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40 Days of Love prep  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  31:32
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Ephesians 5:18-21

This morning I am going to talk about worship. Worship is defined as the value we place on something. If we worship our husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, we are saying that this person is important to us and has great value to us.
The worship of God embraces this dynamic. We worship God when we show his importance or value to us. When we make decisions to honor in the face of differing opinions, we are worshipping God. When we put money into the offering place, we are showing how much we value God and his kingdom. When we live our our faith, that life is an act of worship to God. When we sing songs of the faith, we worship him as well.
The 40 Days of Love is headed up by a group of people who love God. Gerald Stillman is our fearless leader. Scott and Bonnie are coordinating small groups. Darryl McKeen is organizing our prayer events. Debbie Scates is working with Sandy Keller to provide communication within the group as well as to the church and community. Patty Vieta is working with me to organize our weekend events.
The weekend events, the worship times, are what I want to speak on this week.
People in general have strong ideas about music.
“There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” Albert Schweitzer
Music with dinner is an insult both to the cook and the violinist. G.K. Chesterton
In the 1700’s a huge battle took place in the music arena. The church used a hymnbook comprised of Psalms rewritten to be sung. All the churches used what was called “Rhymed meter.” When George Whitefield came to America to preach, he used newer songs from Isaac Watts. The battle was on between using “human inspired” hymns or “divinely inspired” hymns from the psalter.
In my lifetime I have heard many music controversies.
Take the song, “Holy, holy, holy.” We love the music and love it on the organ. Many people used to be uncomfortable in a church with no organ. Then the piano came. That was contentious as well.
In the 60’s and 70’s the guitar first started appearing i many churches. Comments ranged from how inappropriate it was to how loud the music was. The songs were criticized as being shallow and lacking theological content. One such song popular in the 70’s and 80’s was, “Holy, Holy.”
Included in this song was the radical idea of lifting up the hands. The fact that people moved their hands from their laps to over their heads generated a lot of heat and discussion, even though the Bible speaks of Old Testament saints doing this very thing.
There were also complaints that many of the newer songs lacked the doctrinal content of the older songs. They were repetitive and went on for hours.
Then came the congregational responses. Some people loved the quiet church. But in the new era people clapped, raised their hands and even swayed to the music.
Now whole churches are defined by their music. One used to hear of a church that was defined by denomination. They were Baptist, Methodist, Congregationalist or Catholic. Or they were defined by theology. They were reformed churches or Arminian churches. These definitions still fit, but more and more people are choosing a church because of their music. Years ago we had people leave this church and go to the United Pentecostal Church in Augusta, a church which denies the trinity. Why? I believe the first attraction was the music.
Now the criticism goes two ways. If one goes to a “traditional church that sings hymns...” they are out of touch with the real world. If one goes to a church that sings “modern praise and worship songs...” they are emotionalist who lack depth and maturity.
One sign of a mature Christian is their ability to fellowship in more than one culture.
The apostle Paul said,
1 Corinthians 9:20 ESV
20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.
He had no interest in sin or sinning. But he had the flexibility to go from a Jewish culture to a Gentile culture without raising a fuss. Why? Because his love for God made these cultural barriers less important. Because life for Paul was not about Paul. Life for Paul was about God.
I may have missed something somewhere. But I cannot think of one verse in the Bible that makes a judgment on the quality of music. No where in the Old Testament does it record anyone singing or playing bad. No where in the New Testament does it every critique the worship style of the church.
The closest I could comes was
1 Corinthians 13:1 ESV
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

So what did happen in the early church?

Ephesians 5:18–21 ESV
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

The early church embraced a diversity of Christian music

Ephesians 5:19 ESV
addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,
Some scholars think this is just repetitive. But the psalms were from a Jewish background. It may be that the hymns were Christian songs from a Gentile background. We know that the Gentiles sang hymns to their gods.
Imagine how these two kinds of music would have blended in that church. Then add to that spiritual songs which may have been songs that were neither hymns or psalms and there would have been three different kinds of songs sung in their worship.
Yet not a word is ever mentioned about a music controversy. Why? Because worship is about God, its not about the style of music.
There are some principles from scripture that have guided me as Pastor of Palermo Christian Church.

The early church focused on their connection to God

John 4:23 ESV
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.
This verse was given over a discussion of the right place to worship God, Jerusalem or Samaria. Jesus gives an answer: Jerusalem.
John 4:22 ESV
You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
The reason was not the location, the reason he choses Jerusalem is because Jerusalem was the center for the worship of the true God, the one who sent Jesus to this earth.
Worship is about God. Worship is about a God we can know. Worship is about a God that is true. We worship him in sprit and in truth.

The early church was thankful to God for the gifted people he gave them.

1 Corinthians 12:18 ESV
But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.
This arrangement comes in two parts. First he has given individuals gifts and talents to be used in service to him. Second, he has arranged the people to be where he wants them to be. Some may be out of place because of disobedience. Some may not use the gifts God has given. Either way, the body suffers.
But if worship is us showing God how much we love him, is it possible to do so without a piano? We have been blessed over the years with Marilyn Kibbe, Emily Siefken, Esther Hatch, Susan Williams and Julie Hubbard. All have had a great ability and a humble spirit in helping us with worship. Others have also helped. But if we don’t have a pianist, can we still worship God?
If our worship is tied to the instruments or the singers then our worship towards God suffers. If our purpose is to use music to speak to God, then everything else becomes secondary.
I do know that we are products of our culture. It is hard to listen to anything different than what we like. It can be difficult if the quality doesn’t meet our standards.
But it is at that moment we need to take our eyes of from whatever they are looking at and turn our eyes upon Jesus, to look full in his wonderful face. Then the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of this glory and grace.
God wants us to be thankful for what we have, not focus on what others have that we do not have.
What do we have? We have a great God! We have people willing to use their talents for God.
What don’t we have? Highly skilled musicians to play piano, organ, guitar, drums, or sing with award winning voices.
Why don’t we have that? God has placed in this church the people that he wants. H
He is looking for people who worship him from the heart.

The early church worshipped God.

1 Corinthians 14:15–17 ESV
15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up.
In many churches today, people go to hear a concert. A group of musicians and singers stand up and praise God. When one looks around at who is singing, many are listening, but few may know the words or the music. This is not a criticism, it is a different style.
I have led worship and been a part and have seen many in the congregation not singing, not participating.
I have also seen where the congregation participates and almost everyone sings. The difference is amazing.
Listen: Most of you know the song, “Amazing Grace.” I would like to to do the first and last verse. The first verse I would like anyone who sings on a worship team to sing from the congregation while the rest of you listen. Then on the second verse we sing, I would like all of you to stand and sing to the best of your ability. As you do, think about the words. Sing the song as a testimony to those around you. Help me out with this and you will notice the difference.
Same leader, same instrument! The difference was that people entered into the opportunity to worship. We build one another up when we come and truly worship God together.
Once again, worship is not about worship leaders, instruments or acoustics. Worship is all about what happens between God and us. Worship takes place when we sing God’s praises, when we tell him and are thankful for all he has done. Worship as a church comes when we sing in unison the praises of our savior, Jesus Christ.
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