First Mennonite Church
September 4, 2016
“Sunday Gathering: The Tip of the Iceberg of Worship”
Text: Psalm 96; Romans 12:1-2; 9-21.
I would not do justice to the book of Psalms if I do not speak about the very purpose for which it was written. The book of Psalm is a book of songs and prayers used to worship God. Worship is, therefore, at the heart of the book of Psalms. The book of “Tehillim”—“Praises” is the Hebrew title for this book.
It is not uncommon for many to think of worship as something limited to what we do on Sunday. Sometimes, when I send the script for the Sunday service bulletin, unintentionally I call it “the worship program,” as if worship has to have a certain order. In some cases, we also think of worship in even more limited way—as only that part of the service in which we sing solemn songs.
So, what is worship? What is beyond the physical posture of the literal meaning of worship? Worship literally means “to kiss the ground or feet of someone considered superior.” In the Old Testament Abraham bowed down before the visiting angels. He also bowed down before Yahweh. But a person might also bow down before another in acknowledgement of other’s superiority. In Genesis 33, verse 3 says that Jacob bowed down seven times as he approached his brother Esau. Jacob bowed before Esau seeking mercy or favor. The word used to tell what Jacob did is translated elsewhere “worship.” Bowing down or worshiping happens when the sovereign or superior one shows up. When the Lord appeared to Abraham, he fell on his face (Gen. 17:3). When God appeared to Moses, Aaron, and the congregation of the Israelites, the people fell on their faces to the ground (Lev. 9:24). When John saw the glorified Christ, John trembled in fear and fell like a dead man (Rev. 1:17).
What we find behind the act of bowing down or worshiping in the Bible can help us understand the profound implication there is to our claims that we worship God alone.
The other day I was listening to a conversation between two men and a woman. These people were lamenting the fact that today’s young people have very little sense of respect for their elders. One gentleman said, “When I was growing up, my parents taught me to say, ‘Yes, Sir’ or ‘Yes, Ma’am. I was instructed to greet people with a “Good morning, Ma’am’ or Good afternoon, Sir.” He continued, “But today’s children greet you with, “Hey, dude!” Or “What’s up?”
If we were to take a closer look at what is going on, we would see that there is a general loss of sense of respect in our society. Every symbol or figure of authority is being challenged. There is an increasing trend of disrespect towards parents, teachers, law enforcement, political figures, and religious symbols and institutions. This increasing sense of disrespect is reflected not only in the way we treat our fellow men and woman, but also in the way we approach God. This is why we need to understand the biblical meaning and implication of worship. Worshipping God is not only the one-hour religious activity people have inside four walls. Worshipping God is an ongoing life-changing attitude which affects our everyday life, from the way we see ourselves to the way we spend our money. Worship affects the way we relate to each other and how we spend our time. Worship corrects the order of life’s priorities. Above all, worship is the awakening of our soul to our sense of finitude before the Infinite God. Worship brings us to the realization of our sinfulness before the Holy One, and of our pitiful state before the soul-mending graceful God. Worship is the discovery of the life-giving fountain of joy amidst our brokenness and hopelessness. Worship is to walk humbly before God, our Maker.
Psalm 96 is a call to worship. This Psalm makes an open invitation to worship God. It first tells how. It then tells us why and what its effects are.
In verses 1 to 3, the Psalmist invites all the earth to sing, to praise, and to declare the glory of God in song. At the presence of God all peoples should speak of the marvelous deeds of God. God should be praised and worshipped day after day, and throughout the day. The Lord should be praised with a new song.
Today, I would like to emphasize the idea that worship is not limited to singing a selection of solemn songs, nor to only what we do here throughout this hour, but the attitude of constant surrender to our King and Lord. The Sunday worship service should be to us only the tip of the iceberg of worship in our lives. God is present everywhere. He is with us at work, at school, on the street, when we go to bed and the moment we open our eyes in the morning. If worship is the act of acknowledging the presence of a superior being, then that means that we are never without the presence of God. God is ever present with us. He is with us as we watch TV, surf the internet, take care of our pets, and chat with friends and neighbors. In the last part of my sermon we will hear how that should be done.
Psalm 96 calls us to “Ascribe honor and glory due to the Lord. It calls us to worship the Lord in his holiness.
Yes, worship is to acknowledge the incomparable glory and majesty of God. There is no one nor anything we can compare with the worthiness of God. As verse four says, “For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise.” This Psalm gives various reasons we should worship God.
We should worship God for the splendor of his holiness, which means that despite our sinfulness God allows us to come to him. God shares with us his holiness by the washing away of our sins and inviting us to live in holiness. We should worship God for his sovereignty over all the earth. For us to confess God’s sovereignty means we firmly believe the history of the world is by no means left to chance. It means that despite the evil that seems to reign and despite the abrupt changes that occur, the end of the story of our world will go according to the script of God, not man nor of the strongest on earth. This affirmation of God’s reign is prevalent in the book of Psalm, but one passage that captures it so succinctly is Psalm 46, verses 1-3.
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and999 the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
God changes our fears to hope and confidence when we worship him as Lord and Sovereign King. Worshipping God frees us from falling victims of fear-mongering voices around us. Worshipping God empowers us to confess, “The Lord reigns; Halleluiah!”
We should also worship the Lord for his faithfulness. Worship leads us to trust God and to learn he is trustworthy. If the Lord says it, I believe it. If he says he loves me, I believe it. If God says he is with me always, I believe he is with me everywhere.
Psalm 96 invites us to worship God for his righteousness. God will judge all peoples with justice and equity. God knows our heart. God cannot be bribed. God does not have preference because of the color of our skin, the size of our bank account, or our social status or connections. God knows every intention of the human heart, good or evil. And in the Day of Judgment every human being will have to give an account to God, our Maker and Righteous Judge. For this reason we can sing with the psalmist:
Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his faithfulness (v. 13).
Worship, as I said in the beginning, is a life-transforming act. The passage in Romans can help us see how that happens. In Romans 12, verses 1 and 2 read:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
A true spirit of worship is born out of experiencing the mercies of God. Worship flows out of gratitude. But worship is also the embodiment of God’s mercy. In other words, worship is not only lip-service to God. Worship involves our whole being—it involves our will, hands and feet, our time, our money, our talents and everything we are and have. Paul clarifies how worship as a living sacrifice looks in verses nine and following.
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Every Sunday we gather here to worship. But just as an iceberg is only the tip of something more massive beneath the surface, so is our activity here on Sunday. The bulk of our worship happens or should happen during the week. It is during these other six days of the week that we should also offer ourselves to God as living sacrifices. We worship God when we love with sincere love. We worship God when we honor one another. We worship God in our personal devotional time but also when we to gather with God’s people. We worship God when we share the joy and burdens of others. We worship God when we strive to live in peace. We worship God when we do not take revenge, but instead love the one who wants to hurt us. We worship God when we overcome evil with good. These are the things we have opportunity to do every day, everywhere, and with all peoples. Worship indeed should transform our lives.
When we leave this place, let the worship begin! And may the Lord be glorified, sanctified, and exalted in your life. Amen!