PASSIONATE WORSHIP 2
So, do you remember last week’s message? I’m gonna jump right into it. Were you eager coming here this morning? Did you arrive in anticipation of a great encounter with God? Were you—ARE you—EXPECTING a miracle today? As we learned last Sunday in “Passionate Worship – Part 1,” disciples of Jesus Christ prepare in advance for their weekly worship experience. Did you do that LAST night or THIS morning? Yeah, some good-natured chuckling, I’m sure. But I’m dead serious. Hey, I’m into my second year with you and I ain’t done pushing you yet. I’m not finished moving you forward in a deeper relationship with YOUR Lord, Jesus Christ. And sure hope and pray that you are not finished moving in your faith with Him.
I don’t know about other pastors, but THIS one wants you to grow through your worship experience—your PASSIONATE worship experience—each and every Sunday. One way that encourages me is through what Bishop Schnase calls the “aha” moments.
[These moments] CHANGE people and MOLD them. The touch of transcendence PULLS them out of themselves, DEEPENS their understanding of life and their relationship to God. (Five Practices, 43)
Bishop Schnase adds that when we have these “aha” moments both in worship and in our everyday lives, we feel “richer, stronger, and truer to what God has created” us to be (FP, 43).
But you see, my sisters and brothers in Jesus Christ, only YOU can define when you have an “aha” moment. It might come from a line in a hymn or special music—including a prelude, an offertory, or a postlude (Don’t forget that instrumental music speaks also). An “aha” moment may occur during a scripture reading, the prayers given during the service, or a testimony of praise. A moment when you say “aha” just might, perhaps, maybe, quite possibly come from one of my weekly messages. If there are other elements of the worship experience that I’ve forgotten to mention, I’m sorry. But whenever you have that moment where the “light” goes on, the heart gets “strangely warmed”—as Methodism’s founder John Wesley experienced—or when the Holy Spirit moves you in some way, that’s when you say “Aha, thank you, Lord!”
What I am going to say next might sound rather obvious. All churches offer worship services. But, as we looked at last week, there’s a difference between worship and PASSIONATE worship.
Passionate Worship means a church cares enough about the service to offer its BEST, its utmost, its highest. Churches that practice Passionate Worship make this sacred time as free as possible from distractions, annoyances, and inconveniences, and people sense the DELIBERATE care in preparation and intention.
(Five Practices, 47)
I can pick and choose what quotes from the book I want to use. I can gloss over some and drill others over and over. However, while I wanted to pass this one by – I later had an “aha” moment of my own. Why? Because this one speaks DIRECTLY to me. You see, if I don’t offer MY best each Sunday, then I cannot even BEGIN to expect the best from you. If my actions are not done with “DELIBERATE care” as Bishop Schnase puts it, then I am not able to ask the same level of care from you.
But, at the same time, I have heard a few people in this congregation mention to me over the past year that I need to have my OWN time to worship the Lord. It’s sometimes offered that I am “working” during the worship service and I have to find time for a personal worship experience. I’ve heard this off-and-on for many years. But I’ve thought about this during the past week. REALLY thought about it. And as strange as it may sound, when YOU worship here on Sunday mornings, I am worshiping right along WITH you. I am your pastor, for sure. But you are also my church family. I don’t know and I don’t care what the District Superintendent or the Bishop would say about that, but it’s the truth. My “aha” moments come right alongside yours in this time, in this place.
Let’s move on a little bit, shall we? We are still in the same chapter as last week so there will be some overlapping. Let’s press forward with some more in-your-face stuff.
People make spiritual progress, they WANT to be present, and they approach worship with a sense of EXPECTANCY, anticipating God’s presence. They talk about their experiences to others, invite their friends, and view worship as the MOST IMPORTANT hour of the week for themselves and for the church.
(Five Practices, 51)
Last Sunday, we hit pretty hard the issue of being here because you WANT to be. We hit even harder the idea of EXPECTING our lives to change through worship. But what about that last part – If your life really does change during the worship experience, then—as the hymn “Pass It On” goes—do you “Shout it from the mountaintops. I want the world to know”? If you are not that public with your faith just yet, then how about the next one: Do you view your CUMC worship experience as the “MOST IMPORTANT hour of the week”?
And here’s where Practice # 1, Radical Hospitality, and Practice #2, Passionate Worship, go hand-in-hand.
Visitors choose a community in which they learn, find hope and help, and are WARMLY and GRACIOUSLY welcomed from the time they arrive in the parking lot until they leave to return home. (Five Practices, 51)
The newcomers will have to discern for themselves what the worship experience that day means to them. However, what they take away from here will be molded and shaped by how much WARMTH is in your welcome and how much GRACE is in your greeting. I’m serious about this. If you feel warmly welcomed and graciously greeted in this place from week-to-week and month-to-month, then by all means – PASS IT ON!!!
Bishop Schnase uses four “r’s” regarding our connecting to God in worship. He says our worship restores, reminds, remembers, and refreshes. Between Monday and Saturday, things we have done may strain our relationship with God. We come here to be RESTORED. Over the past week our memories of God’s story may fade a little. We come here to be REMINDED. There are saints in Christ we see only once a week. We come here to be REMEMBERED. The time away from being with the Body of Christ Sunday mornings drains our spiritual batteries. We come here to be REFRESHED.
There’s a lot of “we” in that last part. That’s a good part of what worshiping God in COMMUNITY is all about. But God wants us to take it a step further.
The motivation for enhancing the quality of worship is not only about deepening our OWN faith but also about allowing God to use us and our congregations to offer hope and life and love to OTHERS. God works through us to change the world. Worship is God’s gift and task, a sacred trust that requires our UTMOST and HIGHEST. (Five Practices, 56)
It’s like I said last week: Let’s take it outside. “Dem sounds like fightin’ words!” Yeah, they sure are. That’s why we are in here at least once a week. The world punches with anger and hate. We COUNTER-punch with JOY and LOVE.
The past two Sundays we’ve heard a lot of what happens on Sundays. Beginning on the 16th, we get into what happens the other six days of the week – Intentional Faith Development. Continue practicing Radical Hospitality. Continue growing in Passionate Worship. Use what you are learning here to strengthen your OWN faith and to help one other person in THEIR’s – day by day, one soul at a time. That’s all God asks. Amen.