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Worship in Ekklesia

Well, last Sunday I kinda left you hanging…  For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about the purpose of the church – or the purpose of God’s Ekklesia – the gathering of God’s family. And by last Sunday, we had already talked about the main over-arching purpose of the church – which is to bring glory to God. In everything we say or do, we aim to display and declare God’s goodness to the world around us.

But then we narrowed our focus just a little bit and began to discuss the specific tasks of the local church. Bringing glory to God is the ultimate aim for the church as a whole – but what is God’s purpose in establishing local congregations? How are we to bring glory to God together as a community in ways that we simply couldn’t on our own?

And so last week, we divided these tasks of the church into three main categories. They were: 

  • To bring glory to God through worshipping Him together.
  • To bring glory to God by edifying His people.
  • To bring glory to God by evangelizing the world.

And so we started last week by digging into what it means to worship God – and that’s where I kinda left you hanging! We talked primarily about what the word ‘worship’ means – but we didn’t really dig into what that looks like as one of the primary tasks of the local church. But that’s where I want to go today.

So to do that, let me first refresh your memory as to what worship is all about – because today’s message really does build on what we talked about last week.

You’ll remember that last Sunday we looked at the old english word “weorthscipe” – which basically means to ‘declare the worth of’ something. And it’s from this old word ‘weorthscipe’ that we get our modern word ‘worship’.

When we worship something, we are declaring it’s worth or its worthiness. But worship isn’t simply about the words we say or the songs we sing in church. Worship is much more about the daily decisions we make and the priorities we have in life. It’s about showing how we esteem and value God (or anything else for that matter) by the choices we make every day.

Because whatever it is that is our highest priority, whatever it is that we value above all else, whatever it is that is our greatest consideration in every decision – that is what we worship.

It’s like what Jesus said in Matthew 6:21… 

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21 NIV

Whatever it is that we hold most dearly, whatever it is that we choose above all else – that’s what we treasure – that’s what we worship in our hearts.

We don’t have to sing any particular songs. We don’t have to physically bow down. We don’t have to bring any offerings or sacrifices. We can do those things, but they only have meaning if they are outward reflections of what’s already going on inside in our hearts. We need to worship God in spirit and in truth, like Jesus said in John 4:23. He says…

23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24

That’s why the object of our worship isn’t necessarily revealed by what songs we sing on Sunday morning. The object of our worship is revealed by our daily decisions and choices. It’s those choices that truly reveal what we value in our hearts – what we worship.

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True Worth-Ship

About three years ago, I taught you all a new word. I’m not sure how many of you remember it – but it was an old english word that isn’t really in use anymore. Most people have never seen it written anywhere or heard it used in any conversation – in fact, I still don’t know how to pronounce it properly, but here’s the word: “Weorthscipe”

My best guess for it’s pronunciation is “We-earth-skype”or “Way-orth-skippy”.

But this word basically means to declare the worth of something. If you break it into two parts, you can start to see our modern english words hidden within the old….

The first part “Weorth” – means value or simply worth. You can see that pretty easily – just drop the ‘e’ and there is the modern word “worth”. So that’s pretty straight forward….

The second part is “scipe” which means “the condition of” or “the quality of”. We see the modern version of this quite often today, although now we spell it now SHIP.  You see it on the end of many words like “friendship” – the condition of being friends – or “leadership” – the condition of being a leader.

So with these two parts – ‘weorth’ meaning value or worth and with ‘scipe’ meaning “the condition of” –  together, we get the idea that “Weorthscipe” is the condition of having worth. Does that make sense to everybody? Are you tracking with me?

This word is important to us today because even though we don’t use the word “woerthscipe” anymore, we certainly use its modern equivalent very often especially in the church – and that modern word of course is  “worship” or “worth-ship”. 

Worship is when we declare or affirm the worth or the worthy-ness of something or Someone.

And I’m guessing that by now you know where I’m going with this, but if not, let me back up just a bit and explain why we’re talking about worship this morning.

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The Purpose of the Church

Last week we began a conversation about the purpose of the church. With COVID-19 forcing us to make so many changes to how we do church and ministry over these last months, I think it’s important for us to remind ourselves why it is that the church exists. 

We live in a rapidly changing world and it’s important that we be able to change and adapt how we do ministry to make sure that what we do is useful and effective – but at the same time, it’s even more important that we never lose sight of why we do that ministry in the first place.

In other words, our methods can change, but our mission must remain the same.

The purpose of the church never changes. The purpose of the church in Paul’s time is the same purpose of the church in our time. Of course, the activities of the those churches probably look very different – but their end goals are always exactly the same.

And so that’s what I want to look at for the next few weeks: What are the end goals of the church?  Why do we exist? What is our purpose?

Because only when we understand our purpose can we effectively determine what activities will help us accomplish that purpose!

And so we started two weeks ago, first of all, by defining the church. Sometimes there is confusion even about that! What exactly is the church?

Well, we looked at three ways the Bible describes the church. First of all, it describes the church as a family – the family of God. The Bible teaches that from the moment we accept Christ as our Saviour, every believer is then adopted into God’s family. We read in Ephesians 1 that God loved us and chose to adopt us even before time began – and this gave him great pleasure! I always find it incredible to think that it filled God with joy to adopt me into his family. But that’s what the Bible says. We are adopted into His family and we are all now brothers and sisters in Christ.

So that’s one way that the Bible describes the church – as a family.

The second way that the Bible describes the church is as the body of Christ. Just like the human body has many different parts that all work together as one body – so it is with the body of Christ. We are all completely different from one another – we have different backgrounds, different ways of seeing the world, we have different interests and passions – different skills and abilities. And God has put us all together – united in Christ Jesus – to function together as one body. We are all necessary parts of God’s church.

So that’s the second way the Bible describes the church – as the body of Christ.

And then the third way the Bible describes the church is as an ekklesia. The New Testament was originally written in Greek – and in the Greek language, the word ‘ekklesia’ simply means “an assembly or gathering of people”. You could use that word to describe an angry mob or the crowd at a rock concert or any kind of gathering. But it’s that word “ekklesia” that gets translated in the Bible as ‘church’. So anytime you’re reading in the New Testament and you see the word ‘church’ – the original greek word that was written there is “ekklesia” – an assembly or gathering of people.

And of course, when he Bible talks about God’s ekklesia, it has a specific kind of gathering in mind – a gathering of God’s family – an assembly of the Body of Christ.

We read in Matthew 16:18 when Jesus said:

“On this rock I will build my church.”

Matthew 16:18

Christ is building his ekklesia. He is assembling his family. He is putting together the body of Christ.

And so that’s kinda the idea that we’ve latched onto for this series.

Ekklesia – the assembly of God’s family. The church is not a building. It’s is not a charitable organization. Church not an event that we attend each Sunday morning. The church is the gathering of God’s family – it is the assembly of the body of Christ. And Christ is building His church – he’s adding more and more people to the family – adding more and more parts to the body.

But the big question still remains: Why? What is the purpose of this assembly? Why is God building His church? If God has put us together as one united body of Christ – what exactly does He want this body to do?

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Ekklesia – The Assembly

Over the past several months, COVID-19 has radically changed our familiar ‘church’ experience.  

The Sunday mornings we knew a year ago were very different from the online Sunday mornings we knew for the last three months – and they are very different from what we’re experiencing today!

Over these last months we’ve changed how we gather. We’ve changed how we worship. We’ve changed how we do preaching and teaching. We’ve changed how we do kids programming. We’ve changed how we fellowship. We’ve changed how we do Bible studies. We’ve changed how we connect with each other and with the community.

So many of our familiar church experiences have changed.

And so this whole process of changing how we do church has really led me to reevaluate what we do and why we do it!

    • Just because we’ve always had a snacktime in the middle of our service doesn’t mean we have to… It doesn’t even mean we should!
    • Just because we enjoy having some talented musicians lead our worship with piano, guitars, and drums – it doesn’t mean we have to… it doesn’t mean we should!
    • Just because we’ve had great success in running our summer kids club or other kids programming –  doesn’t mean we have to…. doesn’t mean we should!

It’s easy to get into the habit of just doing things because that’s what we’ve always done before. But it’s important to evaluate every once in a while to see if what we’re doing is still useful and effective and important.

It’s like the story of young lady who was newly married and she decided to bake a ham for their first Easter dinner. So she took the ham, sliced off both ends and placed it in the roasting pan. Her husband was watching all this and asked, “Honey, why did you slice off the ends of that ham? It’s all good ham – why not just bake the whole thing?”

The young wife thought about this and said “I’m not sure – that’s what mom always did when she baked a ham. I’ll ask her.”

So the young lady called up her mom and asked “Mom, when you’re roasting a ham, why do you always cut off the ends?” The Mom thought for a moment and said, “Well, that what your grandmother always did. Grandma’s ham was always delicious, and so I’ve always just done what she did.”

So the young lady then called up Grandma and asked, “Grandma, when you cook a ham, why do you always cut off the ends?” To this the Grandma replied, “I always cut off the ends because I didn’t have a roasting pan big enough to fit the whole ham.”

And I think this story illustrates what often happens in church. We just do things a certain way simply because that’s what we’ve always done – without considering if what we’re doing is still useful, effective, and important.

And so with all the changes that we’ve been forced to make because of COVID-19, I think now is a perfect opportunity for us to all reevaluate how we do church. 

Why do we do the things that we do? What are some things that we should change? What are some things that we should never change?

But I guess, to answer those questions, we really need to take a look at the bigger picture. What exactly are we trying to accomplish as a church anyway? What’s the purpose of the church?

If we don’t have a clear picture of why we exist and what God wants us to accomplish – I think we’ll have a really hard time measuring the effectiveness of what we do.

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The Wicked, The Wrathful, and The Wise – Part 2

We did part 1 last week, and this morning we are going to look at part 2 of a story that I’ve dubbed “The Wicked, the wrathful, and the wise.”

It’s not the most famous story in the Bible – but it is a riveting tale and it’s found in 1 Samuel chapter 25. It’s the story of King David (before he was king) as he interacted with a sheep farmer named Nabal. Nabal, who was known for being crude and mean in all his dealings, was quite a contrast to his wife, Abigail, who was known for being sensible and beautiful! These two characters couldn’t be more different!

We haven’t seen much of Abigail in this story so far, but we’ve had a quite an introduction to Nabal!

You see, this story all begins at sheep-shearing time – a time of feasting and celebration. David, who has been on the run from Saul, has been camped near Nabal’s shepherds around Carmel. Now David had been very good to Nabal’s shepherds as they camped near each other – David’s men had kept them safe from the Philistines  and nothing was ever stolen from them during their time together… 

And so, when David hears that Nabal is sheering his sheep and is having a great celebration, he sends messengers to Nabal asking if Nabal could kindly share whatever provisions he could with his friend David and his men!

Nabal, however – true to his reputation, would do nothing of the sort and responded by heaping insults upon David and sent David’s messengers home empty-handed. 

As you might imagine, this did not sit well with David who’s only recorded response to Nabal’s rude reply was to tell his men “Grab your swords” as he strapped on his own! In classic case of wild over-reaction, David sets out to murder Nabal in retaliation for his insults! This is quite out of character for David – a guy who is called “a man after God’s own heart” – but I guess it goes to show how even the best of us are aways susceptible to sin! We ought not think we’ve matured beyond the point of being able to mess up big time – cuz that’s just what David is about to do.

And that’s about where we left off last week – David and 400 of his men are armed and headed towards Nabal’s house with the intent to murder every man in Nabal’s household.

We pick up the story now as the scene shifts back to Nabal’s home. It says in verse 14…

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The Wicked, the Wrathful, and the Wise – Part 1

For the past few weeks we’ve been looking at some of the lesser-known stories of the Old Testament. And I’ll tell ya – it’s been quite a mixed bag of goodies! We’ve had talking donkeys, floating axeheads, human cannibalism, and more! They may be lesser known, but these have been some of the most sensational stories of the Bible! And all of them have been packed with important lessons about God and how He wants us live in this world!

Now the story I want to look at today isn’t quite as sensational, but it’s still an incredible story – one that I think would probably make a pretty fantastic movie! It’s got some great movie characters – a villain you love to hate, a band of blood-thirsty vigilantes eager for revenge, and a brave & beautiful leading lady who saves the day! It would be an Oscar winner for sure! And like those other stories we’ve looked at – it’s not the most well-known story in the Bible, but there is much that we can learn from it.

We find this particular story in the book of 1 Samuel – chapter 25. So let’s turn there now and the author will introduce us to all the main characters in the first few verses. It begins like this:

Then David moved down to the wilderness of Maon. 2 There was a wealthy man from Maon who owned property near the town of Carmel. He had 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats, and it was sheep-shearing time. 3 This man’s name was Nabal, and his wife, Abigail, was a sensible and beautiful woman. But Nabal, a descendant of Caleb, was crude and mean in all his dealings.

1 Samuel 25:1b-3

So there is at least one familiar character in this story – I’m sure most of you have at least heard of King David. Although at this point, David has not yet become king. Saul is still the King of Israel, and he has been hunting David like a criminal – chasing him all around the wilderness – even though David has never done anything to harm him! Saul is consumed by his jealousy of David and is determined to kill him, but David continues to be loyal to Saul and is equally determined not to harm Saul in any way.

In fact, in just the chapter before this, David was hiding from Saul in a cave when Saul just happened to come into that very cave to go to the bathroom. David snuck up and quietly cut off the corner of Saul’s rob – showing Saul how He most certainly could have killed him if he wanted to – but he didn’t. 

Of course, when Saul realized how David spared his life, he repented and left David alone for the time being and went back home – but David, knowing that Saul would soon change his mind, headed out further into the wilderness of Maon.

Now in Maon, we find our two other characters in this story. We have Nabal – who was a very rich sheep farmer and was known for being crude and mean in all his dealings. And then we have his wife, Abigail, who was known for being sensible and beautiful! 

These two characters seem to be quite a contrast to each other. I guess it’s true that opposites attract – or it could be that this was an arranged marriage. We’re not really given that information – we’re just simply told that Nabal was known for being crude and mean while his wife, Abigail, was known for being beautiful and sensible.

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