Worship, January 26-31

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Family Devotions this week explore what worship truly is and how we can worship God rightly.

Monday, January 26

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45

Throughout the next few weeks, our devotions will be focused on worship, exploring just what worship is and looking at the different parts of our liturgy so that we have a better understanding of why we do what we do.   Let’s first start by exploring what worship is.  “When we think of man’s worship, we may think of this, too, as somehow man’s own distinctive activity.”  We think it is for our good or wellbeing.  “Much of worship in Protestant church is such a man-centered or experience-centered thing… as conveying an ‘experience’ to a congregation.  Worship is conceived as an act of ‘remembering Christ,’ as an occasion for moral instruction, as the transmission of a ‘vision’ to the present.  We must insist, however, that the worship of the church… begins with an action of God.  Worship has its source in God.”  When we come to church on Sunday morning, it is not primarily to learn something new or even to apply God’s Word to our life.  It’s not about reaching a certain emotion.  It’s not even first about the praise we offer God.  “In its primary sense worship is  God’s action in Christ; only secondarily is it man’s action.” God’s action for us moves us to our return of thanks.  “the worship of the Christian is always because of Christ… it is always bound up with God’s revelation in Christ.”  Therefore, our worship is, from start to finish, full of God’s Word, which is what God uses to teach us what He has done for us in Christ and what He uses to work faith in us.  Worship is, first and foremost, about receiving the service that God offers us in Word and Sacrament.

Father, teach us what true worship is so that we could worship you rightly.


Tuesday, January 27

And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”  Isaiah 6:5

Worship is first God’s action toward man and then includes our response of honor and praise.  But first, consider this:  “any glorifying of God is out of the question if one supposes that God has little glory.  If one has a puny and inadequate conception of God, one will show himself of little faith, both in worship and in daily obedience.  If the Triune God is a mathematical formula or a dry abstraction, there will be little purpose to worship.”  Our worship is set up in such a way that one of the very first things we do is recognize the fact that we are sinners in the presence of a holy God.  “When man enters the presence of the holy, he becomes distinctly aware of his own unholiness.”  We have no right to be there, but we come in humility, first confessing our sins and asking for God’s mercy for the sake of Jesus.  We confess our sins together, admitting that all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.  Not one of us in the church building is exempt.  We are all in need of God’s mercy.  Together, we throw ourselves on the promises of God.  We need His power to bring healing and redirection of our lives.  “So a central element of worship is repentance, a petition addressed to God from a hear sorry for ‘all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended Thee and justly deserved Thy temporal and eternal punishment.’”  As Martin Luther said, “We are beggars, that is true.  But we are beggars before God.”

God, Your holiness magnifies my sinfulness.  For Jesus’ sake, forgive my sin and teach me to follow You. 

Wednesday, January 28

But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.”  Matthew 9:4-6

Immediately following the confession of our sins before our holy God is the absolution by the pastor, who stands in the place of Jesus to declare to us that because of Jesus’ death on our behalf, our sins are forgiven.  “We are assured of reconciliation, which forms the bases of all our worship.  Through renewal of the promise of God’s grace in Christ, disordered and twisted lives are again redirected and set right with God.  We find that the righteousness God demands of us is the very righteousness He gives us.  He makes men holy who in their self-centeredness and lack of trust would like to rely on their own efforts.  But, again, the righteousness which God offers us is to be understood as His righteousness and not any work of our own.  The question of whether this righteousness has truly becomes ours is not, therefore, to be answered by an appeal to our own feelings or sentiment.”  Even if we don’t feel forgiven, God declares that we are not guilty and have been forgiven.  We don’t need to work harder to feel good because God has already said we are good, and we must simply trust His Word.  Trusting His Word and promises is part of worshiping rightly.  If God’s Word says that we are forgiven for the sake of Jesus, then we are!

Jesus, teach me to truly believe when I hear the words that I am forgiven for the sake of Jesus.  As I believe, help me rejoice and live as one who has been set free from sin.


Thursday, January 29

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”  John 4:23-24

Once we have been assured of forgiveness through faith in Jesus, we turn our thoughts away from ourselves and respond to the mighty acts of our God in the only way we can: with praise, honor and thanks given in speaking, song and prayer.  Still this time is not focused on what we have to offer God, but is purely in response to what God has given to us.  The focus is on Him.  “For a few moments in his services of worship man is freed from the constant obsession with his own ideas, his plans, his performance, his success.  Most important, perhaps, is his willingness to give up his preoccupation with his constant material needs. He redirects his being and doing to the source of every good and perfect gift.  God desires conscious and explicit assertion of our dependence on Him.  First God must be adored, and only then will man be built up in turn.”  As we praise God, we, too, are built up, because our focus is on the only One who rightly deserves our undivided worship.  As soon as we turn to my feelings, my needs, what I want, we have ceased to worship our Creator and instead are drawn back into our incessant, sinful tendency to focus on ourselves.  God is right in demanding our full attention because He knows that it is only when we are completely fixed on Him that we are truly free from our sinful selves. 

Gracious Father, as we are assured of forgiveness through Christ, open our hearts and mouths to thank and praise You with our fellow believers in true worship of You, the only One worthy of such praise.


Friday, January 30

And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,‘This people honors me with their lips,but their heart is far from me.’” Mark 7:6

If there is a right way to worship, then there is also a wrong way to worship, and it begins by having your focus in the wrong place.  “One of the difficulties with those who have little interest in worship, with those who do not wish to sing and who little appreciate the ancient canticles of the church, is that their emphasis in worship is misplaced; they are concerned simply with their personal returns in worship; they are interested in what they, individually, are going to get out of it.  In effect, they are waiting to see what will happen to their feelings.  They attend church not to honor God, to give thanks to Him, and share their gift for building up the body of Christ, but … to gain some personal benefit or merit by their acts.”  It is as though they are waiting for a psychological boost that a movie gives them.  “They are looking for an ‘uplift’ that will prove their tête-à-tête with God worthwhile.  When nothing happens, people naturally drift away from church and look for inspiration elsewhere, in communion with nature, at the lake, in the country, or with the Sunday paper.”  Many Christians today base the “quality” of worship on how it made them feel, how interesting it was, or whether or not they “got something out of the sermon” that they can apply to their lives.  All of this is self-focused and is not the kind of worship God desires.  True worship is focused on God’s power and grace, and receives in thanksgiving all the good gifts He gives to us in Word and Sacrament – whether or not it makes us feel good.

Father, I confess that at times I have turned my worship of You into an event focused on myself and my needs.  Forgive me, and help me rejoice in the goodness of Your presence.

Saturday, January 31

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number …and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” Revelation 7:9-12

“Where men glorify and return thanks to God for His great mercy, they will gradually and imperceptibly be changed and edified in return.  They will be edified by man’s noblest work, the adoration of God.”  Worship is not about us.  We have been called by name to come and worship God, who does build us up as we use His very own words to praise His name.  As we praise God, we are simply adding to the praise of all created things and the praise of the angels in heaven.  The Bible makes it clear that all of creation cries aloud in praise to God, so we join with all of creation in worship.  Worship transcends time and space.  As we sing, “Holy, holy, holy,” we echo the words of saints who have died before us.  The angels join in our songs.  The prayers of Christians around the world join together as one to praise God, the only One worthy of praise and adoration.  We have the privilege of joining with our brothers and sisters in Christ to praise Jesus, our Savior, and to pray for one another.  And in all this, God is serving us through His Word and the gifts of Baptism and Communion.  What a loving, giving God we have, who calls us to worship Him!

“To Thee all angels cry aloud, the heavens and all the powers therein; to Thee cherubim and seraphim continually do cry!”



All quotations taken from Worship in Word and Sacrament by Ernest B. Koenker.

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