Over the last couple of days I have read three or four articles online about worship. Worship is the time when the Body of Christ comes together each week to praise God, to offer up our prayers, to sing a new song together, seek to be more like Jesus in love for others, and to be refreshed with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is a time when, in fellowship with others, we give back to God what God has first given us. Oswald Chambers, in his book “My Utmost for His Highest”, wrote:
Worship is giving God the best that He has given you. Be careful what you do with the best you have. Whenever you get a blessing from God, give it back to Him as a love-gift. Take time to meditate before God and offer the blessing back to Him in a deliberate act of worship. If you hoard it for yourself, it will turn into spiritual dry rot, as the manna did when it was hoarded (see Exodus 16:20). God will never allow you to keep a spiritual blessing completely for yourself. It must be given back to Him so that He can make it a blessing to others.
One article said that without worship we loose Christianity and cited an example of Sudan in the 1500’s. When they were overrun by the Muslims and the Christian pastors were killed or driven off, some people went to the head of the church in Ethiopia and asked him to send pastors to lead worship. He refused and the church was gone from Sudan within 100 years.
Another article said that successful churches do a lot of planning for their worship services and evaluate what went right and what didn’t. Another commentator wrote:
Perhaps that is why it makes me sad when people take church attendance so lightly. It isn't that we will go to hell if we attend church only once a month or so, but something is definitely lost. Well, maybe hell isn't far off the mark. I think life without community, hope, light, or meaning is close to hell. Oh, we can have those things without church, but I wonder if the world can? (Michael Piazza, Liberating Word email received 1/28/2015)
If you are not regularly attending church, why not? What is missing from your life? How can being a part of a worship community bring you closer to God? If you live near Peace United Church in Long Prairie or Grey Eagle United Methodist Church, will I see you this weekend? If you don’t live nearby, will you find a church you can attend regularly?
We are continuing our in-depth reading of the Gospel of Mark, “The Beginning of the Good News”. This week we will be reading chapter 4. At the end of chapter 3 Jesus told the scribes a parable about Satan casting out Satan. Chapter 4 is all about parables, with the exception of the last story. In the opening scene, Jesus and the disciple are by the lake and a great crowd is pressing in on them. They get into a boat and push out a little ways so that Jesus can teach the crowds. He tell them the parable of the sower who scattered seeds on the path, on rocky ground, on weedy ground, and on good soil. He ends the parable by saying, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”
When the disciples get Jesus alone they ask about the parable. He quotes Isaiah 6:9-10 saying that parables were meant to confuse those on the outside of the Kingdom. Jesus then gives them the meaning of the parable. This is unfortunate for us because this interpretation of the parable is the only one we hear. Go back and read the parable again and try to hear it in new ways. Is it the parable of the seeds? Is it the parable of the sower? Is it the parable of the soils? Or is it a parable of something else?
This discussion is followed by a question on the purpose of a lamp. Then there are the parables of the growing seed and the mustard seed. The gospel writer then says that Jesus only spoke to the crowds with parables and would explain those parables to his disciples.
At the end of the day, Jesus tells the disciples that they need to cross to the other side of the lake. They get in and Jesus promptly goes to sleep in the stern. A wind storm arises and the disciples become afraid (remember, four of them are fishermen and should know how to handle their boat). They wake Jesus up and he commands the winds to cease. He turns to the disciples and asks, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
As society continues its rapid changes and as young people turn to work, social activism, gaming, and the internet, leaving church behind, the church (a boat?) is in the midst of a great storm. Many people have sounded the death knell of the church. “Why are we afraid? Have we still no faith?” That question from Jesus to us doesn’t mean we can sit back and do nothing, hoping that Jesus will fix it all. No. When the storm ended for the disciples they still had to bail out the boat and put the oars into the water to get where they were going. What do we have to do to get where Jesus is taking us?
The lectionary readings for this Sunday are:
Deuteronomy 18:15-20 – When Moses is gone, God will raise up an new prophet like Moses. Is this referring to Joshua, later prophets, or Jesus?
Psalm 111 – The Psalmist call on all to worship and praise God for all that God has done.
1 Corinthians 8:1-13 – Is it OK to eat meat that has been sacrificed to an idol, Apollo in this case? Some say “yes” and some say “no”. Paul says it is OK only if it doesn’t hurt someone else who may be weaker in faith. This doesn’t mean much to us today unless we substitute something in for meat. What about the use of “cuss” words, swearing? Is it OK to swear in church? For me, words only have the emotional content that we attach to them. I can hurt someone without swearing and I can swear without hurting someone. But I think Paul would caution us that if the use of swear words causes offense to someone who ends up leaving the fellowship of the church then it is best if we don’t swear. By the way, if you swear while in my company, I will NOT be offended. Remember, I worked in the meat (nice connection) packing industry for 12 years.
Mark 1:21-28 – Jesus casts out a demon from a man while in the synagogue on the Sabbath.
Thank you for reading this long, and longer than usual, post. May God bless you as you serve you neighbors this week.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor