Day 29: Defining Corporate Worship
Before we begin today’s spiritual excursion, please take a few moments to breathe! Take three slow, deep breaths, expanding from your abdomen; try not to raise your shoulders. As you inhale, whisper, “We seek to worship You…” As you exhale, whisper,“…in Spirit and in truth.”
Slowly read aloud the following Scripture
(Feel free to pause at any time during your reading to reflect on, thank, praise, or acknowledge God’s stirring in your thoughts and emotions.)
[And Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well,] “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming… When He comes, He will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I Who speak to you am He.” (John 4:23-26, ESV)
For further exploration:
Almighty Father, as Christians, we thank You for loving us despite the way we sometimes act or think. Thank You for giving us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with Your love, so that we may share love with others. Thank You for helping us to be more loving and compassionate towards others. Lord, we come before You clapping our hands and shouting joyful praise to You. You are the great King of all the earth. You subdue the nations before us and put our enemies under our feet. Our hearts are confident in You, Father. Because of this confidence, we will sing Your praises. We will wake the dawn with our song, Lord, among all the people. We will sing Your praises among the nations for Your unfailing love is as high as the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Glorious Father, as Your dear children, we commit to loving You with all our hearts, and with all our souls, and with all our minds. This is the greatest and most important commandment of all. We confess that the Holy Spirit fills and controls us as we commit to doing Your will. We will be patient and kind instead of acting jealous, boastful, proud or rude. We will not demand our own way, but we will be considerate of others and their opinions. We will not be irritable or keep a record of being wronged. But we will be joyful and quick to forgive. We commit to living a righteous life. We will be patient and will not return evil with evil. We will let our light shine so that people will see our good works and glorify You, our Father.
As a Christian, how do you show your love for God and for your neighbor by your actions?
Holy Spirit, reveal to us those habits, mindsets and attitudes that prevent us from being truly surrendered to the Father. Help us not to deceive ourselves by thinking we are walking in love while using our tongues to curse those who have been made in the Father’s image. In this world where we are told to put ourselves first, help us to truly put the Father first in our lives and to esteem others better than ourselves.
Exalted Father, we ask Your forgiveness for our sins. Forgive us for, at times, being irreverent and apathetic towards You. Forgive those of us who murmur and complain and do not show our love and appreciation for all that You do. Forgive us when we are impatient with our neighbor. Forgive us when we pick and choose to whom we will show love. Lord, forgive me for (list any sins that you have committed).
Holy Spirit, as Christians, remind us of those we need to forgive and help us to be quick to forgive. As for me, Holy Spirit, bring to my remembrance those I need to forgive. (Take a moment and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal names or faces of people that you may need to forgive. As He reveals them, say, “I forgive name of person(s).” Now, trust the Lord to heal any wounds in your soul caused by unforgiveness.)
Holy Spirit, as Christians, help us not to yield to temptation but deliver us from the evil one.
Eternal Lord, You are God alone. You created the heavens and the earth; You put everything in its place. You made the world to be lived in, not a place of empty chaos. You are the Lord and there is no other. You only speak what is true and declare only what is right. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture References for the Written Text: Romans 5:5, Psalm 47:13, Psalm 57:7-10, Matthew 22:37-39, I Corinthians 13:4, I Peter 3:9, Matthew 5:16, James 3:9, Philippians 2:3, Matthew 6:13, Isaiah 45:18-19.
Concepts to Consider
Last week we touched on some aspects of worship as we explored Jesus’ Model prayer and how connection, praise, Scripture, confession, forgiveness, and slowing down to see and hear are critical to powerful prayer. This week we are immersing ourselves in the topic of “Corporate Worship” as the central location for Christian growth, mission, and identity. In an increasingly individualized, instant, and customized society, we see that people crave authentic connection with each other and with a God who is bigger than themselves.
As many wring their hands over declining attendance and giving in the Western Church, the truth is that the answers to our current dilemmas are found in our ancient past. We live in a time when knowledge of history is dangerously lacking. But, thanks be to God, the Holy Spirit has not been dead for 2000 years! Our world today bears many similarities to the circumstances of the earliest church.
During the first five centuries of the Church it grew and thrived in the middle of a very religious/pagan culture. The Church exploded not because someone was watching trends and numbers or externally battling social ills, but because they actively loved God and their neighbor. Worship was the ongoing everyday key. They didn’t “go to worship;” life was worship. They worked to live out what Jesus said and demonstrated. God’s transforming work within human persons made ALL the difference. (Note: even the most hermetic of the Desert Fathers and Mothers believed they were called to do Kingdom work in prayer, corporate worship, and study. Everyone has their own calling, but all of it is meant to work together as the Body of Christ to bring about God’s Shalom in the earth.)
The Church worked to bring people into “live-wire” contact with our vibrant, loving, re-creating God through Jesus Christ, empowered by His Spirit. When this connection happened, people left the pagan temples, social morals changed, and the church made a lasting imprint in the world around
them. God’s Kingdom approach is from the inside out and from the bottom up. It is about creating a new primary identity in Jesus. They brought Kingdom by fostering “Kin-dom.”
“And looking about at those who sat around Him, [Jesus] said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:34-35, ESV). “Do not allow this [age] to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete” (Romans 12:1-2, VOICE).
Current trends indicate that we must “think outside the box” of our buildings and truly accept the commission to “go.” In the earliest worshiping communities, the “location” (usually someone’s home) functioned more as a headquarters for prayer, learning, and as a community center that launched everyday Christians into the world equipped with a deep understanding of the Apostolic teachings and Godly wisdom.
Intentional catechesis (life-to-life exchange of knowledge and practice) and regular experiences of the Divine in Scripture-saturated liturgy was the “normal mode” for the Church.
Worship is more than being in a room with other Christians, and it’s certainly more than coming together out of tradition, obligation, or habit. Worship is even more than the music or the preaching. At its core worship is a verb. We Worship the Triune God. We offer Him worth, thanks, and praise. Not because He needs it or demands it, but because worshiping realigns us and re-orients our hearts and minds toward Him and His heart. And when this realignment happens, then all Heaven can break loose!
Personal Reflection: We worship both publicly and privately, but corporate worship embodies the communal heart of the God we worship. None of us were meant to walk this Christ-following adventure alone. When has corporate worship been encouraging? When has it been a challenge?
Kingdom Reflection: Corporate worship is, at a very important level, a rehearsal for the age to come when we–every tribe, nation, and tongue–will worship God around His throne in the New Earth. How does knowing this is our future in Jesus change your perspective on corporate worship?
Optional Time of Centering/Soaking:
If possible, take some time, perhaps 5 to 15 minutes, to get into a comfortable position and simply allow the Lord to minister to you at a deep level (Psalm 42:7). Turn off or put down all distractions. Close your eyes. Hold in your thoughts a meaningful word, phrase, or image from the Scripture passages you read today. Release all other thoughts and concerns into the Presence of the Lord. If your thoughts wander, that’s okay, just gently return to your Scriptural word, phrase, or image. You may want to set a timer.