Summary: The worship of God begins on the Sabbath, but true worship is lived everyday through our commitment to God and God’s calling.
What does it mean to worship? The heading on the inside of our bulletin states, “Gathered to Worship.” We call what we do during this hour “ our worship service.” In describing this time to our children, we sometimes refer to it as “Big Church,” because they have their children’s church. So what is the purpose of this time spent gathered together corporately, where we sing hymns, offer prayers, and bring forth a sermon?
Let me start with what it’s not…it’s not entertainment; it’s not a performance. Whenever an individual or a group sings, the purpose is not to entertain us. Our Spring Follies is geared toward entertainment, be it satirical or serious. The purpose of the Follies is to provide an evening of entertainment.
Our worship service is not entertainment. Yes, we want what is sung to be pleasing. Yes, we want the handbells to be crisp and uplifting. Yes, those who sing or play the handbells or an instrument want to do their very best. Our choirs and musicians put forth a great deal of effort in preparing their music, much as I do in preparing sermons, but each aspect of what takes place during this service is not geared toward entertaining those in attendance. Those who are leading and participating are not looking for applause or recognition, and those who seek recognition or desire to be entertained through the venue of worship have perverted its true purpose.
This is not to say that worship should not be fun. This is not to say that worship should be stuffy and stale. This is not to say that the music shouldn’t bring a smile to our face or set our foot to tapping, or that a sermon should not be thought provoking, relevant, or touch our hearts, because we should be moved through the worship experience, but we should be moved because of the reverence, adoration, and honor we have for the Living God.
Worship is about focusing our hearts, our minds, and our energy upon God. The music, the prayers, and the sermons are merely tools for cultivating the ground upon which the seeds of our lives are nurtured through the worship of God. This is an hour to be reenergized. This is an hour to find comfort and peace. This is an hour to spiritually prepare ourselves, and we accomplish this by offering ourselves in worship to God. Hear again the words of Paul…verse 1.
What do his words mean for us today…“present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is you spiritual worship.” Offering ourselves as a living sacrifice means giving ourselves completely to God without holding anything back, for there is no such thing as a partial sacrifice.
Surveys indicate that the overwhelming majority of Americans consider themselves to be Christians, but that overwhelming majority hasn’t translated into worshipping, committed members of God’s Church. There are too many people, both inside and outside the church, who have made a decision for Christ, but have not committed to Christ. Presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice to God is so much more than a decision…it’s a commitment, for there’s no such thing as a partial sacrifice or partial commitment. It’s impossible to be “sort of” committed. Either you’re committed or you’re not.
There’s the story of a pig and a chicken walking down the road together. As they walked along, they read a sign advertising a breakfast to benefit the poor. The chicken turned to the pig and said, “You and I should donate a ham and egg breakfast.” The pig replied, “Not so fast, for you an egg is just a contribution, but for me a ham is a total commitment.”
Too many churches are filled with folks who may be willing to make the occasional contribution of their presence or opinion, but not a full fledged commitment. I liken it an airplane ready for take-off, sitting on the runway gunning its engine, making noise, but getting nowhere. They’ve been planning on it, meaning to, wanting to, trying to, going to, aiming to, hoping to, but they remain on the runway and never got off the ground. This morning I want to echo Paul’s words and challenge you to get off the ground. Present yourself as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Don’t just make a contribution, make a commitment.
This great country of ours would not be where it is today if our foremothers and forefathers had only made contributions and not commitments. For instance, fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence. Their conviction resulted in untold sufferings for themselves and their families. Of the 56 men, five were captured by the British and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the Revolutionary Army. Another had two sons captured. Nine of the fifty-six fought and died from wounds or hardships of the war.