Encounter: Begin by asking God to open your mind and heart to understand what it means to worship. What kind of images or associations do you think about when you hear the word worship? Now read slowly through Isaiah 1:12-17, Micah 6:8, Amos 5:24, Matt. 25:31-46, Luke 9:23-24,18:7-8, James 2:1-13
I was given the opportunity of a lifetime. To carry a recording of the Good News of Jesus Christ in an Indigenous dialect to those who had never heard the message of hope from their Creator. These people were like thousands of others who traveled from southern Mexico to work in the fields of the Latino farmers in the north. The labor was hard, wages unfair, medical care rare, all playing out amidst the scarcity of food, water and shelter.
As I entered the camp, I met people living in their cars, trying to stay out of the rain and resting from what were long hours of working hard for their money. I walked over to a woman sitting behind the drivers wheel of her 1970’s Chevy and with hand motions and broken Spanish showed her the recorder I had brought. She of course looked puzzled, but as I cranked the handle of the battery-operated device, her eyes lit up as she heard her dialect through the speaker. I was thrilled and felt what it must have been like for Christ-followers throughout history who have shared the gospel for the first time. I thought I had completed the mission and so after the recording had ended, I was about to move on to the next car, when she said, also in broken Spanish, “This is good, but I need shoes.” I looked at her bare feet and God opened my eyes to His heart for justice. I had no shoes to “make right” her need, but God “made right” my heart. I would understand worship differently from that point on.
Mark Labberton in his book, The Dangerous Act of Worship, invites the church to awaken to see God’s definition of true worship when he writes,
When our own immediate world overwhelms us, we can readily feel disinclined or unable to look beyond it. When we do look beyond, however, we see vividly that the daily lives of millions of people around the world are about chronic desperation. The world is racked with dramatic, torturous sufferings as a consequence of poverty and injustice, from human trafficking to HIV/AIDS, from malnutrition to genocide. One-sixth of the world’s population lives in absolute poverty, and nearly a million children each year are sold or forced into the sex-trafficking trade. But this is not just about statistics, it’s about real lives. People with names and families are living daily without food or water, in sickness or oppression. Their experience is in their bodies and heart and minds, not in a global facts chart. They are made with the same dignity and worth as you and me. They have the same capacities and desires. But they are circumstantially without hope. Every day.
All this is going on while mainline and evangelical churches keep debating what they think are the primary worship issues: guitars versus organs, formal versus informal, traditional versus contemporary, contemporary versus emergent…amidst the right side and the left and our own self-centered preferences…those without a bed, and without a home, food, safety, water, warmth or knowledge of the Savior’s love are not seen or remembered or reached. In light of the stark reality of lost and dying humanity…where is the evidence that through worship our lives have actually been redefined and realigned with God’s heart for justice in the world?
Throughout God’s story of restoration, the word “justice” mean “to make right.” Justice is, first and foremost, a relational term — people living in right relationship with God, one another, and the natural creation. ... As God is just and loving, so we are called to do justice and live in love
This Sunday we begin our new series, The Dangerous Act of Worship – Living God’s Call to Justice. We will see that Worship is the dangerous act of waking up to God and to God’s purposes in the world. It is more than a personal devotion or private faith, it is more than Sundays, we were created to live worship, to live focusing on what pleases God, to pursue right living, to pursue justice and mercy, which translates into transformed lives that care for and invite in those in great need, the poor, the oppressed, to bring love, hope and freedom.
It is moving beyond the comfort of safe worship to authentic worship that is awake to the needs of the world. Sunday after worship we will make a step in that direction for our iServe outreach opportunity. Read about it in today’s Eden Weekly and be prepared to… To do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly, surrendered to the will of God. This is the dangerous act of worship – this is the journey Jesus is inviting us to and it is going to be EPIC.
Worshipping with you,
Reflect: How is this definition of worship similar to or different from the one you usually have in mind when you use the word? If God sees worship in this encompassing way, what signs do you see that many in the church are asleep rather than awake to God’s purposes for worship?
What do the prophets and Jesus say is at stake if God’s people are asleep rather than awake to God’s purposes?
What kind of worship issues upset people the most? Why do you think that is so?
Encourage: Consider purchasing the Mark Labberton’s book and reading as part of this series to encourage you to see beyond your own definitions of worship.
Gather: Using Renew or Mark’s book, gather with your Life Group or Sunday Study Group and study the scriptures and discussion points together. How is worship meant to reorder our lives and how would you need to approach worship in your life in order for it to have this effect? What primary things would need to be altered in your life? Pray for one another as you grow in your understanding of biblical worship that follows after the heart of God and His purposes to make all things right.