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The Six Great Ends of the Church: “The Maintenance of Divine Worship”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to Your truth, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Amen.
On Thursday afternoon I ran across a list of things to do during a boring sermon. Here’s part of that list:
- Pass a note to the organist asking whether he/she plays requests.
- See if a yawn really is contagious.
- Slap your neighbor. See if they turn the other cheek. If not, raise your hand and tell the preacher.
- Listen for your preacher to use a word beginning with ‘A’ then ‘B’ and so on through the alphabet.
- Using church bulletins or visitor cards for raw materials, design, test and modify a collection of paper airplanes.
- Start from the back of the church and try to crawl all the way to the front, under the pews, without being noticed.
- Raise your hand and ask for permission to go to the rest room.
- Whip out a hankie and blow your nose. Vary the pressure exerted on your nostrils and trumpet out a rendition of your favorite hymn.
- By unobtrusively drawing your arms up into your sleeves, turn your shirt around backwards.
- Try to raise one eyebrow.
- Crack your knuckles.
- Twiddle your thumbs.
- Twiddle your neighbor’s thumbs.
- Wiggle your ears so that the people behind you will notice.
I figure that if the choir only does half of these, the sermon wasn’t too boring….
After today we’ll be half-way through our 6-week sermon series on what is known as the Six Great Ends of the Church, where the word “Ends” means “purposes, or reasons for existence” – we discover more about what the Church is for! These Ends have been true almost since the founding of this particular church.
LPC was chartered in 1907 under the denomination called the Presbyterian Church in North America which adopted the Great Ends in 1910. In 1958, when that denomination united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, giving rise to the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, this statement was incorporated into the new constitution. And when the UPCUSA united with the Presbyterian Church in the United States in 1983, healing a rift that had lasted since the Civil War era, the Great Ends were made part of the Constitution (in the Book of Order) of the PC(USA).
These six statements describe a healthy church – one which realizes that not only must the Gospel be preached to all, but that the people who have responded need to be nurtured, that worship correctly done is as important as preserving the truth, that justice for God’s people cannot be ignored, and that our individual lives and our corporate actions should show the world what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. (If you listened closely just then, you heard all Six Great Ends mentioned.)
So far we have seen that the first, and by implication the foundational, End/Purpose of the Church is The Proclamation of the Gospel! And the second End/Purpose of the Church is The Shelter, Nurture, and Spiritual Fellowship of the Children of God!
Listen with me as the Apostle John records a story about Jesus and a woman from Samaria as He describes the third End of the Church – the Maintenance of Divine Worship. John 4:4-24 ….—-
4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty(K)and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
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.”
What does it mean to “worship in the Spirit and in truth”? How do we follow Jesus’ instructions for proper worship here? There are many passages of Scripture that describe different aspects of the worship of God, but there’s not much that gives a comprehensive list.
One of my favorites comes from the Old Testament prophet Micah 6:6-8:
6 With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah, speaking for the Lord, clearly states that the Lord is way more concerned with what is in our hearts and the way we follow His Law than He is with the outward trappings of a worship service.
Does this mean we don’t need to come together for corporate worship? No!
Does this mean that it really doesn’t matter what we do or how we order our worship services? No, it doesn’t mean that either – although it might mean that our rituals and traditions are way less important than we think they are!
In fact, God requires our worship – because He is so Worthy of our love – but all the offerings we make, all the prayers we pray, all the songs and hymns we sing, all the ties and pretty dresses we wear mean nothing if we fail to act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.
We Presbyterians, who love our decency and orderliness, describe what should, what ordinarily must, take place in worship in the part of our Book of Order called The Directory for Worship:
- Scripture read and proclaimed
- Baptism (when appropriate)
- The Lord’s Supper (on regular occasions)
- Offering of Self
- Relating to each other and the world
The Maintenance of Divine Worship! We have been blessed by not having to actually invent, or create, worship that is divine! All we are asked to do is maintain it! Are we successful? How do we know?
What makes for “divine worship”? How would you define “divine worship”? What do you think? Any thoughts on this? I’ve heard people say things like, “This chocolate is ‘divine’.” What does that mean? So how about “worship”? I believe that what makes “worship” “divine” is when God is pleased with it! Did we keep our eyes on Jesus? Was the intention to honor God? Did we praise Him and love Him with our whole being – all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, all our strength? But also, were we moved to love our neighbors as ourselves?
The rest of your Sermon Notes Page asks about your personal areas of need and appreciation for our corporate worship gatherings. The truth is that different people are affected differently by different parts of the worship service – for some it’s the singing (and they may love a “singing” church, where the songs take up 40 minutes of the worship experience); for some it’s the preaching (where they might wish the sermons were 45-minutes long); for some it’s the times of prayer, or the chance to respond with an altar call, or the meaningful fellowship that happens around the worship service, or the specific ritualistic elements of worship (like Communion or the Call to Worship of the Prayer of Confession….).
And that, of course, leads to the final question about How including different “styles” of worship might enhance our corporate experience.
This means remembering that it’s not about “me” (or “you”). Worship is about God! In Jesus’ conversation with this woman at the well in Sychar, He says that worship is not about “where” (and we might read “how”) we worship; it’s about “Who” we worship… “in spirit and in truth” – doing justly (taking care of those in need, working for people who are under-served or abused), loving mercy (finding ways to offer forgiveness and grace), and walking humbly with the Lord our God (that means worship is way more than just the 75-90 minutes once-a-week at church, but it is a daily relationship with Jesus).
Do you have that “in spirit and in truth” kind of worship in your life? Can you find peace in the midst of all the personal and global suffering and evil? Do you really know Christ as your Lord and Savior? Are you filled with His Holy Spirit?
The first, and most foundational, Great End of the Church is the Proclamation of the Gospel – if there is no Gospel being proclaimed any Social Organization could suffice our church-needs (and maybe even better). Jesus often criticized church-leaders as hypocrites, two-faced, fake.
The second, and right on the heels of the first, Great End of the Church is the Shelter, Nurture, and Spiritual Fellowship of the Children of God – if we fail at helping each other grow in our faith and our Christ-likeness, we fail at actually being a church!
And the third Great End of the Church, the Maintenance of Divine Worship, is what fuels us for righteous living. Do we “worship in spirit and in truth”?
Friends, let’s live like we believe what we say we believe! Our Mission Statement declares that we are a people who:
Know the power and love of God, and
Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, compelling us to
Go in the footsteps of the Holy Spirit, loving and serving others who do not yet
Know the power and love of God….
Did you hear the maintenance of divine worship in that? Let’s be that kind of Church! Amen.
The 6 Great Ends of the Church: Leader’s Guide; Episode 3; The Fellowship Community; 2016.