Sermon begins at the 3:37 mark after the music
Lay Reader = Psalm 95
1O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! 2Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! 3For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. 4In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. 5The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed. 6O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! 7For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice!
This is the last in our series looking at the Great Ends of the Church – the church’s job description. If we’re getting a report card from God, these are the ways we’ll be graded.
Next week we’re starting a new series called Words to Remember. I asked our church leaders along with the good people on Facebook for the Bible verses they think are worth memorizing. I grouped those verses together to highlight a major point about our faith. I’ve been working on this series for a while, and I’m pretty excited to see how the Holy Spirit will build us up as we embed these important verses in our hearts. I believe you will be uplifted by these Words to Remember. So that’s next week.
This week we are talking about “the maintenance of divine worship.” And, I don’t know about you, but the word “maintenance” doesn’t really inspire me. I mean, you might be excited to tell someone about your new car, but are you going to brag about replacing your brake pads and getting your wheels in alignment and your car’s fluids topped off?
But it’s also a word that illustrates a key point about worship. When you perform maintenance on your car, it’s not about you – it’s about the car. You do it because your car helps your life and maintenance helps your car. In a similar way, the subject of worship is God, not us.
I sometimes share that worship is like a play. We often think that we are the audience, the pastors and choir are the actors, and God is the director. But in reality God is the audience, the pastors and choir are the directors, and you are the actors. The job of those up here is to help everyone perform for God and bring a smile to God’s face.
Our text today is one of the psalms of praise. They were designed to help prepare the hearts of worshipers as they made their way up to the Temple. Listen for the ways that the Psalmist prepares our hearts for worship.
1How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! 2My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. 3Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God. 4Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise. Selah. 5Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. 6As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. 7They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion. 😯 Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah 9Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed. 10For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness. 11For the Lord God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly. 12O Lord of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you.
At my previous church, I led a week-long family camp. Each year we chose a new theme, because each morning we gathered for worship and Bible study. The afternoon was free time, but the morning was Jesus time. The first year I led the trip, the other pastor and I chose to focus on the book of Jeremiah. That was a mistake. It’s complicated. No one wants complicated on their churchy-vacation.
So the next time we decided to focus on prayer. There’s an acronym that helps us remember different aspects of prayer. It’s ACTS. Adoration + Confession + Thanksgiving + Supplication. So I had everyone spend time writing down prayers in each category. For me, I had plenty of ways to confess – I have a long list of things I’ve done wrong. I can definitely come up with thanksgiving prayers. And supplication – we’re all good at that, right? That’s asking for God to do something. Got that one covered.
But my Adoration box was basically empty. Adoration is not really in my bag of tricks. The idea of Adoration prayer is to praise God simply for who God is. Here’s an example of human adoration from a play you might have heard of.
“But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, Who is already sick and pale with grief, That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she.”
Yes – that’s Romeo and Juliet. I think that illustrates the difference between adoration and thanksgiving. Romeo isn’t saying how marvelous Juliet has been to him. He’s simply making statements about who she is and how she appears. That’s adoration.
Our Psalm today is also adoration. “How lovely is your dwelling place!” “My soul longs, indeed it faints…my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.” “a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.”
That’s adoration. And this Psalm was used to prepare people’s hearts for worship because when we come to worship we are adoring the Living God.
Those other things might be there, too. You might come to worship to confess – you need to get something off your chest or clear the air between you and God. You might come to worship because you are grateful for what God has done in your life. You might come to worship hoping that God will show up in your life or in the life of a loved one. But more specifically you come to worship because of who God is.
Our God is the kind of God who wants to clear the air and restore a relationship with us. Our God is the kind of God who wants to show up in our lives. Our God is the kind of God who wants to hear our requests and often does something about them.
And our God is the kind of God who wants to meet us in worship. Our Psalm says that even sparrows and swallows find a home in God’s presence, so we can be assured of our own place in God’s presence. So worship isn’t something that is reserved for the saintly few – it’s a place of refuge for people like all of us!
You know, Romeo first adored Juliet because of her appearance. So I wonder, what do you adore about God? Maybe being thankful makes you appreciate God. But why do you love God? Why do you adore God?
Maybe you’ve made a big mistake – or a whole lot of mistakes – and you love God because God is forgiving.
Maybe you’re trying to get better but you keep falling off the wagon, and you love God because God is patient.
Maybe you’ve looked at a sunset over the mountains, and you love God because God is creative and beautiful.
Maybe you grew up in a harsh family, and yet the community of the followers of Jesus love you and accept you and welcome you, so you love God because God is loving.
Maybe you look back on your life, and you see all subtle ways that God guided you and shaped your path, so you love God because God is wise.
Why do you love God? Why do you adore God? When in your life has God made a difference, and how does that reveal God’s character?
The Psalm we read today, like most of the praise Psalms, is designed to prepare our hearts for worship. And our hearts are prepared for worship when they are ready to express their love and adoration for our Creator.
On the back of the insert of your bulletin you’ll see a little box that says, “I love God because God is…” Take a look at that now. The Psalms get our hearts ready for worship by rehearsing and reminding us of our love for God. So I want to let you take a couple of minutes to think about the ways you love and adore God. The Psalm we read today was put to music a while back. So for the next couple of minutes, I invite you to think about – or even write down – the ways you love and adore God while I sing this song. Because a heart that loves and adores God is a heart that is ready for divine worship.