Summary: The most hazardous thing about worship is: We can think we're doing it when, in fact, we are not!
First Presbyterian Church
Wichita Falls, Texas
February 13, 2011
THE HAZARDS OF WORSHIP
The Glory Due His Name: Part 1
Matthew 15:1-14 (NIV)
1 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ 5 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ 6 he is not to ‘honor his father’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
8 “‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.’”
10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’”
12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”
13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”
Some years ago, a woman came to me for counseling. Her husband had died suddenly from a rapidly growing cancer, and she was overcome not only with grief but with fear regarding her future. She did not now know who she was or where she was to go. She was beside herself and confused. And so, at her request, I counseled her.
We met almost weekly for six months or so. At the time, I took great pride in my skill as a counselor. I had studied counseling formally. I had spent a year-and-a-half in supervision. And I read in the field constantly. I was pretty good at it, really, and, considering that, since I was a pastor, I didn’t charge anything, I was a pretty good bargain, too.
At the end of our sessions, this woman and I reviewed our conversations. ‘You helped me,’ she said. And I replied that I was glad to hear it. ‘It’s just that....’ I could tell she wanted to register a qualification to her praise, a proviso of some sort. There was a ‘catch’ to her gratitude, but she was hesitant to speak of it. ‘No, no,’ I said. ‘I want to hear.’ ‘Well,’ she continued, ‘you really did help me work through my grief and my fear, and I have a better grasp on things now. But I thought...’ ‘Yes?’ I said. ‘I thought you would use the Bible and pray with me. I guess, since you’re a pastor and all, I thought we would talk more about God.’
I was trained at this, so I didn’t show my reaction. But when this woman left, I staggered under the realization that my efforts with her fell far short of the calling of God upon my life. I thought to myself, ‘She is right. All I gave her was what she could get from any other counselor, and I am, after all, a minister of the Gospel.’ It was a defining moment for me.
Since that day, I have noticed that I am frequently mindful of some very sobering words that appear in the last chapter of the book of Hebrews. It says there of church leaders -- and that’s what I am; I am a leader in the church, as are many of you. It says of us: ‘They keep watch over you as [those] who must give an account’ (Heb. 13:17). And so, I think about that. I have been entrusted with the care of your souls; I have been charged with preparing you to meet Christ at his appearing. And that is no little thing.
Understandably, then, I want to be an instrument of God. I want my life and my ministry to be a means he may use to lift you, my dear friend, and me, as well, to a higher level of discipleship. And so, I have come up with the PATH, a simple four-part way of following Jesus on the upward trail. The ‘P’ in PATH means, of course, to ‘pursue your relationship with God.’ And one way you and I may do that is through worship.