WHAT IS WORSHIP?
We live in the age of consumerism. This means that virtually everything in our culture has become a good or service to be marketed, sold, and consumed. As shoppers and consumers we have come to expect positive and engaging experiences that motivate us to buy. But as Christians we must fight the temptation to expect this from church, or become consumers in worship.
Worship is a wholly different kind of event in the life of the believer. Worship is not centered on what we get, but rather on what we give - we who have already received so much in Jesus. We do not come into the house of God, looking for an experience that centers around us. Worship is not, first and foremost, for us. Worship begins with the gratitude, praise, and glory we give to God.
There are coffee shops and there are living rooms. There are food courts and there are dining tables. There are shopping malls and there are homes. When we desire a particular experience, or want to be entertained, we go to concert halls, amusement parks, restaurants and movie theaters. We go to those places to get. But when we come to church, we come first to give: to ascribe glory and majesty to the Most High God who has already given us everything by giving us His only Son, who gave His very life to make us His own.
In worship, we come to commune with this God who is now our Father. We come to a place where we are not the center of attention. We come to a place to which God has invited us, a place to see Him in all His glory. Only when we come leaving the expectation of being entertained at the door will we realize the fullness and richness of the blessing that true worship is.
Worship is not primarily for you. It is not first and foremost an experience designed to meet your needs. It is a conversation with the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the eternal Triune God, designed by Him for the primary purpose of exalting His glory in and through your life. In worship, God speaks and you are brought to His feet to listen. In turn, you cry out and He hears your prayers, your sacrifices of praise, your declaration of faith. Worship is no common thing. It is the very center of your life in Jesus.
Like a House
We like to explain worship using the metaphor of a house: God's house. You are called out of yourown dwelling every Sunday morning. You arrive together with the saints at God's front porch where He welcomes you and bids you come inside. Wiping your feet at the door, you enter His family room. After a time at His feet hearing His stories and promises, He brings you into His dining room where you are fed and nourished. Filled and strengthened, you are sent out again into the world.
On the porch you hear the opportunities and needs of the body in the announcements. On the porch you are called to prepare your heart to come before the presence of God Almighty. On the porch you begin the conversation with Scripture, prayer, and song. This is the part of our service we call: Call to Worship.
The Mud Room
You have come to God's house. If you are a Christian, you have been thoroughly washed by the blood of Jesus. In the pure eyes of God, you are clean. But you still have sin to confess. You still have mud on your shoes. Here in the mud room, you remove your filthy shoes, for you stand on holy ground. Hearing your confession, your Father who is in Heaven receives your supplications, listens to your needs, and lavishes you with assurance of His abundant grace. This is the part of our service we call: Confession of Sin.
The Family Room
You now come into the family room and sit before the holy face of God. Having confessed your sins, you now confess your faith. You confess His story (creed), His holiness (sanctus), His listening ear (the Lord's prayer), and His shepherd's heart (psalm). God then brings you under the knife of His word. Examining your thoughts and motives, He exposes the weaknesses within your heart. But He is merciful. He is faithful. He is patient and He is kind. He always binds together the child He pulls apart. His strength is made perfect in you, making you complete through the preaching of His living Word. This is the part of our service we call: Ministry of the Word.
The Dining Room
You are now brought from the feet of God to sit beside Him as an honored guest, welcome at His table. You are His beloved child. He is your loving Father who delights in communing with you. You come, not because you are full, but because you are hungry. You come as a weak and weary sinner knowing your daily need of Jesus. Jesus is the true bread and true drink. In Him you are fed for the feeding of the world. Transformed at this table, your life becomes the life He brings to the nations. Together in this celebration, we are being knit as one body with one purpose: to glorify His name with all that we are. This is the part of our service we call: The Lord's Table.
You have been equipped and made whole. You have found your place next to your brothers and sisters. You have been received, renewed, and revived. Worship has trained you to see the world in which you live through the lens of the beauty of God. Worship has fixed your eyes on Jesus and has placed Him at the center of your attention. Having ascended into the heavenlies, you are sent back into the world, a small seed of the second coming. You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. You are God's ambassador, bringing the message of reconciliation to the nations. This is the part of our service we call: Doxology and Benediction.
What God Gives
Even though worship is not primarily for us, the God we have come to is Himself the greatest of all givers. And so we worship Him by receiving the abundance of grace He freely gives. But worship not only receives the gift, it honors and submits to the ways through which He gives it. We meet God who is the object of our worship in prayer, in Christian fellowship, in the proclamation of the Word, and in the two sacraments ordained by Jesus, namely baptism and communion. In the context of corporate Christian worship, by means of these elements we see and love the heart of God.
Does this mean you have a dress code?
Nope. Never. Please come as you are. We do expect everyone to be considerate of everyone else and to dress with basic modesty, but we don't require or expect 'formal-wear' at all.
You'll notice that at the same time that many of us dress casually, others of us like to dress up in our Sunday best. Please know that this isn't an attempt to gain piety-points with God. It's just a choice that some make based on the kind of special event which we cherish worship to be. But we all cherish the unity that we have in worship, regardless of individual choices about things like clothing styles.
In 1 Corinthians 11:26, Paul wrote that, "Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." The Lord's Table is a time to remember, celebrate and proclaim the great culmination of God's eternal plan to redeem us, on the Cross of Jesus Christ. But when we come to the table, we do more than just remember, celebrate and proclaim. We also partake. As we put our faith in the things that the Bread and the Cup signify (the body and the blood of Jesus), God has promised to strengthen our faith and our lives by the grace that we remember and proclaim. We celebrate Communion every week because we need the strength and grace of Christ every week. We come hungry and thirsty, confessing that only He can feed us and quench our thirst.
In the same chapter in 1 Corinthians (chapter 11, verse 27), Paul gives a strong warning to the church about taking communion in an "unworthy way", and tells us to examine ourselves when we eat the Bread and drink from the Cup. He means that when we come, we must always come in faith, trusting the grace and mercy of Jesus for forgiveness and strength in all of life. To come in faith is to come as children, implicitly trusting in the goodness of our Father and all that He supplies.
This means that the only ones who should participate in Communion are the ones who have already been saved by His grace through real, living faith in Jesus Christ. The Table is a time when God gathers His redeemed and reborn Children and feeds their souls with His all-sufficient grace. If you haven't yet been saved by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection - if you haven't yet been reborn by His Holy Spirit, it's important to wait to participate in Communion. If you have been saved, and trusted Christ alone for salvation, it's important to feast regularly at the Table, and to feast "worthily", as Paul says. Worthy feasting at the Lord's Table doesn't mean coming without sin. It means coming with sin, as sinners, confessing our sin and trusting that Christ's work on the Cross is everything that we need. If you are a redeemed, reborn Child of the King, then whoever you are, and wherever you are from, we welcome you to come, join us at the Lord's Table and let Him feed you with True Bread and True Drink.