October 4 is the Feast of St. Francis
October 7, 2012 – Divorce

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 – The Shemah. Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and strength.

Psalm 148 – Everything sings praise to God, including sun, moon, stars, mountains, hills fruit trees, birds, wind and snow.

Acts 2:42-47 – They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone. They shared. This is worship.
Romans 12:1-2 Being transformed by the renewal of you mind is your spiritual worship.

Matthew 22:34-40 – The Great Commandment. Jesus is asked the the greatest commandment. He quotes the Shema, loving God as the first, and loving your neighbor as the second.

These texts are chosen for Five Practices series. Feel free to use or October 7, 2012 or Feast of St. Francis if you’re doing a blessing of the pets or focusing on St. Francis.

Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations

We are on week two of a five-part series called Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. We are participating in daily devotions. This week we are reading chapters 8-14 in Cultivating Fruitfulness. We are taking part in weekly small group gatherings and weekly worship. We’re going to be doing service projects together in a couple of weeks, and we are tying it all together with a big party on October 25. We hope you’ll join us.

The five practices are:

  1. Radical hospitality
  2. Passionate worship
  3. Intentional faith development
  4. Risk-taking mission and service
  5. Extravagant generosity

Are you growing in hospitality, worship, faith, mission, service, and generosity?

Last week we talked about radical hospitality as a basic spiritual practice. “When I was a stranger, you welcomed me,” Jesus said. When we practice radical hospitality, we invite people into community. When they come, they become part of a worshipping community. The second practice is Passionate Worship.

Passionate Worship

Does any one remember Mike Royko of the Chicago Tribune? He tells a true story about a man named Bill Mallory who traveled to India to find the purpose of life. He didn’t find it there, so he came home depressed. He pulled into a Chevron station that said, “As you travel, ask us.” So he did. He asked, “What is the purpose of life.” They guy just said, “Sorry, I’m new here.” So every time he pulled into a Chevron he asked, “I’m a traveler. What is the purpose of life?” He got lots of answers. “I don’t remember anything in the manual about that.” Another guy said, “I’m not too much for church sir.” Lots of blank stares. One day he got a call from Chevron customer service, so he asked them. They asked him to submit his letter in writing. So he did. Know what they sent him? A credit card application. There is the answer. Debt is the purpose of life, or perhaps revolving credit and compound interest. Capitalism.

Worship is the place where we get in touch with the purpose of life. We pull back and take a look at the big picture. We sit in prayer and contemplate higher things. In worship we return to the center.

You can worship on your own. You can listen to God. You can stand on the mountain top, filled with awe at the beauty, kissed by the breeze. You need to do this.

But you also need to worship with others because none of us sees the big picture. We need each other’s prayers and perspective. We need to be reminded through Scripture, song, and sacrament what God is up to in the world. It is there that we encounter the God who calls. This God calls us to things too great to accomplish alone.

You’re probably not going to find the answer to the purpose of life at a Chevron station. You’re not going to find it in the Himalayans. You will find purpose, peace, and hope in God, who is as present here as there, as present in the valleys as in the mountains.

When asked which was the greatest commandment, Jesus quoted what was probably the first Bible passage he ever memorized, the Shema: “Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…”

Yogi Berra once said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Well, for Jesus, the main thing is loving God with all you’ve got. This is the first and the greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two rest all the law and the prophets.

Worship is turning your heart toward God. Faith is turning your heart toward God. We believe that faith is a gift from God. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing you can do to make this happen, except this. When the gift is offered, you have to let go of what is in your hands to receive it.

God is poised to pour love, joy, hope, and grace into your heart. But if your heart is occupied with love of other things that you are unwilling to release, then that gift may fall on rocky soil. Lord, let our hearts be good soil, open to all you are prepared to plant in them.

Worship is more than a ritual. It is a transaction. Romans 12 says our spiritual worship is making our lives a living sacrifice to God, and allowing God to transform us, by the renewal of our minds. Christian worship is passionate. It is transforming. It shakes us to the foundation of our being.

Worship is natural. As Psalm 148 says, everything that lives and breathes praises God – all creation. This is where meaning and purpose are found, in learning to love God and neighbor.

Acts 2:42-47 offers a pretty eye-opening picture of worship in the early church:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,
to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles.
All who believed were together and had all things in common;
they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.
Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple,
they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts,
praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.
And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

 Where do you see these things present in worship today?

  • Devoted to the apostles’ teaching – WORD: Daily reading, weekly study, weekly worship in which Scripture is read and expounded upon in the sermon.
  • Fellowship – COMMUNITY: Gathering together and living life together. Becoming a community.
  • Breaking bread – SACRAMENT: This can be a reference to Holy Communion, drinking wine and eating bread to remember Jesus. It can also be a reference to sharing meals together.
  • Holding things in common and giving to those in need – OFFERING: At every Christian worship service we take an offering

And so on. Notice that they met in each others’ homes. Something happens when you meet in homes. Acquaintances become friends. Real community develops. We learn to love and care for one another.

Worship is more than an hour on Sunday. Sunday is when we gather, to be drawn back into the mystery of life and of one another. It is where we find sacred community and are sent out to be the bread of life for the world.

In worship we give ourselves, our time, our possessions, but more importantly we receive. We receive forgiveness, grace, hope, and a calling.

The preacher should reflect considerably this week on the importance of worship in his or her life. What happens in worship? Why is it so important to you? A personal story that is hearfelt will go a long way in reflecting what we give and receive in worship.

One possibility would be to go online and ask people on Facebook, Twitter, or email why they go to church? What does worship do for them? The pastor will learn some important things from this, but then perhaps also, some of the responses will can be used in the sermon and will help shape ideas for the sermon. Pastors experience worship differently than those in the pew. It is good for us to be reminded about what people hope to receive when they come.

The Five Practices are:

  1. Radical hospitality
  2. Passionate worship
  3. Intentional faith development
  4. Risk-taking mission and service
  5. Extravagant generosity