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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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Discipleship in a Crowd

“Helping People Trust & Follow Jesus”

That was one of our main lessons from last week and it was based on the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20.

18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

We summed up the main ideas in this passage and ended up with this easy-to-remember statement about what discipleship is all about: helping people trust and follow Jesus.

And we brought up this whole topic of discipleship, not because this is some crazy, new idea that we should make disciples. I think most of us are well aware that Jesus has commanded us to go and make disciples. That’s one of our main purposes in this life as Christians. To be a disciple of Jesus, and to make disciples of Jesus – or as we’ve defined discipleship here, to help people trust and follow Jesus.

And so we’re not bringing this up because we didn’t know that we’re supposed to make disciples. But rather, we’re bring this up because I think a lot of us don’t know how to make disciples. I think we want to make disciples – we want to help people trust and follow Jesus – but we’re just not sure how.

Obviously being a disciple of Jesus means doing what Jesus did – but we can’t replicate everything that Jesus did. We can’t walk on water, we can’t give sight to the blind or bring people back to life. And even if we leave out the miracles, I’m not sure we’re in a position where we can have 12 grown men following us around everywhere – living life with us. All that stuff seemed to work really well for Jesus as he made disciples, but I don’t think that’s what he expects of us today.

So somehow, we’ve got to learn the principles behind what Jesus did so that we can live out those principles in our current context. We’ve got to find a discipleship model that fits.

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Worship in Song

For the last couple of weeks we’ve been trying to wrap our heads around the idea of worship. I think for most of us – if we’re sitting in church this morning – we understand that worshipping God is central to the Christian life, but we may not understand exactly what that means.

And so we’ve spent the last two weeks defining worship. We started off by looking the old english word for worship – “weorthscipe” – which basically means to declare the worth of something. So by simple definition, we worship God by declaring His worth. And we can do that both in word and deed – intentionally or without even thinking about it.

In fact, every person on earth worships something – although they may not ever realize it. We worship whatever it is that is most important to us. And we declare it’s worth by our actions. In fact, you can tell what people worship by their actions. It might be our own egos, the approval of others, money, relationships, career – but what we worship quickly become evident in the choices we make every day – that’s really how we declare the worth of these things.

How we spend our time, where we focus our energies, what consumes our thoughts, even how we spend our money – that all reveals what we truly worship. And if we truly do worship God – if we consider His worth to be above all else – we are actually worshipping God every time we choose to obey and honour Him. Our worship is evident in the choices we make.

Then last week we filled out that idea a little more as we looked at the Hebrew word for worship and found that the Hebrew word could be translated either as to worship or to serve. Worshipping God and serving God were basically the same thing to the Hebrews. And we talked about how we worship God by serving Him – by doing the things were were created to do.

We talked about how we need to have an on-going relationship with our Creator so that we can know what we are created to do – to know his will. And when we do that – when we are reading his Word and talking to God in prayer – listening to the prompts of the Holy Spirit throughout our day – then really, everything we do (no matter how big or how insignificant) can be an act of worship as we seek to obey God and bring Him glory through every little thing that we do.

But of course, all of that still doesn’t answer the question that we’ve been trying to answer. The whole reason we’re talking about worship right now is because for the last three months, we’ve been talking about spiritual disciplines.

And if you’ve been with us very often, you’ll know that these spiritual disciplines – or these Healthy Habits as we’ve called them – are the practices of Christians over the centuries that help us draw close to God – they help us stay connected to Him and to know Him more and to grow in our faith in Him.

We’ve based this whole series on the passage in John 15 where Jesus tells us that He is the vine and we are the branches and we need to stay connected to Him.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

And so we’ve been looking at the practices and the healthy habits that help us remain in Him. And worship is one of those practices.

But of course, in how we’ve defined worship so far, worship seems more like a way of life rather than a specific habit to develop. And that’s true – we need to live a life of worship – but at the same time, a regular habit of expressing worship is also very important in staying connected to God.

And maybe that’s a good distinction to make. There are acts of worship – and there are expressions of worship. And I realize those might seem like they could be the same thing, but let me see if I can clarify.

So far, we’ve really be talking about acts of worship. Acts of worship are the things we do, the choices we make in obedience to God, that show we want to honour and please God. This is worshipping God by serving God.

We mentioned last week how changing your baby’s diaper can be an act of worship. If that’s a job that God has given to you to do as caretaker of that little baby, then obeying God in doing that is an act of worship.

However, I probably wouldn’t say that changing a diaper is an expression of worship. We wouldn’t all gather together to change baby’s diapers to express our love and adoration for God.

And part of our difficulty in understanding the difference between acts of worship and expressions of worship is that in English, we have a limited vocabulary when it comes to worship.

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Changing Diapers for the Glory of God

It was an unusual service last week. We played “The Price Is Right” right in the middle of the message and we had a quick round of “Balderdash” – but it was all to help us understand what it means to worship.

Worship is the fifth spiritual discipline that we’ve looked at since we began this series on Healthy Habits, but its a little bit different from the other spiritual disciplines in that, while most spiritual disciplines are specific activities that Christians do in order to help us grow in our understanding and in our faith in God, worship is not necessarily a particular activity. We can worship in almost everything we do.

We learned that while you might envision worship as singing or bowing down or bringing an offering or sacrifice, worship is really much more than all those kinds of activities.

To help us define worship, we looked at the old English word “Weorthscipe” – which is where we get our modern word “Worship.” And weorthscipe means to declare the value or the worth of something.  It’s worth-ship.

So when we worship God, we can certainly declare God’s worth through singing for example – but really, we worship God (that is, we declare His worth through our actions) anytime we choose to honour and please Him above everything else. When knowing and pleasing God is more important to us than anything else, then we are worshiping God. And on the flip side of that, anytime anything else is more important to us than knowing and pleasing God – that becomes an idol to us and we worship that other thing rather than God.

So that, in a nutshell, was what we talked about last week. All of us worship something – the real question is “What do we worship? What do we value more than anything? Do we worship God or do we worship something else?” And I hope that’s a question that you’ve wrestled with over this past week.

Now this week, I want to build on our definition of worship. What we’ve looked at so far is what I’d call our “unintentional worship”. It’s not necessarily specific activities that we do, it’s more of an attitude. It’s simply what we value. Because like we said… What we value the most is what we worship. We don’t even have to put thought into it. If we worship money, for example, that just becomes evident in how we live our lives. We just automatically arrange our priorities so that money is given the greatest consideration in any circumstance.

It’s not like we go physically go and bow before our piggy banks or pray to our wallets. Not literally anyway…  So that’s why I would classify this kind of worship as “unintentional worship”. We just kinda do it automatically.

But when it comes to worshipping God, in addition to our unintentional worship, there should also be an element of intentional worship as well. There are things that we intentionally do to express our worship. And the Bible is full of statements and commands and examples of intentional acts of worship.

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