Making Space for Life - Worship

• Come As you Are & Come Holy Spirit


I first got involved with the Vineyard in St Albans around 16/17 years ago. What got my attention were two phrases they used time and time again: Come As You Are & Come Holy Spirit.

Come As You Are got my attention because it was the name of a song by the band Nirvana, so I thought they would be really alternative in a ‘rock’ kind of way. But actually what I found was that it meant that I was welcome; no matter what I’d done, what I was going through or how I looked; I was welcome. And not just welcome to be part of a church movement that is now my home; but also welcome to come, truly as I was, to meet with Jesus and know that I was accepted & loved. Full stop. That didn’t mean that there wouldn’t be things that might need changing, but I didn’t have to become perfect before I was allowed to stand in His presence.

And that leads to the second phrase: Come Holy Spirit
Here in the Vineyard we’re all about the presence of God; His Holy Spirit dwelling amongst us. He is not a distant God to us. We know His Kingdom is coming, but that also we see glimpses of His kingdom now as His Spirit moves in power.
He is actively present in our everyday lives, so we can have a relationship with Him.
And I was drawn to this fantastic combination that was expressed in worship times at St Albans Vineyard. It was the hook that helped me to make a real start on my journey into following Jesus.

So that experience of Come As You Are & Come Holy Spirit informs my approach to worship:
I know that we can come to Him, to meet with Him, to stand in His presence and to be loved and accepted as we are.
Worship is an expression of our heart to a God who is involved and actively present in our lives, and who is also God of power who continues to make a difference today.

We’re looking at Making Space for Worship but I don’t want to approach this as pushing other things out of the way to provide specific “worship” spaces, I think worship needs to be woven throughout all we do.

To unpack this idea a little: in his letter to the Romans, in chapter 12, Paul wrote my favourite passage about worship:

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you:
Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.
Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.
Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.
Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out.
[Message Version]

So it’s more than just singing on a Sunday. It’s our eating, sleeping, eating, going to work and walking around life that we give as worship.

Worship has many expressions but why do we do this worship thing we talk about and why do we give it high value?

• Why do we worship?

I start at the point of recognising God as the source of all creation; that through Jesus’ death and resurrection there is forgiveness for all of our wrongdoing & failure; that we can be set free, restored & live lives full of hope; that He has a divine plan for us and has sent His Holy Spirit to be with us to help us in that plan.

That will be a similar outlook for many of you here, but for some, you’re on a journey of working out what faith you have - whether the Jesus that actually historically existed really came back to life, and is God, and actively present in our situations today. And that is ok – take your time on the journey & we will walk beside you as you do that.

If we’re able to recognise God for who He says He is in the bible, then we have to recognise His ultimate authority and power, that He’s a creative and active God, and that He calls us to worship Him. If we’re still trying to find out what it’s all about, then being in His presence is a really important part of that – it gives life to the words that you read, or to the things you hear others say about Him, God doesn’t just want You to know about Him, He wants you to know Him personally.

In Genesis 1:26, God said, "Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness..."
In choosing to make human beings in His image, God crafted us to reflect His nature, back to Himself and to the world He created.

We are the image-bearers of the King - just as football fans wear their team’s shirt to show they identify with them, that they support the team and reflect back to them with passionate praise the glory that they see in them. (The analogy falls down when the team stuffs up and we’re all disillusioned and disheartened, but when it’s God United FC, it’s always glorious!)

And because He is a God of love, He’s given us the capacity to love and worship Him. Simply said in 1 John 4:19, we love because he first loved us.
So God created us to love and worship Him, He made us in His image so we could reflect His glory to Him and to the world, and He gave us the capacity to love Him.

what is worship

• What is worship?

What comes to mind when you think of worship? Is it a formal occasion? Is it a joyous occasion? Does it contain certain rituals? Are you involved? Are you praising God? Are you learning? Are you hearing from God? Are you in contemplation? Are you singing? Are you praying? Are you alone, or with other people? Are you serving others? Is it inside church?
There are a lot of different ideas of what we can do as worship .

Worship is so much more than just a bit of singing on a Sunday – it’s about your whole lifestyle!

To worship Him is to come before Him in humility and reverence and in this place of submission, to also express our worship in service; our lives laid down as sacrifices to Him.

To use a bit of Greek to back this up: there are different verbs used in the bible when describing worship and it’s sometimes helpful to look at what was originally written that has been translated into the word worship in English.
First is the word Proskuneo which means to bow/prostrate oneself in reverence/humility - it literally translates as "kiss towards".

In John 4:21-24, (the passage Kate looked at last week where Jesus is talking to the woman at the well) the Greek word used here for worship is Proskuneo:

Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

So this passage is talking about submission, reverence & falling on our knees before God; giving him everything we have, putting him before everything else, recognising he is our source, our everything.

There is also the word Latreuo which means service/sacrifice.
In Matt 4:9-10 (where Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness) this is the Greek word that has been translated as worship:
"All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'

So this passage on worship is all about serving, all of our looking outwards, our acts of kindness & compassion, where we Reach Out to give our time and energy to serve those around us in our community and beyond.

This isn’t a one-way relationship though. Although worship is to God, about God, about how worthy of praise He is & our response to that – it also draws us into God’s presence,
His Spirit moves among us and His power is released in us. The Kingdom of God is not just a future reality, but a present one and we proclaim that story through our worship. We declare the truth of the kingdom of God; His rule and reign; the means by which He is renewing and re-creating His people and the world in which we live.

We sing the stories which tell of the future that Jesus’ resurrection made possible and of how that future is already being expressed now. Worship should sustain and nourish us as we begin to experience glimpses of the communion, the relationship, we were made to have with God in all its fullness and goodness.

These are some of themes you’ll find in our Vineyard worship songs. How we worship underlines what we believe and informs what we believe.

We need to make sure we’re not just singing songs because they’ve got a good tune. The words we sing matter. These are the things we memorise, along with favourite bible verses.
What are the songs you automatically sing?
What verses come to mind in times of struggle, or when you want to praise God?
It reveals your understanding of God, and your heart.

These are the tools we use to worship – either in Proskuneo worship, in submission, reverence & humility; or in Latreuo worship, serving, kindness, compassion

I was struck by this during Kate’s talk last week.
It’s so instinctive for her to reach into her bag and find a “God loves you” card to pass on to someone she has prayed for. She has armed herself with the tools to support how she follows & worships Jesus.
For me, if I stick my hand in my pocket, it will always be a plectrum and a Caffe Nero loyalty card! But again this reveals where my heart is: ready to grab a guitar and sing worship songs whenever I can & that I plan regular times to catch up Maggie over a coffee and build relationships with people that don’t know Jesus, in a coffee shop.

Not just singing:
As I said before, one of the reasons I was drawn to the Vineyard was the amazing times of sung worship in St Albans. Which is interesting as it’s not the model the early Christians started with.

Jesus set the stage for the first acts of worship among the early believers by giving new meaning to the ancient ritual of the Passover meal. Acts 2:46-47 tells us that the earliest form of Christian worship was a meal -"breaking bread in their homes." They were remembering the Last Supper just as the Jews remembered the Passover. By the second century worship began develop into 2 parts: readings from Old and New Testaments, a sermon, prayers, hymns – and also focus on communion, including a kiss of peace, prayers and thanksgiving with the bread and wine; remembrance of Christ's death, including the Last Supper

Although it may look a little different in style, it’s something we have continued throughout the centuries. Here at the Vineyard we meet regularly together to sing, learn from the bible and pray for one another and I would say we still have aspects of that early Christian practice as our housegroups mirror that “breaking bread in our homes” part.

To continue expanding our idea of what worship looks like: if we look again at Acts 2:42-47, in the verses surrounding the one about breaking bread together, we see this:
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Their life of worship was:
• Being in community, devotion to teaching, communion, prayer, doing miracles, serving the needy, gathering others
Worship involves all that we are – our attitudes, emotions, actions, mind and will.

• How do we worship?

Let’s look again at what it says in Romans 12:
Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.

So here’s a few ways that we can work on worshiping God through our everyday stuff:

• Be in community
Often our first thought when talking about worship is singing – and I want to underline that it’s still really important, especially when we do it together - It’s probably the nearest we get to something we all do as a community, in one voice, in unity.
It’s also a great way to express that Proskuneo worship; coming to worship in reverence and submission, giving our hearts in sacrifice.
But we should also share our everyday lives with one another too, as best as we can. Sharing in our successes & supporting one another in the struggles. The Trinity of God the Father, Son & Holy Spirit demonstrates perfect community and we reflect that as we gather together – we were made to worship in relationship with Him and with one another.

• Be in relationship with God

This is also key - it’s very hard to worship a stranger!

Read & study the bible.
Make time to pray (we don’t find time) – speak to Him and listen, let Him speak to You (talk less – listen more)
If your personal interior spiritual life is empty, then your exterior life is not authentic - it's like a helium balloon, when it’s filled then it’s round, whole, how it’s supposed to be – if there’s no gas inside it, then you have to stretch it to give a very poor impression of what it should really look like. It doesn’t look right and it doesn’t work as it should – no floating! Ultimately it fails if it’s not filled; you can’t hold it open with just your own strength.

• Be active
Engage with God – Jesus gave His life to restore that relationship between us and Him, that’s how much he is desperate to know us!
Worship is active not passive – when we gather to sing there are so many different ways to respond to God: (Standing, sitting, kneeling, dancing, silence, reflection,
raising hands, etc)

Here's a quick story related to that: at Revive two weeks ago, our band was leading worship on the Saturday morning and there was a fantastic sight – the whole front row was filled with Wharfedale Vineyard children, all singing their hearts out, some sitting, some standing, some standing on the chairs! My wife Maggie told me afterwards that one of our daughters, Emily, turned to her and said “my arms are tired so I’m going to put them down – but it doesn’t mean I don’t like this song”. Maggie said to her “we don’t put our arms in the air to show people if we like the songs or not. We do it to show we like Jesus”. And Emily said “well, I like Jesus” and stuck her arm back in the air!

An important thing to remember is that our actions reflect our heart of reverence & submission; it’s the exterior revealing the interior. The only measuring tool to measure “worship” on Sunday mornings is the level of surrender in our hearts.
And don't forget we need to do the stuff, sacrificing our time for God by praying for friends and strangers, getting involved in our Reach Out activities, making it a habit in our daily and weekly schedule to serve others
Serving others was an essential part of how Jesus lived His life, which was all about worshipping His Father at all times. It’s a good model to follow!

• Be creative
Jewish tradition speaks of a God that is continuously creating the world, continuously speaking the words ‘Let there be light’, as if God were to turn His attention away from the universe for a moment, it would all disappear. God is not distant from the world. ‘Not even a blade of grass moves without God as its mover.’
We’re made in the image of a creative God. He has given us a great gift of creativity. Creativity that stirs the soul. There are so many different was of engaging our emotions, thoughts & feelings. Things that remind us of where we’ve come from, where we are now or where we’d like to be, where we’re going. Things that create a positive feeling towards all these different milestones throughout our lives. Or perhaps memories of regret, things you maybe never experienced, dreams that you feel may not fully happen. Creativity engages us on so many different levels, and it gives us the ability to express a much greater depth of ourselves to Jesus.
If worship is about our everyday, how do we make it creative? We are made in his image and so we are creative even if we think we are not. So think about what you do everyday and think about what you love to do. All of these things can be used as worship. If as Paul says we are to take our everyday lives and place them before God as an offering it makes sense that the everyday things we do can be creative worship.
Ultimately it's about seeing creativity in a different way. Rather than trying to work out how to copy the existing things you see others doing, pray and ask God how He made you to worship Him. We have creative ways already, weekly worship here & the Gathering at the Vineyard centre on Sundays, our housegroups, specific Prayer and Worship evenings down at the VC, all the fantastic opportunities to get involved with Reach Out – but God made each of us to be creative in our own unique way
I believe that there are people that He is already inspiring with big ideas for how to worship Him.
What is He saying to You right now?

• Be Authentic
In aiming to worship Him honestly and with integrity, we need to Be authentic -so that the actions we do back up the songs we sing & the words we speak.
Worship is so much more than playing the singing songs for half an hour on a Sunday. It’s about the other 10, 050 minutes of the week. What you do in those other minutes affects how you engage with God & how you engage with God affects the following week.

We need to ask ourselves: "How do I live? Am I walking alongside my friends and peers, both inside and outside the church, living a life that reflects what I believe? Do my actions demonstrate worship? Does the integrity of how I live reinforce the words I sing in that other 30 minutes of my week?"

Obviously our response to that question can't be a resounding yes!
There will always be so much more we could do – but we must always remember that Jesus calls us to come as we are (Matt 11:28, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”.
That’s the point of authenticity – come as you are – offer everything, don’t hide the rubbish, lay it before His feet & say sorry & be forgiven, be set free, be restored.

• In conclusion:

Why do we worship?
Because He’s a good God, He’s a great God. He made us, in His image, created us to reflect His glory, with the capacity to love and worship because He gave it to us. On top of the fact that He deserves worship as the creator of all things, He saves & restores us, giving of Himself to bring us back into relationship with Him. And as we give of ourselves in worship, in His presence we experience His love & grace & mercy and we find hope, healing & wholeness.

What is worship?
To worship Him is to come before Him in humility and reverence and in this place of submission, to also express our worship in service; our lives laid down as sacrifices to Him

How do we worship?
Let’s go back to Romans 12:

Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.

It’s not about working hard, it’s not about being successful, it’s not about always looking for something more, it’s not about what your role in church is – it’s about knowing Him more and seeking to bless Him for all He’s worth.
Everything else is secondary.
Nik Gee, 10/07/2010