Colossians 3:1-2; 15-17
A Royal Waste of Time
What is worship? Why are we here? What is the point of coming here every Sunday? Some people may say that we are here because the Bible says to be here. Well the Bible does say that we need to worship God but it does not say we can only worship God or that we HAVE to worship God on Sunday mornings at 11:00. But that is culturally where we arrive at worship. Some have a distinct vision of what worship is. If you do you might be thinking that we are simply missing the boat with this different style that we are doing today. Some people think of contemporary when they hear the word worship. They think hands in the air, saying Amen, clapping along to songs and singing God’s praise. When others think of worship they might think of sitting in the pew and sitting quietly in order to reflect, be rejuvenated and filled. Others see this as an opportunity to see family and friends, to catch up and enjoy the fellowship of the people closest to them.
I stole today’s sermon title from Marva Dawn’s Book, A Royal Waste of Time. Actually the complete title of this book is A Royal Waste of Time, the Splendor of Worshiping God and Being Church for the World. In this book Dawn is attempting to argue how we can easily slip away from the true nature of worship. True worship is a royal waste of time in her opinion. She explains this by saying that by engaging in worship we don’t accomplish anything useful in our society’s terms. Many people don’t come to church because they don’t feel like they get anything out of it. They don’t see it as productive or purposeful.
But this is not the reason worship is a waste of time. Worship is a waste of time because nothing we do in this service today or any other time changes God. No matter if I preach the best sermon ever, or the choir sings an extremely moving anthem, or if we have someone share a powerful testimony, or if we actually all sing a hymn together, we won’t change God and we cannot change the love God has for us. Dawn says, “It is totally irrelevant, not efficient, not powerful, not spectacular, not productive, sometimes not even satisfying to us.” (p.17) Yet that is because, what is the point of worship?
The point of worship is not us. We are not the point of worship. You, the congregation, and me, the preacher, are not the reason for worship. God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is the point, the reason, the purpose of worship. The Lord and Savior we love and the one who loves us is what it is all about. The songs we sing, the prayers we pray, the offerings we give, everything we do points to God and brings him glory. Worship is a response to God. It is a response that offers praise, thanksgiving, discussion, inner struggle, pain, release, joy, excitement, love, prayer, confession, adoration…and I can go on and on. But no matter what you do or do not do here in this place each Sunday still does not change how God feels about you. You are wasting your time if you think God is doing a role call every week and if you have enough checks by your name you are going to get into heaven. Attendance does not equal worship. True worship is immersing ourselves in the glory, presence, and splendor of God. It is coming together as the Body of Christ each week in order to be true community.
The truth is, what you put into worship is what you get out. There is this idea among most American church goers that a worship service is like everything else in the USA. They approach a worship service from a consumer perspective. They interact with a worship service like they interact with American Idol. I don’t know if you do this or not but as I am watching American Idol I am always critiquing that performance. I am thinking to myself, “Well that was horrible, he will be going home this week.” Or, “I really liked that song, she interacted with the audience well, and really connected with the lyrics. She did a great job.” Many people come to worship and they look at it the same way. “That service was horrible because that last hymn was too slow, the kids were too loud, the preacher said there were three points to his sermon and I heard seventeen. That service wasn’t good for me.” Sometimes people around the lunch table will say, “That was a great service. The preacher’s sermon struck a cord with me, the choir did a good anthem, and my prayer request was lifted up, I was fed and I am filled.” There are times I am at home at 1:00 am thinking, “Man I tanked that sermon, I messed up that children’s moment, that illustration worked just like I hoped or man it was nice to hear the chimes play today.” The truth is they are all the wrong perspectives because worship is not about entrainment. Remember the point of worship is not about us, it has nothing to do with what we get out of it.It is about what we have offered God.
What you get out of worship is not the point; it is what you are putting in. In Paul’s letter to the Colossians he is reminding them of the right attitude to have. He says, “So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.” How many times do we participate in worship with our eyes to the ground, shuffling through the service, and trapped within the foot of space around us? Instead, we are told to be active participants in worship. We should look up and “be alert to what is going on around Christ.” We have to make sure we are present for the whole hour we are here.
A Sunday School teacher asked her children a question as they made their way to the sanctuary, “And why is it necessary to be quiet in church?” One bright little girl replied, “Because people are sleeping.” To be present means you have to work. It takes work to put yourself out there to be open to God. That means you have to stop thinking about the time because God may not be limited to an hour and it has been proved that the Holy Spirit can work past noon. That means that talking to your neighbor about where you will be going to lunch or to your spouse about the list of chores that need to be done during a hymn is not making yourself present. Being present is not sitting there counting the number of window pains, air ducts, and bricks in the front of the altar. Being present is not sitting up here and worried about the number of people who are here, if I am making sense, or if people are listening. Being in worship means putting yourself completely IN the moment. If you walk in with the right attitude, in the right frame of mind, you can be open to see what is going on around Christ.
Paul gives the early Christian church some advice on how to live and worship more holy. He says, “Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.”
When we are here, worshiping together, we need to “let the Word of Christ – the Message – have the run of the house.” We need to make room for the Spirit to work and to make ourselves open to be touched by the God. I was reading an article one day about how the author wished church was more like a musical. In a musical an event happens and people, EVERYONE, breaks out into song and dance. The author thought that should happen more in worship. The preacher should be so into his sermon that a song erupts from his mouth. The congregation should be so in tune to the Holy Spirit that they break out into a choreographed dance. What would worship feel like if that happened? What would worship be like if it was just like Grease or High School Musical?
Well, although this is planned, I am going to erupt into song. There is a song called, The Heart of Worship, that fits so nicely with this text and explains what true worship should look like. As I play and sing, what I would like you to do is be present in this moment of worship. To dot that please get comfortable, spread out if you have to and loosen up a little. I want you to sit in a way that opens yourself to the presence of God. Maybe that means sitting with your hands facing up on your legs. Maybe that means closing your eyes, or staring at the alter candles. Forget about where you are, where you will be going to lunch, and what you have to do today. I want you to be in the moment, make yourself 100% present. The words will not be on the screen but if you want to sing with me, then sing. I promise I am going to pour myself out to God in this song and I want you to promise you will open to the Spirit as I sing. If we do, we are going to have a wonderful worship moment that truly offers praise to God. And that God will be glorified by what we offer.
And all God’s people said…Amen.