Making Church Make Sense: Worship
Remember, we’ve taken a good portion of the last few months to listen to Paul’s letter to the Romans. We’ve taken the time to hear what he has to say about all of these grand theological ideas. We’ve remembered that what Paul is trying to accomplish is to get a group of very diverse people to worship together; Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free. All of them would have come together from their own religious traditions with their own practices of faith. Many of them, Jew and Gentile, would have been familiar with the need for ritual and animal sacrifices. Paul has joined a long list of prophets and teachers in reminding them that dead animals are not really what God wants. God wants a living sacrifice.
Paul is telling the Christians in the church of Rome that if they really believe everything that he’s written so far, if they really believe in Jesus as Lord, if they really want to worship Jesus’ God, then real worship involves their whole bodies. Real worship means taking their all their hearts, all their minds, and all their strength and giving them to God. God would take those many hearts, many minds, and all that strength and mold them into one body, the body of Christ. “For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members of one another.” In this body, no one thinks too highly of themselves. There’s an abundance of wisdom and service and generosity and compassion. Everyone has something to offer. All those gifts are given graciously as everyone has ability. Its sounds nice, doesn’t it? It sounds like one, big, happy family or at least like a good crowd to be a part of.
We all know that crowds can be dangerous. There are things we want because of the crowds we surround ourselves with. It might be drugs and sex. It might be leisure and style. It might be education and achievement. It might be work and wealth. The danger comes when those things stop serving us and we start serving them; when we stop transforming for God and start conforming to the world. Worship offers that same danger. If we show up to serve a certain way of worship, worship loses its true meaning. Worship serves us, we don’t serve worship. Jesus, of course, didn’t worry about any of that. Jesus spent time with the unclean, with the outcast, with the knocked down, with the dragged out because he had this uncanny ability to change the crowd rather than be changed by the crowd. He could transform others without conforming to them. Let’s face it, he could do that because he was Jesus. Jesus could do something on his own that we could never do…unless we stick together.
This crowd can make us who we are meant to be. Paul was saying that if you surround yourself with this crowd, with the crowd that calls themselves the body of Christ, then we can do together what Jesus did on his own. What I mean is, if we can stick together and offer our gifts to one another then we can really worship. True worship is about being transformed by the renewing of our minds. Yes, worship can be exciting and enjoyable, but if we are not transformed by it, then it’s not really worship. Yes, worship can be holy and reverend, but when we stop sharing our gifts and show up just to be seen, then it’s not really worship. God doesn’t need a life full of worship. That’s what the Pharisees did. What God really wants is a worshipful life. That’s what Jesus did.
Church only makes sense if it’s worship transforms those who participate. Church only makes sense if worship sends us out to heal the sick and find the lost. That’s because what God really cares about is that those who are lost get found, that those who have been cast out get welcomed in, that those who are sick get healed, that those who are knocked down get lifted up, that those who are dragged out get brushed off. God desires steadfast love and mercy, not rituals. So, if our rituals stop transforming us into the body of Christ, we need to stop our rituals. Church only make sense if, in our worship, we become members of one another. That’s because what God really cares about is that you have support for your faith and people to walk with your in your service and someone to lean on in hard times. God has given each of you a gift to share, a story to tell, a way to participate in the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ and God has given it to your for the sake of others and God has given others to you for your sake.
Randy “the Ram” could have used a crowd like the body of Christ. A crowd that helped him leave behind the old life and embrace a new one. A crowd that told this story about a Savior who died and who God raised again so that we could walk in a newness of life. A crowd who could transform him into what God wants him to be and what he wanted to be. A crowd who was focused on steadfast love and mercy. That power that raised Jesus’ body from the dead, is the same power that can shape this crowd into the body of Christ. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Amen.