Isaiah 29:11-16/ John 4:1-26
In our five sermons linked to the Lent Studies, Towards a Vision, we won’t be endeavouring to answer the questions in the booklets.
What I hope we will be doing is opening up each of the topics to give a wider perspective for discussion…
What gets you excited? Be careful how you answer this question…!
Think about the times that we you have been with lots of other people and you have found yourself caught up in a whirlwind of enthusiasm…
It might have been at a music concert or Festival – Glastonbury, All Points East, Reading & Leeds Festivals, and Isle of Wight, for example, to see and hear the latest bands…
Or, if you like more classical music, there is the last night of the proms – singing land of hope and glory, British sea songs, Jerusalem and the National Anthem, finishing off with Auld Lang Syne…
Live theatre can also bring into play, if you’ll excuse the pun, that sense of being caught up in the plot or story, whether it’s a musical, mystery or comedy…
And sport can also energise us into shouting our support for our favourite team or individual, football, rugby, cricket, golf, athletics, and the like…
How do all of these experiences compare to coming to church, or to any other place, to worship God?
It seems that we can get really excited about those things we experience outside of the church…
…but are we able to compare this to worshipping God, who gives us life itself?
The question is, what is worship?
In essence, worship means to give someone their worth – it expresses the value that we put on a person or, for us here, on God…
In the context of our faith, worship is our sense of awe in the presence of and praise to the Lord, the almighty, the king of creation…
At the heart of Christian worship is God himself.
And for us to truly worship God two elements are needed - Revelation, through which God shows himself to us – and Response, through which we react to God.
Martin Luther, the great theologian, claimed that ‘to know God is to worship him’.
In saying this he embraces both these aspects of worship – Revelation and Response.
He also insisted that worship is not an optional extra for the godly person, but an essential expression of that Christian knowledge…
God makes himself known in a number of ways:
• through his works in creation (Ps 19:1);
• through his written word (Ps 19:7);
• supremely, through Jesus Christ (Jn 1:18);
• and through his Holy Spirit (Jn 16:13).
Christian worship depends of this revelation founded on theology – the knowledge of God.
Therefore, the shortest route to deeper and richer worship is a clearer theology.
This enables those who worship God to know who, and how great, God is.
And in addition to this, it informs us how God wants worship to be expressed.
The biblical words used for worship convey significant insights into its nature.
One of the most common OT words comes from the Hebrew word, ebed, meaning ‘servant’.
This contains the idea of service of every kind, acts of adoration, as well as doing the chores!
We can also see this in the NT, the Greek word latreia meaning ‘service’ or ‘worship’.
The implication is that Christian worship and service are essentially one.
According to the Bible, God alone is to be worshipped or served (Ex 20:1-3).
He is to be served with our whole being (Deut 6:5; Lk 10:27).
The very nature of God, which is so overwhelming, demands everything of us, both in terms of personal, individual worship and also together.
Wesley’s ‘O for a thousand tongues to sing/My great redeemer’s praise’ reflects this very fact – that God is so great that no one person can adequately worship him…
In history the Christian church, from the very outset, recognised itself as a people who worship - not so much a place of worship.
In the early church Christians normally worshipped in homes, public hall, synagogues and at the Temple.
And evangelism was conducted in those places and in the open.
Music and singing were an important part of the biblical Judaism, alongside the reading and explaining of the Scriptures and prayer.
This formed the heart of synagogue worship and stood alongside the sacrificial aspect of Temple worship.
The early Christians included music and singing in their corporate gatherings as well as in personal devotion, the development of which has been wide ranging over the past two thousand years…
We haven’t got time to look at the last two thousand years of worship this morning – perhaps another day
So what I want to do is to briefly look at our two Bible passages in order to open up our discussions surrounding importance of worship today.
Our OT reading needs to be looked at in context, and particularly going back to Chapter 28, which opens with a clear declaration that the Lord will punish unbelief among his people.
The religious life in Jerusalem has become totally debased, even to the point at which its priests and prophets stagger in a drunken state through drinking too much wine and beer (28:7-8).
But God’s love for Jerusalem is revealed in Isaiah 29, through the prophet Isaiah, where God’s people will eventually be delivered when they acknowledge the sovereign God.
The grim reality is that there’s a real state of blindness to reality in verses 9-12.
Here is a people who are perishing because they have no vision, which is highlighted in Proverbs (29:18).
The prophets were meant to see clearly, but often their eyes were closed; sealed up.
The OT is full of the condemnation of priests and prophets who had lost the vision of God.
The prophetic preaching in verses 13-14 is a theme that is evident over and over again in the OT and helps us to understand that religion without reality is a charade.
Jesus also makes this clear when he quotes form these same verses. “‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’” (Matt 15:8-9)
In other words, are we just going through the motions? Or is our worship sincere, from the heart, from our understanding of our personal and corporate relationship with God?
Our NT Bible reading highlights this living relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Jesus offers to provide ‘living water’ to the Samaritan woman which would satisfy her in such a way that she would never thirst again.
The other important aspect in these verses is that the Samaritan woman speaks about her faith in the future coming of the Messiah and the insight that he would bring.
Jesus declares that he is none other than the Messiah – she has found him.
This then becomes an example and a priority for us, in finding faith in Jesus, the Messiah; the one who saves us.
And our only response can be to worship God, who through his Son offers us the promise of eternal life…
The history of the worship of the Church is the history of the revelation of God and the working out of our response, and the response of those who have gone before us through the ages.
Worship is subjective and can be divisive in its working out in our churches today as we wrestle with theology, liturgy and music.
Ultimately, what is central to Christian worship is not ‘forms of worship’ but the presence of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Through his word, the Bible, and by his Holy Spirit, God enlivens, enlightens and enables us who believe, in order that we may worship and serve him.
In other words, let’s get excited about worshipping God, serving Him in spirit and in truth.…
The Venerable Mike Lodge
26 February 2023