How Worship Renews the Church

If you ask any Christian about the practices that are most important for spiritual health and growth, almost all will put acts of worship at the top of the list. But why does worship “work” in this way? How does God renew us spiritually through acts of worship?

1.  Worship renews us because we meet God in a focused way. Two friends can experience one another side-by-side as they work together and face-to-face as they focus on relating directly with each other. Worship is spiritually powerful because it is most like the direct and focused experience of friendship in face-to-face mode. As worship scholar Josef Jungmann puts it, worship is “the life of the church with her face toward God,” and thus James K. A. Smith describes the practices of Christian worship as “hot spots where God’s formative, illuminating presence is particularly intense.”

2. Worship renews us because it engages our whole person. When we worship, meeting God is never just a purely “inward” matter of our thoughts or feelings but rather a tangible encounter through our whole person. With our ears we hear God’s word, which instructs our minds and kindles our imagination with a vision of the world from God’s perspective. With our lips we sing God’s truth, which engages the mind and moves our heart. With our eyes we see God’s people and visual symbols in art and architecture, which makes God’s word and worship visible. With our bodies we move to stand and even raise our hands to pray, to offer our gifts to God, and to embrace and serve one another in greeting and communion, which rehearses patterns of honor and love that train us to respond rightly to God and each other. Thus, James K. A. Smith writes, “historic Christian worship is fundamentally formative because it educates our hearts through our bodies (which in turn renews our mind).”

3.  Worship renews us because we learn the practices of the whole Christian way of life in God’s kingdom. In worship, God engages our whole person in order to orient our whole life rightly toward him. Good coaches or teachers recognize that we need a lot of practice in order to play well; indeed, we will only play as well as we practice. Musicians play scales and athletes field grounders or shoot jumpshots over and over so that they will be prepared to act skillfully in a performance or game. Likewise in worship God trains us to live all of life according to his story by engaging over and over in the practices that embody his love and truth in action. In worship, we train to become a people who answer God’s call, repent and confess our sins, listen to God’s instruction, welcome one another with the love of Christ, offer ourselves and all our gifts to the Lord as faithful stewards, give thanks in all circumstances, pray for others, and receive and give God’s hospitality at his table. In other words, in worship we practice the habits that will enable us to live according to the gospel of God’s kingdom all the time in every situation.

Reformation Day

This coming Sunday, October 26, is Reformation Day.  What was the Reformation?  On October 31st, 1517, the German monk and professor Martin Luther posted a list of 95 theses that sought to reform the beliefs and practices of the medieval Catholic Church according to the teachings of the Bible.  Luther’s ideas for reforming the church encouraged Christians all over Europe to seek major revival and purification of the church from traditions that distorted and corrupted the faith and pattern of life passed on to the church by Jesus through his apostles.  Reformation Day is a holiday celebrated on October 31st or the last weekend in October in remembrance of the Protestant Reformation.

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You Alone Can Rescue

During the month of September, the first part of the fall sermon series on spiritual renewal will focus on the gospel (good news) of Jesus as the foundation for our spiritual life.  At the 11:15 service, we will sing a new song, “You Alone Can Rescue,” to celebrate the work of Jesus that is the heart and hope of all spiritual renewal.  The Christian author J. I. Packer suggests that the core message of the gospel of Jesus Christ can be distilled into a very simple statement: “God saves sinners.” “You Alone Can Rescue” enables us to celebrate that core message in a way that is both simple and profound.  “When our hearts were far away,” God in Christ “came down to find us” and “led us out of death.”  Therefore, we confess to God with joy, “You alone can rescue. You alone can save…To you alone belongs the highest praise.” Continue reading

Before the Throne of God Above

During the month of September, the first part of the fall sermon series on spiritual renewal will focus on the gospel of Jesus as the foundation for our spiritual life. At the 8:30 and 9:45 services, we will sing a new song, “Before the Throne of God Above,” to celebrate the person and work of Jesus that is the heart and hope of all spiritual renewal.  This old hymn text set to a modern tune enables us to sing of both the past work of Jesus in dying and rising to free us from sin’s guilt and power and also of the present work of the risen Jesus that gives us access to God and the strongest assurance of God’s forgiveness and powerful presence in our lives. Because he is our “great high priest whose name is love,” and because our names are “graven on his hands” and “written on his heart,” we can sing with confidence, “one with himself I cannot die….my life is hid with Christ on high with Christ my Savior and my God.”  The Chancel Choir has learned an arrangement of this song in four-part harmony to sing with the congregation, and their musical leadership will add even greater glory to an already beautiful melody. Continue reading

Offering and Intercession: Our Renewed Response to the Word of God

As Central’s pastors have frequently said, we are a church that is reformed and always reforming according to the word of God.  Starting on September 7, our fall sermon series will address God’s reforming work through a focus on spiritual renewal, and we will make a couple of changes to the order of the 8:30 and 9:45 services to reflect that focus more clearly in the structure of the service.  During this sermon series, the offering and our intercessory prayers for the church and the world will occur after the sermon rather than before.

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Celebrating Pentecost

The colors at the front of the church have changed from white to red to mark the beginning of a new season in the church calendar.  Having traveled through the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and Easter we come to the next chapter of Jesus’ story, the event of Pentecost.  Pentecost marks the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the church.

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Behold Our God

The new song for Easter season in the 11:15 worship service is “Behold Our God.”  The sermons during this season will focus on the beauty and supremacy of the risen and reigning Lord Jesus Christ as revealed to us in the Book of Revelation.  This song draws our gaze to the risen Lord Jesus so that we might behold him together with awe and delight as we sing.

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