Sermon: Worship You Don’t Have to Go To
Other messages in this series
- Sermon #1: “Rethinking the Priority of Worship” (Sept 5)
- Sermon #3: “When God’s People Get Together” (Sept 19)
- Sermon #4: “It’s What We BRING to Worship That Matters” (Sept 26)
Scriptures: Psalm 63:1-8; Romans 12:1-2
Have you ever had the experience of being the first vehicle at a red light and being immediately honked at by the driver behind you because you didn’t start moving the exact second the light turned green? Fortunately, that’s only happened a few times to me through the years, but when it did, it immediately plugged me in. In the span of a second, I went from being happy and content to being incensed by their bullish behavior.
So, what should be our response when the rude actions of others causes us to become angry? If you’re like me, in the heat of the moment my initial response is rarely the Christlike response. I’m not proud of it, but in the case of being bullied at the stop light, in that split-second of unfiltered reaction, I want to see them suffer! Fortunately, I’ve never acted on those stupid thoughts. But even so, the anger is still there. The aggressive driver may be long gone, but I still have to deal with my reaction to it all. In my rational mind, I know that the anger and even the unfiltered desire for retribution are considered normal and, in that sense, not sinful. And yet, I know it’s not helpful to let those feelings fester or sweep them under the rug and pretend I’m not angry. So, what do you do?
Whether we realize it or not, every single day comes with moments in which we’re given the opportunity to respond to life as it unfolds. Some of those circumstances are cause for joy and wonderment while others beget anger or sorrow or confusion. How might I respond to the breathtaking sunrise during my morning walk? Or to the driver who quickly stopped when I absentmindedly stepped out in front of them while I was taking in that beautiful sunrise? How might I respond to the news of a grandbaby’s birth, or the successful surgery of a spouse? Or the bad news that a loved one has cancer? How might we respond to hearing beautiful music? Or attending a wedding? Or having a great time dancing the night away at the wedding reception?
As daily life unfolds, is there a particular manner in which God intends us to respond to it all? In a more general sense, is there a manner in which God intends us to live our daily lives? I say, yes. And it’s been suggested that the manner in which we interact every day with the things of life can be thought of as a type of worship.
Leslie B. Flynn defines worship as ‘giving to God the glory, praise, honor, and thanks due him, both for who he is and for what he has done.’ John MacArthur says worship is ‘giving honor and respect to God.’ Thomas Emswiler says worship is ‘the celebration and affirmation of God’s love in the world.’ And Carol Mundy says worship is ‘a response to God’s presence’
In his book, The Purpose Driven Life, Pastor and author, Rick Warren, calls this a lifestyle of worship. Here’s what he says: “Worship is not a part of your life, it is your life. It’s not just for church services. The Bible tells us to ‘worship him continually.’” (read the full article.) The command in Scripture to “worship him continually” is found in 1 Chronicles 16:11. Other Bible versions word it, “Seek his face always,” “seek his presence continually,” “look to him all the time,” and in one version, “worship him always.” Warren’s point is that worship is designed by God to be the manner in which we live every moment of life, not just something we do once a week for an hour with our friends. In other words, worship is intended to be a lifestyle; how we live our everyday lives as Christians—at home, at school, at work, at play–can be done in a way that honors and glorifies God. Would you believe that grocery shopping can be done in a way that glorifies God? Or surfing the Web? Or going to a party? Or running a staff meeting? Or watching television?
Leslie B. Flynn defines worship as “giving to God the glory, praise, honor, and thanks due him, both for who he is and for what he has done.” John MacArthur says worship is “giving honor and respect to God.” Thomas Emswiler says worship is “the celebration and affirmation of God’s love in the world.” And Carol Mundy says, “Worship is a response to God’s presence.” (see the full list of various defintions of worship.)
Worship is a response to God’s presence. Is God not present every moment of every day? And if so, every moment of every day gives us the opportunity to respond in a way that honors his holy presence. So, in the broad sense of the word, ‘worship’ implies our actions and attitudes in response to God’s presence and activities in our world and in our own lives. Again, is our response to all that God is and does limited to one hour a week on Sunday morning? Of course not! Because the truth is, the manner in which we choose to live our lives and respond to the happenings of life as it unfolds, can be considered a kind of worship. How we choose to live every hour or every day is an opportunity to bring honor and glory to God.
The Apostle Paul encouraged those first century Christians to order their daily lives so that they honored God. He wrote, “I urge you to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1, New International Version). Offer your bodies as living sacrifices. Does that phrase ring a bell to anyone here? When do you hear that said on a regular basis—at least once a month? [Answer: as part of the Communion liturgy/prayer] After reenacting Jesus’ blessing and passing of the bread and cup, the pastor closes with this statement:
The sacrifice we offer to God is both holy and….Living. In the Old Testament, worship was the priest making the animal sacrifice. The animal died; blood was shed. That was their worship. Jesus’ death on the cross was the final death in the sacrificial system set forth by God in the Mosaic law. Which means that today, the sacrifice we bring and offer to God is our living selves. The offering of ourselves to God is an act of worship. And I ask you again, are we limited to doing this on Sunday morning from 9:30 to 10:30? No, because in truth, it’s something we do every day. The question is, how aware are each of us that what we do and say, how we act and respond, is in fact a kind of worship?
Did you know that we United Methodists have a very practical way of being “living sacrifices” built right into our system? In our tradition, when someone becomes a member of a United Methodist congregation, they make a pledge to support that church through five different aspects of their lives. Those five things are their prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. That’s our United Methodist membership vow. Every new member agrees to faithfully participate in the ministries of that church by
- prayers: praying daily for that church family, its leaders, and its ministries;
- presence: being present at worship and other functions;
- gifts: sharing their financial resources with the church;
- service: getting personally involved in different ministries as they’re able;
- witness: learning how to share their faith with others and inviting people to come and participate in our church life.
Here’s the thing—each of these five represent an aspect of daily living. The membership vow is specific to how they’ll be utilized for the support of a church’s ministries. But the fact is, they’re ultimately placeholders to order our everyday lives as disciples of Jesus Christ.
Praying for government leaders, schoolteachers, the boss; praying for soldiers, doctors and nurses, bus drivers; praying your way through conflict; talking to God about any and everything is an act of worship
Choosing to remain present and connected in times of conflict; taking time to be with friends during their own difficulties; not walking away when staying is the last thing you feel like doing; “being there” for others is a huge act of worship.
Leaving a sizable tip even if the server didn’t necessarily earn it; giving a few dollars or providing a meal for a homeless person; financially supporting organizations in the community that are helping to make positive impacts in our world; sharing your hard-earned money with others is an act of worship.
Serving others, in small ways and large ways, is always an act of worship. Bearing witness to your Christian faith through words and actions is an act of worship. How you respond to the person honking at you to get moving even though the light just turned green can be an act of worship. In that situation, actions which honor God despite your feelings of anger would be: confessing to God your ill-feelings of wanting to see God smite them; then actively praying for that person’s well-being, asking God to bless them, not smite them.
It really comes down to this: how each of us chooses to live our every day lives can either glorify God or glorify our own wants and desires.
In The Message paraphrase of the Bible, Eugene Peterson puts Romans 12:1 this way: So, here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. A daily offering, something we have to do anew every new day.
In making our lives a kind of worship, it’s important to remember the reason for doing this. We don’t do it in order to make God happy or somehow earn his approval. Rather, we do it as a natural response to the love and grace God’s already pouring out upon our world and us. I want to make God smile, and my guess is that you feel the same way. But our desire for God to smile upon us is simply that his smile might be our reward. Living a God-honoring life won’t make God love us any more than he already does. But it will make him smile, for sure. And as this becomes our experience of life, then we also discover the deep joy that comes from living a life that glorifies God. Let’s pray….
God, it’s you! We search for you! From the depths of our being, we thirst for you! Our bodies and hearts and minds desire you as a dry desert desires water. Yes, we’ve seen you here in the sanctuary, your house of prayer. We’ve experienced the power of your presence in the gathered community. But we’ve also seen you at work out in the mission field where we live every day. Jesus, you truly are Lord of our lives, not just our Sunday lives but our 7-days-a-week lives. Today we commit ourselves to living for you for the rest of this day. Then tomorrow we’ll commit to living for you tomorrow, and then the next day we’ll do it again. Open our eyes to see the ways we can worship you through our daily activities, no matter how mundane they may seem. May praise of you be regularly on our lips throughout the day. May our minds be on you throughout the day. We join the psalmist is saying, Our whole being clings to you because your strong hand upholds us.
But it’s not just ourselves we pray for today; we also pray for people we know and have heard about who need your grace and loving touch. We pray for couples who are contemplating marriage; for those who are newly married; and for those who are celebrating wedding anniversaries. Thank you, God, for the joy of bringing lives together with all the possibilities which lie ahead for them. We pray for married couples who are contemplating separation and divorce; for those who have begun divorce proceedings; and for those whose divorces are now final. Where healing is needed, O God, cover their hearts and minds with the healing Balm of Gilead.
We pray for students and teachers and administrators, all of whom have begun a new school year. Every day we hear about discourse between school districts and government leaders in regard to the best and most appropriate response to safeguarding our children against the coronavirus. Forgive us, O God, for our foolish ways. Forgive us for being more committed to being right than doing the right thing. Give us grownups the necessary wisdom to find a way that’s truly best for all.
As we take time to remember the tragedies of 9/11, and all the national handwringing and anxiety and finger-pointing that followed in the years to come, help us, O God, to be a loving, giving, and trusting people. Even though we know we’ll probably get burned along the way, help us to choose love over hate and trust over suspicion. Enable us to be your people, set aside for the purposes of glorifying you and drawing people to Jesus by being his bright and shining light wherever we find ourselves.
We love you and praise you, Lord Jesus Christ. Receive this our prayer as together we pray in your name, saying: Our Father…