I have spoken about the incredible gift of furniture that will let us touch the lives of hundreds of hundreds of additional families. We can celebrate that the last truck has made its way from NC and the last piece in now in our hands and ready to be shared. I have spoken about how God has created new resources and we can now celebrate that the Matthew West benefit concert for the Furniture Bank at Emmaus Baptist Church is now sold out. I have spoken about the gifts of trucks and other critically needed resources and last week you heard my desperate cry for wooden pallets and Hobby Lobby, Armstrong Logistics, OPUBCO, Kimray and Buy For Less stepped up and met the need. I cannot begin to express to you the joy it has been for me to see God on the loose.
But I must tell you that I also saw God at work in amazing and wonderful ways this week within our walls and halls. Over 100 children came to be a part of Kids Off Broadway and a truly remarkable set of adults led them, others prepared their meals, and still others helped with their field trips. Several of our youth and young adults lent their hands as well. The result was that this room was filled on Friday night with songs of faith and praise from young voices. These voices lifted my heart and soul. In their voices I heard the voice of God. In their faces I saw the face of God. There was a heart of purity and a sense of holiness to what they were about. We can celebrate that several found a new relationship with Jesus this week. Once again I come to proclaim that God is on the loose in our midst.
Over these past weeks I invited you to join me in a sermon series entitled, “A Church that Changes the World.” When I planned the series I could have never dreamed that we would see God at work in our midst the way we have. What began as a call has been transformed into a season of celebration. Over these past weeks we have looked at what it means to be a people growing in prayer and faith. We have looked at what it means to be a people of hope and gospel. Now we come to hear a word from God on what it means to be a church – a people – of purposeful worship.
It seems that many in our era have become confused. They talk about “Praise and Worship” as the musical elements of what happens on a Sunday morning. For many, worship has become synonymous with grand musical productions that if not care fall into mini-concerts or religious entertainment. While that might be true in the life of some congregations, we have chosen to take a very different approach. For us, worship begins with the first spoken words; it is heard in song; it is found in prayer; it lives in the sermon; it thrives in our time of commitment of our lives and resources. Worship is that time to come before God together to celebrate who God is, what God is doing, where God is leading, and what God calls us to be and to do. It is about what happens in this room in this hour and equally about what happens every time we come to the feet of God.
Listen to the first part of Paul’s teaching: 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Purposeful worship begins when Christ rules our hearts. The word “rule” is a big word. It describes a royal status of unquestioned reign. Let’s be clear, what Paul is saying is that we have to come to this moment and every moment of our lives letting Christ define us, direct us, shape us, and guide us. We cannot dabble in faith, we are called to live lives where the peace of Christ – and the peace only available through Christ – defines who we are. So many around us; so many of us; lives stressed out high pressured ways of life where real peace seems unattainable. A critical reason this is true is because we hold on tight and are tempted to want to control everything and everyone around us. But, no matter how hard we try, we cannot hold on tight enough. Something happens and our lives seem to tumble and spiral out of control. This is not what God intends for us. Peace, real peace, is supposed to be our way. It is a peace that changes us and leads us toward a thankful and worshipful heart.
Paul continues; 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. I love this verse. Our translation reads; Let the message of Christ dwell among you…but others would offer “Let Christ’s words live in you” and ”Let the teachings of Christ richly live among you” Each of these translations point us to a way of life where Christ words and God’s way surge within us. Paul is clear that when Christ rules in our hearts and Jesus’ message- the word of God- pulses within us, the result is clear. We will worship together!!! We will teach and encourage each other and we will sing - through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. We will experience a purposeful worship that invites us in to God’s midst, ready to celebrate and give thanks.
So now, I invite us to the table, the grand symbol of Christ love and God’s grace – a living witness of Christ word living in our midst. [Lord’s Supper]
I celebrate the songs we sing and the symbols we embrace. But our worship is not ending, it is only beginning. Paul carries us from this table and from this room into the world in worship. Our passage speaks again; 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. We gather to worship in celebration all God has done in our lives. We are sent out in worship in expectation of what God will do in and through our lives. Both the coming in and the going out are living acts of purposeful worship. They call us into God’s midst and then we remain there – not only for an hour a week – but in every hour of every week. Paul speaks of a life where what we say and what we do all is done in the name of Jesus. It is a way that draws us to God in thankfulness and that draws others who long to live lives of peace and worship.
Come, let us worship. Let us worship in this place and in this hour.
Come, let us worship. Come to the feet of God.
Come, let us worship. God is on the loose.
Come; let us worship in the midst of the world because we can do no other.
Come, let us worship.
Let our voices sing out, let our prayers be heard, let your lives so speak, let our deeds proclaim that Jesus lives and is alive in us.