truly be worshipping God. On the other hand, someone may be sitting still and quiet … and still be worshiping in their heart. Or a person may be clapping and dancing … with a heart full of true worship.
The lesson is: Don’t judge the worship of others by appearance. In fact, why judge the worship of others at all? It is far better to look into your own heart. Turn your own heart and mind toward God and give true, unfettered worship to Him.
You don’t need to manufacture emotion in order to “look” worshipful. But to tell you the truth, that’s not the problem we tend to run into in our group. Some of us grew up in a tradition where we learned to sit with our hands folded and to maintain a blank facial expression --- no matter what. After all, we’re in church! No smiling allowed. No noise allowed. And for heaven’s sake, don’t let anyone catch you clapping or raising your hands!
Actually, I was raised in that tradition myself. But I discovered those rules are not Biblical. In fact, scripture advises us to make a joyful noise to the Lord, to clap our hands and to raise up holy hands to the Lord. The interesting thing is that when I tried these Biblical forms of worship, it actually helped me focus on the Lord.
Worship will often cause emotion. Don’t be afraid to let it show.
The A of Heart stands for Adoration
Jesus made a point of contrasting the Woman‘s adoration with the haughty, self-important behavior of his host. Jesus turned toward the woman and said, to Simon: "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. Luke 7:44-45
This Woman showed her adoration in so many ways. First of all, she went out of her way looking for Jesus. She risked being embarrassed or censured by entering the Pharisee’s house. And as soon as she saw Jesus, she fell at His feet and poured out her adoration.
The Pharisee, on the other hand, expected Jesus to come to him. He didn’t go to any trouble or take any risk in order to be with Jesus. In fact, I get the impression that he thought Jesus should feel honored to be invited to his exclusive little party. It’s clear that the Pharisee believed it was his place to assess whether or not Jesus met his own lofty standards.
It reminds me of the arrogance I’ve seen from some of the media-types who occasionally analyze religious topics on TV. After the last Presidential Debate I heard one of those guys giving his erudite opinion of the comments President Bush made about his Faith. If you saw the debate, you know that the President had some pretty basic things. He said he prayed a lot. He said he believed that God wants people to be free and that freedom is a gift from God.
Well, the commentator informed all of us lowly TV watchers that very few people relate to that kind of “simple minded” faith. He --- and most other people --- he assured us, hold a much more sophisticated view of God. He didn’t go into detail, but I’m not sure how impressed God is with this man’s sophisticated view. Make no mistake, the attitude of the Pharisee is alive and well in the world today. I’m sure Simon the Pharisee saw himself as highly sophisticated in comparison to this lowly woman and her “simple-minded” display of adoration.
But Jesus Himself spoke up for this woman. In fact, he used simple language so that even a sophisticated Pharisee could figure it out. In a Skidmore paraphrase, He said: You did not give me even common courtesy when I came into your home, but this woman has not stopped pouring out her adoration.
Then he gave the zinger: Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven--for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little. Luke 7:47
The woman understood what the Pharisee would not see. True worship requires an attitude of sincere REPENTANCE.
The R of Heart stands for Repentance
The Woman did not try to deny that she was, indeed, a notorious sinner. In fact, it is likely that her tears were related to her past life.
Meanwhile, look at what the Pharisee was thinking to himself: "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is--that she is a sinner."
The Pharisee had the Messiah --- the Son of the Living God --- sitting right there at his own table. But far from seeing his own need for forgiveness, all he could think is: she is a sinner.
We cannot offer true worship until we first acknowledge our own sin. In John 4:23 Jesus explained what kind of worship the Father seeks. He said, A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
In order to Worship God, we need to admit the truth – about who God is --- and about who WE are. True worship requires honest repentance. Otherwise we are lying to ourselves, and to God --- and our hearts are still far removed from him.
The T of heart stands for Thanksgiving
The Woman was forgiven much. And out of a heart of thanksgiving, she gave much. The value of the Alabaster Jar of Perfume is hard to estimate, but it is safe to say, that she took the most precious commodity she owned and poured it over the feet of her Master. The Pharisee on the other hand, was forgiven little – and gave little.
We need to understand that true worship come at a cost. Have you ever given anything lavishly from a full heart of thanksgiving? Most of the time, giving is systematic --- and that’s the way it should be. For most of my life, the Tithe has been the first check I write when I get a paycheck. That is a regular act of worship. But there are times when we have the opportunity to pour out a special gift that flows out of a heart of thanksgiving. That is what the Woman did as she broke the Alabaster box of Perfume over the feet of Jesus.
This woman gave an example of True Worship which
• Begins with a Humble heart,
• Brims over in Emotion,
• Exhibits itself in Adoration,
• Leads to Repentance
• And results in heart-felt Thanksgiving;
Rick Warren wrote: “To bring enjoyment to God is the first Purpose of your life. This proves your worth! You are that important to God!” Did you ever consider the possibility that you could bring enjoyment to God? Psalm 147:4 says, The LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation. Worship is not for our benefit – it is for the Lord’s delight.
When I think of the Woman pouring out worship at the feet of Jesus, I picture Jesus smiling down at her. I have to wonder, does our worship bring a smile to the face of God? It does if we truly worship from the HEART.
Explain the context in which the invitation song, The Heart of Worship, was written.