The P.E.W.S. of the Church – ‘W’ is for Worship
Sermon Title: The P.E.W.S. of the Church – ‘W’ is for Worship/Worthship
Good News Statement: God demands us to Worship in His name
Preached: Sunday, August 22, 2021 at Dogwood Prairie and Seed Chapel UMC
Pastor Daniel G. Skelton, M.Div.
Scripture (NIV): John 4:19-26 – Today’s scripture reading comes from the Gospel of John chapter 4 verses 19 thru 26. Listen to what the LORD is saying:
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
A pastor told his church attendees about the financial constraints of the church and asked them to try and help out by giving huge offerings.
The word from the pulpit was that the church needed kind-hearted individuals to contribute and help the financial status of the church. The pastor also said that whoever blesses the church with the most offering, has the opportunity to pick three hymns.
Offering baskets went round, and interested helpers dropped their contributions. At the end of this episode, the pastor spotted one offering that stood out.
The noticeable offering was $1,000 given by an elderly female. Thrilled, the preacher called out the generous individual.
After this was said, the giver came out, and this calm looking older woman was asked to pick any three hymns of her choice. She immediately pointed at three good looking fellas from the crowd and said:
“I’ll take him, him and him.”
Worship is often associated with what happens during a regular church service. When we worship, we often sing hymns—the ones with words and not the ones sitting next to us—we read scripture, we pray, we receive an offering, and sometimes we listen to the sermon. All of these things add up to our understanding of worship. But what does worship mean to the One who calls us to worship in his name?
As David asserts in Psalm 115, “O come, let us sing to the LORD, let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with song of praise….O, come let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!…O that today you would listen to his voice! (Psalm 115:1-2, 6-7, NRSV). David is proclaiming that to worship is similar to what happens at the well with the Samaritan Woman; worship is giving praise and thanks to God while bowing down before him and hearing his voice no matter how we see ourselves or those around us.
Jesus is challenging us to worship with what we know, with knowledge that the “hour is coming,” that God is the Spirit of worship, and that we must lead others toward a practice of “worth-ship. The ‘W’ in P.E.W.S. stands for worship.
Let us pray… Dear God of our worship, we come before you today as your active worshippers seeking to know you more: to worship you with our whole heart, mind, and soul. Allow this message to be the starting point for a deeper and more authentic expression of what it means to worship together in your name. I pray that my words fall to the ground as your words settle in the hearts of all those before me. In your name we pray and worship, Amen.
Prior to explaining what it means to worship to the Samaritan Woman, we find Jesus travelling with his disciples. Jesus enters a Samaritan city with his disciples—whom he dismisses—after hearing rumors about his baptizing from the Pharisees (John 4:1-5). Tired from his journey, Jesus decides to rest by the Well of Jacob (4:5-6). From this point on, Jesus converses with the Samaritan Woman about her past, her current situation, and what is to come of her life once she receives the “living water” (4:13-14) and “leaves her water jug” at the well (4:27-30); the very thing that signifies her place in society. In the midst of this life changing experience, Jesus informs us all about the significance and importance of worship. Specifically, what it means to worship while listening to the voice of our LORD.
In verses 19-20, we receive a glimpse of how worship is not tethered down to a specific place. The Samaritan Woman said to Jesus, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Here, first, the woman calls Jesus a prophet; and second, worship can happen in more than one place.
Referring to Jesus as a prophet leads to verse 26 where Jesus claims “I am he.” We are reminded, especially in the Gospel of John, that Jesus being identified as “I am” proposes that Jesus is more than a person. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Vine, the Bread of Life, the Human Presence of God, the very Prophet which has been sent to lead us all to redemption, salvation, and sanctifying grace. Jesus as prophet, recognized by a none-follower of Christ, symbolizes and solidifies that what Jesus has been called to do exemplifies an effective practice of worship—a form of worship that gives praise to the Messiah and prophet.
As Mark 1:38 reminds us, Jesus went from town to town so that he could share the good news and allow people to worship where they are: to worship Jesus in the midst of their busy lives. Have you ever given praise to Jesus as you were running from point A to point B to point C and back to point A? Jesus wants us to think of worship as not a single place but as an ongoing action that goes with us wherever we are.
The Samaritan Woman states, “Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem” (John 4:20). The Woman is scene here provoking Jesus to solve an unsolvable problem: where to worship, Mount Gerizim or Jerusalem? Why Jerusalem? Jerusalem is the supposed place where most of Jesus’ life and works took place. It is supposedly the place where Jesus recites the Lord’s Prayer, it is said that this is the place where Jesus spends his last days, where he is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, within its walls Jesus suffers, just outside of its walls Jesus is risen, and in the 4th Century A.D., the mother of Emperor Constantine, while in Jerusalem, declares Christianity to be the religion of the Roman Empire. Jerusalem is the place where the life of Jesus is lived out and worshipped by many.
However, the life of Jesus is not located to one spot in Jerusalem. His life cloaks every inch of this town. By saying that people must worship in Jerusalem is to say that worship is to happen where Jesus Christ was, is, and forever will be. When we worship—when we give thanks to God through our singing, praying, and thanksgivings—we become indulged in the works of Christ wherever we may be. Worship is often found in one spot on a single day of the week; but for Jesus, worship happens in the here and now and wherever the people need to hear and accept his “living water.” And the time has come for all of us to worship as Jesus has intended us to do so—in the presence of others or in our hearts.
After being informed by the Samaritan Woman that her ancestors worshipped “on this mountain, Mount Gerizim,” (John 4:19-20), Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship your Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem” (John 4:21). Wait a minute…Jesus just told this woman that she is to worship not on this Mountain but in Jerusalem. And now, he is telling her that there will be a time when she is not to worship in Jerusalem. If I was the Samaritan Woman, I would be thoroughly confused. This stranger, who I know is a prophet, is telling me to do this one thing and now is telling me that sooner or later I will be doing something else somewhere else. What is going on?
Jesus is proclaiming to the Samaritan Woman—and to us—that the “hour” will come when our mode of worship is not focused or adhered to a specific location. Rather, our mode of worship will be focused on the Father, who is everywhere. As a matter of fact, worship is our response to the overtures of love from the heart of the Father. Worship does not stem from a generic location: worship stems from our hearts as we seek to engage and deepen worship not only for ourselves but for others. As the Psalmist exclaims, “All the earth worship you…” (Psalm 66:4). We are called to worship where the people are, and the hour will come when we can truly sing praises to all the earth. To worship God is to do so in the presence of Jesus as we seek God with our heart. And when we seek God with our heart, we learn to worship what is known instead of worshipping what is unknown. The hour will come when we choose to commit ourselves to worship either here on earth or in heaven.
Jesus informs the Samaritan Woman in verse 22, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know…” It is safe to assume that the Samaritan Woman does not worship God, our Father. According to ancient traditions, the beliefs of Samaritans centers on their knowledge of the Father Israelites—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses to name a few. They believe that Judaism is an amended religion. Jesus knows this fact and doesn’t publically announce who he is until the end of the conversation, John 4:26-30. This could explain why Jesus says, you do not know what you worship, but we do know: those who follow Christ, worship Christ; but those who don’t follow Christ worship what they don’t know.
Jesus is implying that the Samaritan Woman’s ideals of worship are scattered and not focused. She is choosing to worship what society says to worship instead of worshipping what is in her heart. Have you ever felt like the Samaritan Woman? Have you ever found yourself worshipping what is happening around you instead of what is happening inside of you? Do you have a favorite sports team that you worship? Do you have a role model, that is not God or Jesus, which you worship? Do you give praise to someone or something in your life before you give praise to the Father? What is causing you to worship what you do not know instead of what you know?
We know that God is our rock and our salvation. We know that Jesus came to forgive our sins. We know that Jesus loves us. We know that God has a place in the land of glory with our name on it. We know that God is our hearts. We know that God can transform us. We know that we are never truly alone, that Jesus is with us always through the ages. We know that we have been called here today to worship beyond these walls. We know, and I hope, that we have all decided to follow Jesus. What we do not know should not keep us from worshipping what we do know. The hour has come to proclaim your worship to the Lord, our God, to claim what you know.
Jesus tells the Samaritan Woman, “The hour is coming, and is now here” (4:23). The hour as come to confess to the Lord, that you are here to worship him: to lift up is name in prayer, in song, in heart, and in thanksgiving as you bow down before him. Now is the time to become a true worshipper of God. A true worshipper puts on the love of Christ and dwells in his message all while seeking to bring others to Christ.
Verse 23 continues, “When the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.” As we worship, we are called to seek others to worship alongside us. Needless to say, to worship is to help lead others to Christ. We must be willing to not only sit and worship, but we must be willing to be active in our worship and take the time to sing with others, to pray with others, to embrace others, to invite others to know Jesus, and to share with others that Jesus is alive and present in their hearts. Worship is not something that is accomplished alone. Worship is a communal act that gives thanks to God while striving to build his Kingdom. Worship is to share with others that God’s Spirit is in them. Worship is an act of leading others to Christ through the Spirit of God.
Jesus concludes his discussion of worship by drawing the Samaritan Woman towards God. Jesus says in verse 24, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). What Jesus is saying is that worship is an act of God’s Spirit that is present on our hearts. In a way, worship is presented by God to the people, lived out through Jesus Christ, and accepted by the people through the Holy Spirit. Worship begins and ends with God. Worship is the spirit of truth that sets us free to live in peace and thanksgiving of what God has done, is doing, and will do in our lives. Worship is the spirit of truth that reminds us that God is love, that God is light, that God is an act of worship that is timeless, omnipresent, always seeking, and always listening to those who want to claim Jesus in their hearts. Have you claimed Jesus in your heart? Are you truly worshipping what you know?
The root of worship comes from an Old English word meaning “worthy” or “honorable.” The suffix -ship is the state of being of whatever comes before it. Thus, worship means “the state of being worthy.” We must worship the God of heaven because he is the only one worthy of it. And we must worship knowing what we know, that we are worthy to accept Jesus into our hearts.
As Colossians notes, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach…one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 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” (Colossians 3:15-17). We must worship knowing that through are singing, praying, thanksgiving, and praise, that we are do so in a worthy way that extends beyond these walls and invites others to know that Jesus is the great and powerful “I am.” The time has come to worship with your heart and to give thanks to God in a worthy way. Are you willing to worship with your heart, soul, and voice?
Let us Pray… Heavenly Father, as we grow in our understanding of worship, help us to sing, pray, read, lift up, and give thanks to you in a worthy way. Help us to worship what we know and avoid what keeps us from becoming true worshippers. Help us to know what is in our hearts so that we can help lead others towards your heart. Help us to be worshippers of you and not of this world. In your name we give worship to you, Amen.
We all need to be led to worship. But are we willing to allow our hearts to lead us to the love of Jesus Christ. Be an act of worship, be the source of worship, and be the love of worship for yourself and others. In the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, go in worship as love and serve the Lord. Amen, Amen, Amen.
Closing Song: “Jesus Loves Me”