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Worship

For the ancient Jew the Temple in Jerusalem was the place where you went to stand in God’s presence. The Temple was that one point in creation where the Creator and the creature met. Another way to put it is to say that the Temple was where heaven and earth met.

Christians believe that the purpose of the ancient temple has been fulfilled, because Jesus was himself that place on earth where heaven and earth joined. He has since done, once and for all, part of what temples were supposed to do. Jesus opened up the way to intimate fellowship with God through his life, death, resurrection. In his place Jesus gave us his Spirit. From the time of Pentecost when the church received his Spirit it has served as the primary place in which God’s presence has been available to all. And as the church scattered into the world, it infused the world with those points where heaven and earth met, so that all people might know the grace, love, and presence of God through his people.

As church we belong to Christ and are made one with him. We are the new Temple. In 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, the Apostle Paul responds in this way to those who would threaten the unity of the Corinthian church: “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?  God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” Three chapters later Paul will do it again, describing the body of the individual Christian as a temple of the Holy Spirit (6:19). But in 3:16-17, the temple is the church. In the church God makes his presence known through the Holy Spirit, who dwells in and among the gathered believers in Jesus.

We believe that the Spirit is present to each of us who are in Jesus Christ, working through word, sacrament and the communion of his people to help us each choose with conscious effort to live as Christians. Thus, as God’s offspring we are supported and challenged to live lives shaped by the heavenly reality which God’s presence brings to our lives on earth.

Our Sunday worship gatherings are spaces we’ve created to help us to live at that intersection. We gather as a community of faith each Sunday for the purpose of reorienting our minds and hearts round God’s word because we believe that spiritual growth is not an option for Christians, as we remain in states of mind and habits of the heart and body that are not truly human..

There is no question that knowledge on how to live in the world on the world’s terms is rooted deep in our memory. From the day of our birth we have been practiced in acquiring skill first in crawling, scooting, walking and then finally in running in the manner of the world. The moves are so familiar as to have left their mark not just on our brains but in our muscles and bones as well. We no longer think how to do it the body just knows how. Christian worship is the practice of retooling the memory of bone, muscle, mind and spirit with a new set of stories and thus acquiring the habits of a different set of skills because we are living in a different world. The problem is we already know how to walk and run, but not in this way, and that memory works against us. We are having to break old habits, to learn all over again how to crawl, scoot, walk and then finally to run. We have to think at every point, and practice with a great deal of trial and error. Until gradually, we acquire the skill to walk in faith, hope and love, but it is not without some cost, some pain.

You’re longing for a pulled together life: integrated, congruent, centered, wise, mature, whole witnesses to your personal need to live as a truly human being the way God intended. This is what our spiritual ancestors called a holy life. The old word for this is holiness. This kind of life begins with communal worship. Just as there are ways that you can assist or impair your biological growth and health, so there are also things that you can do to assist or impair your spiritual growth. The keys words are “assist” or “impair” because growth, both biological and spiritual, is a profound mystery, but the alternative cannot be neglect. You can do things that assist in your ability to live a holy life.

Our great danger as creatures of American culture is that the self tends to be measure by which everything else is evaluated. We tend to want to grade worship by what we get out of it. The thing that is so interesting here is that Christian worship is not about us. Our worship is not about figuring out what you need, then seeing whether you have that need met. Worship is not about us. It is about God.  Worship is about opening ourselves up to what God is revealing and responding to what God is saying and going where God would take us. Worship is about God. Paradoxically, it is right here at this point, with our eyes fixed on Jesus, that our life is pulled together and made whole, so that regardless of the circumstances of our lives, we find ourselves at peace.

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