The 4th Commandment says: “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.” The basis for this command is that God spent six days on Creation and then rested on the 7th day…Not because God was exhausted, but because God wanted a moment to appreciate all the good things of Creation. Genesis 2:3 says: “So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.” The commandment seems to tell us to follow God’s example. When Jeremiah comes along a few thousand years later, he speaks to the Jews in exile and tells them that it is their failure to observe the Sabbath that has caused the nation to fall. That seems a little harsh to us, but maybe it is something to think about. The significance of God’s words stretches way beyond the circumstances of their first revelation…God originally gave the commandments to the Israelites wandering in the desert…Within that particular context we can see that God was trying to unite the Chosen People at a time when they were deeply divided…The Law of Moses had a specific intent for people who grew up in slavery and suddenly found themselves living with freedom they had never experienced before.
Jeremiah recognized that God’s laws apply to the people of God throughout the ages and he tried to bring the people back to faithful observance of the Sabbath as a way to help them reunite and recover from the Exile. The people were trying to make some sense out of what happened to them when the Babylonian Empire destroyed the Jerusalem Temple and hauled their leaders into exile. Jeremiah suggested that it was their own fault for not being faithful to God. I am not going to suggest today that we can suddenly solve all the problems of our country or the world by getting everyone to come to church on Sunday…Although it couldn’t hurt! What I want to talk about is what it means to keep the Sabbath holy – what it means to worship.
Earlier we saw a video that presented a humorous view of what some people expect from their church…While we may find this funny or even extreme, it should challenge us all to look honestly at our own habits and attitudes toward worship and church membership. Church is not Burger King and we cannot have it our way. We must stop thinking church is all about us.
From “The Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church”…Article XIII – Public Worship: “We believe divine worship is the duty and privilege of people who, in the presence of God, bow in adoration, humility, and dedication. We believe divine worship is essential to the life of the church, and that the assembling of the people of God for such worship is necessary to Christian fellowship and spiritual growth.”
Article XIV – The Lord’s Day: “We believe the Lord’s Day is divinely ordained for private and public worship, for rest from unnecessary work, and should be devoted to spiritual improvement, Christian fellowship, and service…It is essential to the permanence and growth of the Christian church, and important to the welfare of the civil community.”
In other words…according to Scripture and our church…worship is not optional and it is not about us…Worship is intended to glorify God. Acts 2:42 tells us that the early church, “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Worship is about proclaiming God’s Word, offering God praise and prayer, and thanking God for what he has done…These things glorify God.
Another thing to remember is that “worship” is both a noun and a verb…Webster’s Dictionary lists these synonyms for the verb form: “esteem,” “exalt,” “revere,” “glorify” and “respect.” As a noun, it can encompass “adoration,” “veneration,” “devotion,” “supplication,” and “invocation.” Worship includes both an attitude and the actions that accompany and are motivated by it. Worship is about acknowledging who God is and what difference it makes in your life. We come to worship each week to glorify God and show our respect for God and to learn more about what God wants for us…We go out to worship by taking action based on what we now know about God. We have the opportunity through all our activities to show the high regard and homage we hold for the One we worship. There is an important link between the integrity of our worship of God and our service to our neighbor…When those who worship the Living God live lives contrary to God’s will, then the glory of God is obscured…On the other hand, when Christians reflect the holiness of God and are in fact the image of God then God is glorified.
Today I want us to realize that worship is not about us…it is about God…It involves making a commitment and deciding that worship is a priority in your life…Our Sunday worship service begins at (8:30) (11:00), NOT (8:45) (11:15)…Whatever conversations we’re having in the narthex are wonderful and important UNTIL we enter the sanctuary to begin worship…We should come into worship with awe and respect…NOT drawing attention to ourselves, but offering our attention to God…We should respect God and each other enough to be present for worship and avoid distracting one another from the purpose for being here…We should participate in all aspects of worship…singing with gusto and praying with sincerity…Whenever we are physically able, we should be at worship on Sunday morning…
These are NOT good reasons for skipping church:
- “I was up too late on Saturday night and just couldn’t get out of bed in time for church.”
- “It’s my only day to sleep in.”
- “I’ve got people coming over for dinner after church and I need to get ready.”
- “My family is visiting from out of town and they’re not church people.”
- “I don’t like the music.”
- “I don’t like the preacher.”
These are “excuses,” NOT reasons.
If we are attending church for the right reason – to worship and glorify God – then none of our excuses matter…Is it too much to ask of us to arrive on time to greet the Creator and Savior of the world? Maybe you should leave your visitors at home while you go to church and set the example for what you truly believe. You might consider that the song you simply hate to sing is one that speaks deeply to somebody else sitting in church. You may not like the preacher very much because he or she is stepping on your toes. A wise person once said: if you’re not a little uncomfortable, then I’m not doing my job. This is not “me Church” – it is God’s Church! Maybe we should all feel a little less comfortable. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.