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Pastoral Letter: March 18, 2022

"Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”

--John 4: 20-26--

Friday, March 18, 2022

Jesus is speaking with a Samaritan Woman about worship. One of the key points being debated by the woman is where the proper place to worship actually is. Is it here in Samaria or over there in Jerusalem? Jesus scoffs that neither place is the proper place. Jesus then goes on to say that the Samaritans do not know what it is that they worship but the Jews do know who is worthy being worshipped. Jesus then goes on to say that the proper place for worship is in spirit and truth. The woman counters that the Messiah is coming and will finally lift the veil and truth will be known. Jesus calmly and clearly confesses to her that he is the Messiah. The implication being that she had better pay attention because he is proclaiming to her now what real worship looks like.

We have a history of worship service and style. We are accustomed to worshipping in buildings erected for the specific purpose of worship. We sing certain hymns, we read certain scriptures and we offer certain prayers. The question that needs to be considered is not are we in the right place doing the right things so much as we need to listen to Jesus and ask ourselves are we worshipping in spirit and truth?

It isn’t an easy question to answer because we have been conditioned to expect worship to look and feel a certain way. When we cling to that look and that feel are we serving spirit or self and do we edify truth or desire? Is worship about us or is worship about God?

Worship should be a both/and phenomenon rather than an either/or one and sometimes we loose sight of the fact that there is a relational quality that expects a give and take rather than a spectator quality which expects to be entertained.

Inspiring Worship seems like it is a pretty straightforward idea. And it is. Provided you remember that worship is relational, and inspiration is measured by what we put into the service as much as it is measured by what we get out of the service. We do gather, after all to worship God not ourselves. This truth should inform the spirit we bring to worship. What we are all about, the reason we gather is to praise God and give Christ glory.

Frequently we are conditioned to think more about what we get out of worship than what we are prepared to invest into worship. This reflects a poorly balanced worship dynamic. It is the product of years and years of taking worship for granted and making sure that look and feel are served more than spirit and truth.

God is not served by sameness. The Bible is full of times when God protested worship that became formulaic and mindlessly repetitive, and the people went through the motions of look and feel rather than focusing on spirit and truth.

God would apparently rather have nothing than worship which ignored God and God’s importance to us. Inspiring Worship helps us to keep our focus on God, helps us to consider who God is and what God does. It helps us to give that worship freely and thoughtfully with our whole being. It has no set look and no set feel. Until you grow more accustomed to spirit and truth.

There are things we can use to help us to become more focused and find our way into spirit and truth with increasing ease and that is what this quality characteristic is about. Finding our way to God together and praising God with our whole being.

May God bless you and keep you and give you God’s peace and security.

-Reverend John Maich

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