Sitting in service today, I heard the beautiful sounds of worship. They were sounds I’ve heard many times, but they fell on me with a profound beauty this morning. Alone and in combination, they told of the beauty of our gracious Lord and the depth of love He has for His people.
Are you imagining this?
No, it was this:
Yes, it was the constant drone of the oxygen machine behind me, and the fussy baby on the pew next to me that God used to open my eyes to the beauty of worship this morning. You might be thinking, wait.. worship is what we do. That means singing, playing music, raising our hands, dancing, or whatever participation is involved in worship you your tradition. Worship is something we DO. That’s why we go to church, right?
On Reformation Sunday, I’d like to give you our traditional view of the purpose of the church, the church service, and ultimately, worship.
1. Church, according to scripture, is the assembly of believers to be fed the word and sacrements by the pastor.
I know the current view in the seeker-sensitive evangelical movement is that the church is not for “the churched” but for the “unchurched”, but I would challenge you to find any scriptural support for that. Don’t get me wrong, evangelism, the spreading of the gospel, is the responsibility of every believer. However, the responsibility of the pastor in corporate worship is laid out plainly in scripture. Feed the sheep, disciple the body of believers, administer the sacrements of bread, wine, and baptism.
2. The church service is where Christians go to receive.
Again, I understand that the seeker-sensitive model of church popular in the United States over the last decade is that church is where we go to give and serve. And these are crucial! However, this isn’t the role of corporate worship. There is no scriptural support, nothing in the bible, which teaches this. It is a logical outcome of the seeker-sensitive model, which requires an army of volunteers to “do church for the unchurched”. If you were to tell these seeker-sensitive leaders that you come to church to be fed, you would likely (and I’ve heard this with my own ears) be labeled as uncaring or lazy, as a taker.
Yes, I’m a taker. Go head and fill out the sticky label and put it on my jacket. I come to corporate worship to be a taker. I take; I take, as a helpless sinner, the grace of our Lord. I take; I take part in the banquet set before me as I am fed the word. I take; I take the body and the blood. I take, and I leave. But the story doesn’t end there;
Because I realize that I am freely taking what Christ gives me, I am free to GIVE!
So, I leave the assembled body of believers and I give:
I give as I have received, as I spread the gospel of repentance of sins and faith in Christ to those I meet.
I give as freely as I have been given forgiveness, to those in my life who are difficult to forgive.
I give of my time and money, into the community and into the support of the gospel.
And I give because I have been given, and by receiving I am strengthened each week to go back out into the world and give in my vocation and in my community.
I’m a taker, like the survivor who has been pulled out of the raging sea, dying of thirst, and handed a cup of life-giving water. I helplessly take, and I pass it along to other survivors.
So, in the heart of true worship, I passively received today as I sat with a sickly elderly lady, and a fussy child and his parents. We sat together as the body of Christ, being fed from the word, and being fed through His body and blood. And these were the beautiful sounds of worship on this Reformation Day. How appropriate, as we celebrate Martin Luther’s rebellion against any righteousness by works. Today I took, and it was good. Tomorrow we will go out into the community together; the old lady, the young parents, and I to give as freely as we received.
May you be a taker on this Lord’s Day. Take, Eat. Take, Drink, Take…. and go and tell everyone. Don’t tell them about worship where they can come and work, tell them about a banquet table set for them. Tell them there is rest for the weary. Tell them to come and feast. Go….and tell them.