Sermon upon the Spiritual Disciplines of Worship & Study
the Reverend Michael T. Shaw
Eleventh Sunday after Trinity
September 4, 2011
Gracious, Loving Father in Heaven,
We pause and draw near You
bless You in worship,
in gladness and with thanksgiving
as we gather.
Grant us, we entreat You
the ability to worship you
in spirit and in truth,
with all our hearts
with all our minds
with all our souls
with all our strength.
Give us further, we pray
an ever deepening sense of the reality of
Your holiness and Your love;
the reality of who You eternally are,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We believe, LORD,
help our unbelief.
Let us know, deeply and
see clearly that You are…
Infuse and inspire a fresh ruah
of Your Holy Spirit among us now
May we grow in adoration and worship of you
in all times and seasons of life;
good, bad, joyous, despairing,
and in between.
In times even of indifference and ignorance,
be gracious to us,
break into our apathy and shine your glorious countenance
vividly into our dry, parched searching souls.
We ask, not simply and only for our own benefit,
but also that the light You shine into our lives
be a clear reflection of Your truly loving Self!
For Your glory
and the expansion of Your kingdom into a wanting and waiting world
We ask these things in the name of Jesus, our LORD and Savior,
Grab your Bibles. We’re going to be opening up a good number of passages. By now, y’all know I like handing out homework…
As you have experienced over the last several weeks, the clergy have been preaching on
the spiritual disciplines. Now, here am I to speak with you and the disciplines of worship and study. Interesting pairing. Liturgy/worship happens to be an area of specialty for me, and one that I explore with a good deal of interest and energy.
This should only take a few hours,
oh, this isn’t seminary and I’m not teaching a worship course…
I do hope you’ll allow me an indulgence, however. What follows is technically much more a teaching than an actual sermon. We are talking about our adopting several spiritual disciplines. So think of this space right now as though it were an abbey. You know, a monastery. And I’m serving as your teaching abbot. We’re all, then, modern day monks and nuns, practicing practical, everyday spiritual disciplines in service to and worship of our God and King. I could begin talking about a movement called the New Monasticism now, but there’s this time element thing…
Back to the practice of spiritual disciplines. You know, being in the world, and NOT of it. Take a look at John 15, for an example of this. Being in the world would include our being in service to one another and those to whom we must be light and salt. The needy – in all sorts of ways – world. The world is not the best reality. Sometimes, it’s not even that real. Think of the concept of virtual reality for a moment. We’ve known about this type of thing for a really long time. For example, Disney World. How real is that? Fantasyland, anyone? There are virtual reality computer simulations, movies, television, internet…. We substitute virtual reality in place of real reality. The presence of God among us.
Our reality – the ultimate reality starts when we engage in worship.
Worship – I like short, pithy, to the point definitions. Worship is the act of giving, or a better word still…ascribing glory to God. God already possesses glory. It’s one of His attributes that sets Him apart. We just serve in worship to call our full attention to God’s glory, then.
WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM
Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God,and to enjoy him forever.
Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments,is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.
If we don’t worship God, we’ll find something or maybe someone?!?!?!…
But wait. Here in the highly enlightened 2nd decade of the 21st century aren’t we seeing this now? Church attendance in the case of just about every denomination is off in the wrong direction. In my opinion primarily this is occurring because of the replacement of the worship of Almighty God by the worship of the independent, fully autonomous human self. In the so-called post-Christian west humankind’s position in relation to authority and rule is we are now in first place. We are sacrosanct. We have all the answers. God, the One who first loved us into being and who loves us still with his abiding provision of all good, is no longer our first love. Here’s some homework for you, take a look at Revelation 2:4 which says “you have abandoned the love you had at first”. Now Jesus told us about what I’d call the great loves in Mark 12. Remember the Great Commandment and the one like it? What’s the first and Great? To love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this:‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandmentgreater than these.”
We cannot forsake attendance at church services and the worship of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and substitute a very much less than appropriate and far more damaging worship of self. If you know anyone who no longer attends church, lovingly advise them to come back home to church, where we are trying to give God our first love, so that all is in good order. So that He who first loved us is back in our hearts, minds, souls, and strength…in first place. The place of worship.
What does that look like??
English Standard Version (ESV)
Thank God for Himself. Really. It is my belief that we most regularly and really encounter God when we enter focused periods of thankfulness. Where else does all this good and beautiful provision come from anyway???
Does your worship experience sometimes go like this?
“By the third song, I was really worshipping.” [OK, Who or what were you worshipping before the third song?]
Do we tend to come into church on Sundays, or any other time, with another agenda? Under the influence of life distractions? You know, bills, kids, jobs, interruptions, interruptions of our interruptions, things, stuff…ooh, look a bird! Distractions…distractions…distractions…
But…remember Jesus’ telling us in Matthew 18, where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them.
Here He is – among us. Now, don’t over-analyze here and get into the how question! Take our LORD at His word. There’s a timely reminder. Take Jesus at His word. He tells His people – that’s us, folks – that where two or three are gathered in His name – He is there among them.
He is here – among us! Stop and contemplate that for a moment.
He is here. In the ministry of word and the ministry of sacrament. Hopefully this is where we practicing Anglicans excel – in the ministry of the word and the ministry of sacrament, but I diverge. Back on track. He is here – among us!!! Especially and actually here.
There’s a permanent given. The real deal. A declaration. Reality in a God-ward direction, if you will. We can go from Sunday to Sunday knowing in our minds and hearts that He – is there – among Us! Take that promise and treasure it. It is a pearl of exceeding great price. Live each Sunday on your way to church in great expectation of the reality of the presence of the LORD! And, if that’s not enough, gather as the church as often as possible, because…where two or three are gathered…
Hold onto that promise! Live that promise! Love that promise into the lives of those you know who need to come back home to church!!!
Worship. Proclaiming the greatest worth. The surpassing worth of God. Our Father. The One who very, very, very lovingly created us. The Son who very, very, very lovingly sacrificed Himself for us and died and rose again so that we may truly live now and in eternity in heaven with Him. The Holy Spirit who – take a look at Romans 6:16 – who very, very, very lovingly testifies with our spirit that we are children of God. Beloved children. Provided for children. Truly loved. Truly provided for.
Worship the LORD. Look at Psalm 29:2. “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.”
OK, now. That preacher can just go on and on and on about worship, but what about the discipline of study? Well what happens when we study a particular subject? We spend time poring over material devoted to giving us knowledge – and in line with what we have been exploring this morning – heart, soul, mind, and strength knowledge of God.
2 Timothy 2:15
King James Version (KJV)
Σπούδασον – The word rendered study – is better translated be focused intently on diligence. We should be diligently focused on God. I ask you, Where else should our focus be?
The spiritual disciplines can and should appropriately and effectively draw our focus upon God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Amen and AMEN!
© September 4, 2011 the Reverend Michael Trent Shaw — All rights reserved. No distribution of any kind whatsoever is allowed without the express permission of the author.