Dear Friends in Christ,
In our Confirmation Class, we are looking at the Great Ends of the church. These assertions are guides to us as a church, outlining our responsibilities, as the children of God, to the world in which we live.
The great ends of the church are:
1) the proclamation of the gospel for the salvation of humankind;
2) the shelter, nurture, and spiritual fellowship of the children of God;
3) the maintenance of divine worship;
4) the preservation of the truth;
5) the promotion of social righteousness; and
6) the exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world.
In this brief listing, we have a very simple presentation of what it is that we as the church are to be doing here on earth. And, in doing this we are to proclaim and we do proclaim Christ as head of the Church.
Christ called and calls the Church into being. Christ gives to us, all that is necessary for our mission to the world: abroad, throughout Pennsylvania, and here in Blair County. Christ provides us with what is necessary for the building up of the church and what is necessary for our service to God (both individually and as a church).
It is Christ alone who rules, teaches, calls, and uses the church as he wills. Christ exercises his authority by our ministry (both women and men) for the establishment and extension of his Kingdom.
I would like to talk with you more about the third of “the great ends of the church”: the maintenance of divine worship. Worship is a verb. It is something that we do. It is something we do with others and not by ourselves. We have private devotions but not private worship. Worship is not some form of entertainment. It is helpful to see worship as a great play. A play where the people gathered together are the actors and the musicians, choir, and preacher are directors. In this scenario, God is the audience. This illustration is accurate in that worship is something we do toward God. Worship is made up of a variety of elements;
1) Prayer: the heart of worship;
2) The Word: Read and Proclaimed (If the Word is not present then worship does not occur);
3) Sacraments: The Sign and Seal of God’s grace;
4) Self-offering: The Christian life is an offering of one’s self to God in response to what God has given us in Jesus Christ; and
5) Caring for One Another: Worship is where we express concern and care for each other. In worship, we respond to God’s act of reconciliation by exchanging signs and words of reconciliation and of Christ’s peace
Often in our modern age of entertainment, we see worship as just another form of distraction. We see it as something that is supposed to entertain us or thrill us. We have perverted it toward ourselves instead of directing it toward God. Sometimes I have heard people say that they didn’t get anything out of a particular service at this church or that church. The question that always comes to my mind at that time is, “What did they give to that service?” This sort of entertainment mindset has crept into our churches to such an extent that we often have services that are missing many of the basic elements of worship. We have services that entertain crowds and glorify individuals while putting the glorification and adoration of God and the proclamation of the Word at a distant second.
Turn in your Bibles to Hebrews 10:19-25 (NIV). “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
In this reading from Hebrews, we clearly see the call of God for us to gather together as the church. We also hear the reason for this, “24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
We as the church participate in God’s mission to the world around us through our ministry and worship. Worship presents and symbolizes the reality of the divine rule of Jesus Christ. This is part of the rule; which God has promised. This is the promise of the final renewal of creation. Worshiping together with integrity before God, with unity in prayer, and in the proper observance of the Sacraments is a sign of the presence of the reign of God to the world. We in our ministry bear witness to God’s reign through the proclamation of the gospel, through works of compassion and reconciliation, through our stewardship, and worship.
I hope that these words will give cause for reflection concerning worship. It is my sincere hope that in reflecting upon your participation in worship that you will be inspired to worship the Lord God Almighty more fully. It is my prayer that what we do in worship together will be pleasing to the Lord.
Now, 2 Tim 1: 13-14 (NIV) Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.
And may, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Earnest Walls