Summary: A sermon to get us thinking about the God we worship, how awesome he is, and why we worship him.
(With thanks to a sermon by Louie Giglio and books by Matt Redman and Matt Hyam)
For those of you who knew that today I was going to speak about worship I wonder what your expectations were, if any. When you came to Church today, I wonder what expectations you had of our worship, if any. When I refer to ‘worship’ what thoughts, feelings, emotions or memories are stirred up? As we worship together, what happens, why do we do it? Worship!
Erma Brombeck was an American journalist with a great sense of humour. She wrote books with great titles such as ‘The grass is always greener over the septic tank’; and she came out with great quotes such as ‘If you can laugh at it you can live with it’ and ‘never loan your car to anyone you’ve given birth to’. Erma also had a keen eye for living out the Christian life. She once wrote this with reference to worship: “In our churches we sing ‘Make a joyful noise to the Lord’ while our faces reflect the sadness of one who has just buried a rich aunt who left everything to her pregnant hamster”.
I love the psalms! They are full of just about every emotion under the sun. They are full of joy, sorrow, praise, confession, adoration, exasperation, exaltation and perspiration. It’s all there. It was the hymn book Jesus knew and here are a few quotes regarding joy.
Psalm 47 begins like this: “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. How awesome is the Lord most high; the great King over all the earth!” Psalm 66 begins like this: “Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the Glory of his name; make his praise glorious!” Psalm 81: “sing for joy to God our strength.” Psalm 95: “come, let us sing for joy to the lord; let us shout aloud to the rock of our salvation.”
But why do we worship? Who do we worship? Where should we worship? When should we worship? What is worship? If you’ve just written down those questions and you are now expecting a five point Sermon using words all beginning with the letter W then I apologise. That would be far too predictable!
Is worship all about joy, or is there more to it? Is worship really much more to do with our lifestyle than the songs we sing? Matt Hyam is the senior pastor at Southampton vineyard church. In 2004 he wrote a book called ‘I still have more questions than answers’. In the book he describes the painful yet liberating process he went through and is still going through regarding the question of ‘worship’. Matt is a guitarist. He learned to play the guitar very soon after becoming a Christian and he ended up ‘leading worship’ at a twenties group. In his book he writes this: ‘we only ever sang about three different songs, either because the Holy Spirit only ever led us to these three or because they were the only three I knew. I’m a little hazy on that one.’
There was a time when Matt would rather lead worship than do anything else. However, there came a time, for want of another word, when he became bored with singing songs. Is anyone here bored with singing songs? Sometimes I get bored with songs.
In today’s Bible reading I want to focus on verse 23. Jesus said, “True worshippers will worship the father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the father seeks.” In the gospel, the account we have of the Life and ministry of Jesus, He says very little about worship. In Matthew chapter two wise men came to worship Jesus (2:2); and I believe that wise-men and wise-women today come to worship Jesus. The evil King Herod said that he wanted to know where Jesus was so he could worship him, when really he wanted to murder the infant Jesus (2:8). The devil tempted Jesus to worship him, offering him power without sacrifice (4:9). Jesus countered the temptation by quoting from his Bible (Deut 6:13) where it says worship the Lord your God and serve him only (4:10). That’s the first recorded occasion when Jesus refers to worship in Matthew’s gospel. The other occasion is where Jesus refers to people who worship God in vain (15:9); worshipping with their lips when their hearts are far away (Isaiah 29:13).
A former Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple wrote this: “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.”