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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

Stretch and Grow Worship Stewardship - 10/07/2018

To worship – What does that mean?

I suspect to some extent, it is one of those words we’ve heard for so long, that we don’t think very deeply about it. Or, for some, it might be the case that no one has really talked about what it means to worship God, to come to worship, to say that we will only worship God.

Since we are talking about giving our worship to God on this final weekend of our Stretch & Grow Stewardship program, I think this is the perfect time to dig a little more deeply into this rather common, or rather hazy word.

What is worship? What does it mean to be a worshipper?

Let’s start with the handy Google machine, which gives us something like this definition:

As a thing or a noun, worship is the feeling or expression of adoration and devotion for a god. And someone who participates in the act of worship, a worshipper, shows this reverence for a god, and honors that god with religious rituals.

So that’s what we do here, except in our worship, compared to say the ancient Greeks or people who worship other kinds of gods with a small “g,” we worship God with a capital “G.” The one God above all who we, along with our Jewish and Muslim siblings, hold above all else the world deems as gods  à from Zeus to money, from Caesar to status.

And more specifically, we Christians gather, with adoration and devotion, around the Word and the Sacraments and the Risen Christ as central parts of our religious rituals.

Today we have the gift of Psalm 8 too, which helps us understand “worship” beyond a rather pragmatic and factual definition.

READ PSALM 8

For a long time, this has been among my favorite Psalms. I love the images it offers us – God’s fingers painting the deep blue night sky, the moon and millions of distant suns and planets that make up our constellations and provoke our imaginations. And God’s surprising and effective tendency to act in mighty ways through the unexpected, like infants and children. And the rich and diverse web of life that God created for this planet we occupy.

I also feel strongly what this Psalm calls us to, as humans of that creation. The Psalmist means to humble us and remind us of the faith God has in us … that in the midst of all this life, God created us to care for it all.

The Psalmist starts out by asking God: Why? Why in all of this astonishing, living and breathing, birthing and dying, creation does God choose us mere mortals for this holy and difficult call? We often feel humbled by the gift of this creation, in which God gives us all we need. And apparently, in humankind, God believes the rest of creation has what it needs.

I don’t know about you, but that convicts me. It’s as if the Psalmist presents me with this awesome picture of this grand and huge creation God has made with those divine fingers and then placed the weight of it on my shoulders.

How do we handle that? How do we walk well in that holy and difficult call?

Well, included in this Psalm is some helpful teaching, actually. It shows up in word and in structure. The words are those of worship – words of adoration and devotion, words that weave their way through our scriptures and our sacraments and all our religious rituals, private and in community. “O Lord our Lord, how majestic is your name – in all the earth!”

And then notice the structure. This phrase of worship begins the Psalm and ends it. They are like holy and powerful parentheses containing and protecting the vast beauty of God’s creation, and God’s human stewards of that creation, including our call to care for it all.

In other words, all that we do as stewards of the gifts God has given us, happens enveloped in our acts of worship, which God clearly wants us to do, right?  “You shall have no other gods before me,” God said to Moses in Exodus (20.3). And again God later said to Moses “You shall worship no other god, because the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”(34.14)

(We should understand jealousy in this instance as an indicator of how strongly God wants us to get this commandment to worship no one else. In the same way, a parent may jealously guard a child against running out in the street or endangering themselves in some other way.)

And so to what end? That’s the question we might ask next. Why does God want our worship? Why does God want us to be worshippers in this world?

We can imagine the motives, perhaps, of humans who would fancy themselves some sort of god and want worship. We can imagine this just from our own experiences of feeling someone’s adoration and devotion to us. They might want it because it feels good. Maybe someone would seek and even demand worship because it makes them feel powerful instead of vulnerable, seen instead of invisible, lifted up instead of kicked down. There are a lot of human possibilities behind someone’s desire to be worshipped.

I don’t think any of this is true for God though. This is God who can do and create anything, including a perfect worshipper. God did create the perfect worshipper, actually, who is all the day and night long singing words of adoration and devotion. “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple,” The prophet Isaiah wrote. “Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isa 6:1-3)

God didn’t create us as seraphs. Instead God created humankind, from male to female God created us, with a vast array of gifts and skills and identifies and perspectives. And God didn’t create us to be perfect either, or Eve and Adam would never have messed up in that Garden of Eden. Rather we are created to be broken, messy, temperamental and even unfaithful, but also surprising, loving, resilient, ceaselessly attracted to our creatior, and beautifully gifted to be stewards of this place and all that God bestows on us.

So back to our question then: Why does God want our worship?

We, of course, cannot even begin to answer that question as God would, but I think we can see pretty deeply into some aspects of God’s motives, especially in regard to the ways each of us breathes life into this role of steward.

So one aspect is that by making worship the holy parentheses on all sides of what we do, we continually center ourselves in what we profess in our Christian creed; in what we say we believe about the bread and wine, in the identities we take on when we die to the waters of baptism and rise to new life in Christ.

It is in that worship-centered life that we are prepared for this. It is in that worship-centered life that we submit ourselves to the sometimes flawed but always God-led stewardship for which we were created.

And so, let us begin our transition from the Word ritual of our worship today to the Sacrament ritual by speaking/singing Psalm 8 responsively and listening to it call us, convict us, and center us for our lives as mere mortals and God’s stewards of creation.

Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~ contact@edenonthebay.org

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