These are some of the current commitments we make as a church in worship. The question is why do we this? Why do we worship? Why are we here?

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1 1 WHY WE WORSHIP Psalm 95; Eph. 5:15-20; Rev. 5:6-14; John 4:16-24 First Presbyterian Church of Georgetown, Texas Dr. Michael A. Roberts February 16, 2003 On my second Sunday as your pastor, 14 years ago now, I preached a sermon titled Worship: The Highest Priority. I still believe that worship is the most important role, task, and mission of the church. Our Presbyterian Book of Common Worship lifts up the importance this way: Worship is at the very heart of the church s life. All that the church is and does is rooted in its worship. The community of faith, gathered in response to God s call, is formed in its worship. Worship is the principal influence that shapes our faith, and is the most visible way we express the faith. If worship is this critical for our life as Christians then it is important for us from time to time to reflect upon our worship of God. Let s think together about what we do when we worship and why we do it. We have gathered together for a worship service. The word worship comes from an old English word worth-ship which means to ascribe worth to, to adore, to honor, to respect, to reverence. Through our words, prayers, and hymns we are ultimately attributing worth, honor, and respect to God. We sense God s love and guidance in our lives and we want to offer our praise and thanks to God. We can relate to the multitude in Revelation who sings with full voice: Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! That s worship. The second word we often use is service. Have you ever wondered why we use that word? Have you ever thought about worship as service? Worship is actually something we do for God. In this time, we are serving God. Worship then is more like service or work even, than it is recreation or entertainment. More about that in a little bit. Before we speak about why we worship, let me say a word about our important commitments as a church in worship. Our worship attendance has increased dramatically over the years. Our worship attendance has more than doubled in the last decade. We anticipate having more worshippers in coming years. Many of our future directions and plans are based on the belief that more and more people will want to join with us in the worship of God.

2 2 We emphasize here a blended style of worship while preserving a traditional Presbyterian worship format. According to Robert Webber, blended worship is characterized by three concerns: 1) to be rooted in the biblical and early church tradition 2) to draw from the resources of the entire church 3) a radical commitment to contemporary relevance. We emphasize blended worship here. That includes a blend of different generations of church music. It includes a large variety of prayers, ancient and contemporary. It includes a blend of formality and informality in worship. We believe that our youth should learn the classic hymns of the faith and we believe that older adults should learn the newer songs of adoration. Our aim is to preserve and claim the best of each generation of church music. When I describe this blended worship in New Members Classes, we often discover that one of the key reasons newcomers are attracted to our church is what they experience in our blended worship. We make other commitments as a church in worship. We are committed to recovering the power and meaning of the sacraments. Reformed worship focuses not only on the written and preached word. It emphasizes the visible or sealed word in the sacraments of baptism and the Lord s Supper. Jesus lifted up and instituted these sacraments for the church for all time when he said: go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. And when he said do this in remembrance of me. If we are Christ s church, then, we will not devalue what he instituted. If we are Christ s church, we will not devalue the sacraments, but treasure them, appreciate them, practice them as means of God s grace. We see the great importance of music in worship. We are committed to sing familiar music from all musical generations. What the church does and has done for centuries is to claim music that meets the needs of people- taking the best of the past, and the best of the present. We are also committed to the enhancement and further development of musicoriented groups in our church. Our music program provides a wonderful opportunity for members to use their musical gifts. It also provides an opportunity for many to be assimilated into the life and fellowship of our congregation. At present we have five musical groups: the Chancel Choir, the Praise and Worship Team, Logos Choristers Choir, and the Day and Night Handbell choirs. At present, we have 108 people involved in our music ministry! It is our hope and our plan to develop an adult choir for the 8:30 service and a group of instrumentalists. We are committed to using a wide variety of musical instruments in worship. These are some of the current commitments we make as a church in worship. The question is why do we this? Why do we worship? Why are we here?

3 3 There are at least three good reasons. First, we worship to hear and respond to God s word. God communicates to us in worship. Our worship is centered on the word of God- we listen for, hear, and appropriate the word of God for our lives. Our worship is even structured that way. You will note in our bulletins every Sunday that we have three main movements in our worship: we gather as God s people, we hear the word of God, and we respond to the word of God. Worship begins with God. We are called to worship musically with a Choral Introit and verbally with the responsive reading of a psalm in our Call to Worship. We offer to God a prayer of adoration. We sing a hymn of praise. The first thing we do then when we come into God s presence is to offer our praise and adoration for God s character and deeds. Once we re in God s presence, we realize that we as human beings are not God. We confess then with all humility our sinfulness, our imperfections, and our humanness. We do this both corporately and individually. After we have expressed praise and confession, we are ready to hear God s word for us. We hear that word through the Children s Moment, the reading of scripture from the Old and New Testaments, from the musical anthems, and hopefully from the sermon which is intended to be primarily an exposition of the word of God found in the scriptures. We not only hear and listen attentively to the word of God, we also respond to it. The epistle of James says: Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says (James 1:22 NIV). We are to be doers of the word. As Jesus says, the wise person is the one who hears these words of mine and acts on them (Matthew 7:24). The response to the word of God is obviously lived out from Monday to Saturday but please note that the response to the Word begins even within the service itself on Sunday. We respond with the prayers of the people, with an affirmation of faith oftentimes, with the offering of our gifts and of our very selves, with the doxology, and with a hymn of response. We worship to hear and respond to the word of God. Secondly, we also worship to nurture our spiritual growth. We often overlook that worshipping together is a means of grace that God s people have always used to grow in their spiritual lives.

4 4 Herb Miller writes: The first business of the Church is to help people connect with God and grow spiritually. Worship is the number-one way this happens. After two thousand years, a church s most powerful program is still its worship service (Connecting with God p. 34). Herb Miller has conducted numerous surveys of church people, asking what helps them to grow spiritually. When given the opportunity to choose from a list of factors that helped them grow spiritually, church members and attenders checked worship more frequently than any other item. In what ways does worship help us to grow spiritually? How exactly does worship help? In his book Connecting with God, Herb Miller mentions ten ways that corporate worship helps in our spiritual growth. Worship, he says, benefits people in at least these ten ways: 1. Worship dispels loneliness. 2. Worship brings hope. 3. Worship counters self-centeredness. 4. Worship reminds us of important values we tend to forget. 5. Worship strengthens courage. 6. Worship gives us the opportunity to express thanksgiving. 7. Worship brings us a sense of forgiveness. 8. Worship renews our faith. 9. Worship is a transcendent experience which helps God call us out of what we are to what we are yet to become. 10. Worship is a highly organized form of corporate prayer that brings positive change to people. In short, people believe corporate worship strengthens, repairs, and refocuses their lives. By being in worship, there is the possibility that God can reach us and transform us. Being in worship can nurture our spiritual growth. Finally, we worship to actively participate in offering our praise and lives to God. We approach worship as active participants not passive spectators. Many people approach worship as if they were a spectator. They re a fan. They go to see what kind the music leaders and the preacher will put on. When they leave, they say, the choir did pretty well today, or the preacher was a little off today. They could just as well be judging a gymnastics competition. The preacher gets a 7, the choir a 9. Spectators are passive. They just show up. No preparation is required. If, however, we see ourselves not as the spectators but as the performers, this changes the way we worship. I ve shared with you before how Soren Kierkegaard analyzed the parties of the worship service centuries ago. He said that churches

5 5 usually see worship this way: the congregation is the audience, the pastor and the music leaders are the performers, and God prompts the performers, that is the pastor and music leaders. The true Christian perspective, Kierkegaard thought, is much different. In actuality, the congregation are the performers, the pastor and the music leaders are the prompters, and the audience, the audience is God. The question after worship then becomes not what did I get out of this? or how did they do? but how does God think I did? or did I offer my praise and my life to God? If we think of ourselves as performers rather than spectators, we will tend to come to worship more prepared. Our preparation for worship may take a variety of directions. It may mean reading and reflecting on the scriptures of the day. (This is why we publish them early, by the way). It may mean praying for those who will come to worship on any given Sunday. It may mean praying for the worship leaders. It may mean arriving to worship early, getting quiet before the Lord, and reading over the hymns. Being an active participant means we will approach worship with what Richard Foster calls, holy expectancy. An expectancy that we will meet God in this hour, that we will hear from God during this time. You see, worship, even though it benefits our growth, is ultimately not about us. Worship is about God. We offer our praise and thanks to God. We hear God s word. We sing God s praises. We acknowledge how important God is in our lives. We honor God. That s why worship is the highest priority. That s why we worship. Worship is when we offer our praise and our lives to God. Our Presbyterian Book of Common Worship is a fitting conclusion when it says: An important characteristic of worship in the Reformed tradition is that it centers on God rather than ourselves and our feelings. Our attention is drawn to the majesty and glory of the triune God (p. 8) Christian worship joyfully ascribes all praise and honor, glory and power to the triune God. In worship the people of God acknowledge God present in the world and in their lives. As they respond to God s claim and redemptive action in Jesus Christ, believers are transformed and renewed. In worship the faithful offer themselves to God and are equipped for God s service in the world (Book of Order W )

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