Worshipping in Spirit and in Truth
Reflection Sunday 7 November 2021 Clemton Park
Let’s imagine that we are there at the Temple in Jerusalem with Jesus and his disciples watching all that is going on. We are not participating, just looking on and Jesus brings some things to our awareness, things that we just had not noticed before. There are a lot of cattle, sheep, goats wandering around, tether to ropes and there are wooden cages full of doves stacked against a wall. It is looks like and sounds like and smells like an animal saleyard. Lots of money is being exchanged. Everything is expensive and smoke billows continually upwards from the temple altar. It smells like the biggest barbeque ever. Then Jesus has a conversation with a scribe and you become aware that religion is about loving the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength and loving one’s neighbour is much more important than all these sacrifices.
Then your attention is drawn to the scribes walking around in long robes, with everyone bowing and greeting them with respect. You see that when they sit they always have the most important seats at the table. They draw attention to themselves as they pray, and they pray for hours, pacing up and down, rocking backwards and forwards. Jesus says, “beware of the scribes, they like to be seen, and respected and say long prayers but is it all a cover, a sham, they pretend to be holy, but they are exploiting the pilgrims and exploit widows by taking their houses from the.
Then you hear the sound of large amounts of coins tumbling down the sides of the large offering bowl. Wow, you think, what a generous person that is giving all that money to the Temple and then a woman comes up and you hear nothing as she throws in a couple of very small coper coins. Again Jesus draws your attention to what is really going on. Jesus says, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on." And you realise that she has been far more generous that the rich person whose money made such a noise. Or maybe it is not about generosity. Maybe she is totally committed to loving God whereas the others only appear to be.
Looks can be deceptive. Sometimes we just don’t see what is really going on. Imagine now that you are sitting on the stage with Jesus this morning watching what is going on. What do you see? What do you hear? What does Jesus draw your attention to? What do you become aware of?
In worship, God is seeking us to worship with the totality of our being, to orient ourselves fully towards God in body, heart, mind and soul. How does our worship compare?
When we gather for worship are we fully here? Our bodies may be here but where are our minds? Where are our hearts? Where are our souls? Sometimes our minds are so full of our own worries and plans and the future that we do not bring ourselves fully to God’s presence. When we have young children or are busy preparing for a service, providing morning tea or preparing Holy Communion, organising the choir etc., we do not have time before the service to prepare our hearts, minds and souls to worship God together. But let’s not let that put us off.
When we gather in worship, it is important to bring our whole being into God’s presence, for above all in corporate worship, we want to listen for God’s voice together. We want to hear the Spirit speak to us. Sometimes our worship is just words after words, saying all the right things, but without listening in return. Praying is not really about saying long prayers, but it is about communing with God, waiting, listening, being open, humble, willing to respond.
The Lord’s supper reminds us of the cost it has taken for God to commune with us. We celebrate Christ’s body and blood, the giving of his life that we might enter life in all its fulness. This is a very special time for us together communing with God. As we gather around the table today let us seek God’s life in all its fullness and let us give ourselves fully to God in body, heart, mind and soul, so that our worship is in spirit and in truth. In John 4:23,24 Jesus says, “But a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such as these to worship him. God is Spirit, and God’s worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
To worship in truth is to be aware of our falsehood and pretence, to put it aside and to be honest with God and with one another. To worship in Spirit is to open ourselves to the flow of the Spirit from God. The Spirit whispers the word of life in our ears. The Spirit carries the word of God to our hearts.
So, worship involves opening our hearts to God’s Spirit, that we might receive the word of life. God’s living Word Christ. We cannot do anything to influence the Spirit just like we cannot make the wind blow in certain directions, we can but wait for the Spirit to blow on us: the Holy Spirit connecting with our spirit. Come, Holy Spirit.
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Minister of Campsie Earlwood Clemton Park Uniting Church Congregation