Jump Start # 2222
Psalms 34:3 “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.”
Our verse is about worship. All through the Bible the people of God gathered to praise, thank and honor the God that they love, believe and follow. Seems simple enough. However, have you ever noticed, especially in conversations, that each of us have different parts of worship that we like better than other parts. All of it is necessary, but we have our favorite aspects. And, have you noticed that the different aspects of worship does different things to us.
We get our news in different ways. Some watch the local news every evening on TV. Some are devoted to one channel to get their news. I like keeping up with what’s going on, but I rarely watch local news and just about never watch national news. I go to my phone and have certain places I look at. I usually just scroll through the headlines. If something grabs my attention, I will dive in more deeply. Sports, for me, comes from ESPN website. About the only time I will really watch the local newscasts is for the weather and only then, if a storm is approaching. I pick and choose is the way I get my news. Many would say that’s missing too much and that’s too scattered for them.
Now, back to worship. Every aspect of our worship is important and it’s hard, if not impossible to declare what part is the most important part. Years ago, it seemed to be the Lord’s Supper. Some would leave as soon as the Lord’s Supper was over. Maybe they had to go to work, maybe they thought that was the only part of worship that mattered or was commanded. I don’t see that happening very much these days. It’s also easy to assume that prayers are merely fillers that are placed here and there before the big stuff comes. In many ways it often seems like everything leads us to the sermon and after the sermon it’s the two minute warning before we leave.
Singing is important and to those who love music and sing well, it may seem even more important. Have you noticed that singing is the only time the entire congregation is allowed to be verbal. We bow our heads during prayers and someone leads us. During the Lord’s Supper, someone directs our thoughts and we participate in silence. In the sermon, the preacher is heard, but no one else. However, in singing, all of us get to blend our voices together. The little ones right along with the old ones. We are heard. We express ourselves through the songs. And, singing is something that we can do on our own. I doubt that most of us preach a sermon while driving alone in a car, unless you are a preacher and you are thinking out loud. Singing has a way of adjusting our moods and our spirits. So that must mean singing is the most important part of worship. Right? No.
Praying is essential because it allows us to more than just communicate to God, it is an avenue that we get to pour what’s in our hearts to God. With singing, we are singing someone else’s words and thoughts. They may not be mine. I may have other things on my heart and the songs just don’t go there. Prayer is personal. It’s like our signature. I need to slow down when I write, because it’s usually sloppy and even I have a hard time reading what I wrote. Prayer allows us to take our world and life to God’s eyes. It’s inviting God into our world and our heart. It’s through prayer that the child of God begs for mercy and forgiveness. We pray for healing. We pray for insight. We need prayers. Like singing, praying is something that we can do on our own and in that avenue it becomes even more personal and more stream lined to my life and what’s going on. So, prayer must be the most important part of our worship. Right? No.
On Sunday’s, we have the Lord’s Supper. It’s a memorial, a reminder and a sacred event that reflects our connection through Jesus to God. Without the death of Jesus, we have no forgiveness and we have no church. The theme of the Bible is the death and resurrection of Jesus that brought us back to God. How can we ever forget that? The bread and the juice take our minds back to the body and the blood of Jesus. He suffered, when it ought to have been you and I instead. He was pure when we were not pure. He was obedient when we were rebels. His death is the crowning proof that God loves us. Taking the Lord’s Supper is a quiet time. People are thinking. Thoughts are racing everywhere. Some are back to Calvary and the scene at the cross. Some are looking inward and realizing that they do not deserve this amazing grace. Some are thinking of the suffering. Some are thinking about the empty tomb. Some read verses during the Lord’s Supper. Some look at the words of one of our hymns. We must never forget the death of Jesus. Most important part of worship? It’s up there, very high, but more important than everything else?
Then we finally come to the sermon. All week long Mr. Preacher has been working on a sermon that will take about 30 to 40 minutes to deliever. His thoughts connect our world and our lives to both Scriptures and the will of God. The sermon is intended to move us, compel us, challenge us and change us. Through the sermon, we learn. Through the sermon we grow. Through the sermon doubts and fears are chased away by solid Biblical teaching. God believed in preaching. From the early days on, God has sent forth preachers. Noah was a preacher. The prophets were preachers. The apostles were preachers. Jesus, Himself, was a preacher. Sermons can knock the polish off our toes and sting us. Sermons can comfort us. Sermons can remind us of what we already know. Sermons can prepare us to face another week. We tend to remember sermons more than any other aspect of our worship. Think about that. You can go back a month or more and remember a sermon that really helped you. Most of us couldn’t remember what songs were sung around that sermon we remembered. Most couldn’t remember what we prayed about that day. Since sermons stay with us, then preaching must be the most important part of worship. Right? No.
I’ve had this discussion more than once with folks. Which part of worship is most important? They want to rank them in order. There are a few problems with this.
First, I don’t know if we can say one is more important than the others. All of them are important and all of them serve a specific need. Now, I may have my favorite parts. And, my favorite may not be your favorite, but that does not mean one part is better than the others.
Second, when we rank things, and we love to do that. The best movie. The best place to get a burger. The best song. The best team in college basketball. The problem with ranking things, is that the items at the top of the list get a lot of attention and the things at the bottom of the list tend to be rushed because we deem that they are not so important. I find it interesting that the beaten Paul and Silas were singing praises from the jail cell. They weren’t praying. They weren’t preaching. They were singing. Interesting.
Third, the different aspects of worship are intended to do different things. During a sermon, it’s generally me and the Scriptures. It’s introspection and reflection. During the Lord’s Supper, it’s thinking about Jesus. Some times we don’t want to think about ourselves during that time. Prayers take us to thinking about others in the congregation. Singing can take us to thoughts that we didn’t have that day. So, each aspect of worship is intended to do different things.
Fourth, I need every aspect of worship. God realizes that even if I don’t. I need to sing praises to God and stop thinking so much about myself. I must remember Calvary. I need to be taught the word of God. I need to pray along with the church. Maybe I don’t sing so well, it’s not a contest. I’m singing to God. Maybe our prayers are shallow, we still need to pray and I can pray along with others. We need preaching. We need to remember the Lord’s sacrifice. I was in a place the other day for lunch. The woman in front of the line ordered a salad. It came with black olives. She didn’t want black olives. So, they left them out. That works when ordering our food, but it doesn’t work when it comes to worship. I can’t say, “I’ll skip the prayers.” Or, “I don’t like the preaching. Just leave that out.” Even though there may be aspects that I don’t like so well, I still need them. I need all of them.
Finally, worship also connects us with each other. Our verse emphasizes that. “Let us exalt His name together,” it says. The together part is important. We don’t fly solo. We need each other and we need to blend our voices and our hearts and our work together. Worshipping with others reminds us that we are not alone. It reminds us that we are not the only ones who need Jesus. It reminds us that we all have struggles, issues and sins. It reminds us that God has been good to all of us. Together, the communion is passed among us. Together, we bow our heads. Together, we open our Bibles and read. Together, we blend our voices and praise. Worship shows us that we are the people of God. We are His church. Together, the doctor and the mechanic. Together the CPA and the stay at home mom. Together the widow and the teenager. Together the college student and the retired. Together, black and white. Together, male and female. Together, young and old. Together, we all need the Lord. Together, the Lord has been good to us. Together, it reminds us that the church belongs to God, not us. Worship is not about us, but about Him.
Sunday will soon be here. Aren’t you glad?