Not unto us, not unto us but thy name, be all the glory. Be with us. Amen.
You may be seated.
Good morning! It is indeed a signal honor and a privilege to join with you in worship with you today. I’m happy to bring you greetings from sunny, Southern California. I want to mention that San Diego is still reeling from the loss of its grace Bishop, John Chane. It was my privilege to work closely with him during the years he was with us in San Diego. …a powerful preacher of the Gospel, a change-agent, a clear voices for justice and peace. It was a real privilege to work with him in sponsoring the annual revival in the city where several churches from the urban community joined together at St. Paul’s for a great day of celebration of the grace and goodness of God. We also greatly appreciated his involvement in behalf of a growing homeless and hurting population in San Diego. Indeed, San Diego’s loss is Washington’s gain. Our prayers and blessings are with Bishop Chane as he continues to noble work of the kingdom in this place.
The sermon text today is from the 96th Psalm. It was among the readings for this day’s service. “Oh worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” Why worship? Why spend this precious time on a Sunday morning in the Cathedral worshipping? What is it all about?
It has been said that man by his very nature is a worshipper. Either he will worship the God of all the universe, the God who causes everything to be, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Or he will worship some lesser God, some idol.
Seems that philosopher was absolutely correct when he declared that there is a God-shaped vacuum in everyman’s heart, and it is our tendency and our very nature to honor and worship God.
The reading from the Gospel just a moment ago in which Jesus declares that we as citizens of earthly realms, citizens of the United States or whatever nation, we are obligated to give honor and to render to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar. But we are not to forget that we are to give to God that which belongs to God. My friends, I am here today just to encourage you, that every man owes to God. We must give to God worship. We must bow down before him and honor him, for he is our source. He is the giver of every good and perfect gift. He is the source of life and the author of truth and justice. Worship, the Greek prosqueneo (?), speaking of our need to understand that we are in the presence of One greater than we are, bowing down, giving obeisance, honor, praise, to he who has made us in his own image and his own likeness. Worship is a kind of derivation from the word worth-ship, the old English worth-ship, in which the devotees recognizes the worth, the value of the deity of God to him. And then returning to God the sacrifice of one’s life, the giving up of one’s selfishness in order that God may be honored.
Worship is also said to be enjoying the intimacy that is created by praising God. For the exact definition of the word worship from the Greek means “to turn toward,” “to kiss,” speaks of an intimacy, a love, a devotion toward the creation, the sustainer of life.
A quick perusal of holy history reveals that all of mankind engages in some kind of worship. We discover that worship is appropriate in every human situation, for when Job having suffered the humiliation, the loss and respect of his wife, and the loss of the presence of his children, and the loss of his possessions, his wife said to him in disgust, anger, “Job, do something manly. Do something masculine. Curse God and die.” It was then that Job remembered that he was a worshipper when he had all things favorable, and that did not change his position as a worshipper in the moment of his loss. And so the Bible says that Job sat in a heap of ashes with sackcloth draped around him, and worshipped God. He declared, “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of God.”
Abraham was a worshipper. When he left Ur of the Chaldeans and headed to a land he did not know, when he had entered the land, Holy Writ informs us that he bowed down, built an altar, and worshipped God, and was given instructions how to become the father of many nations.
Moses, on the backside of the mountain, recognized there was a shrine of a burning bush. He heard the voice of God speak to him with clarity, “Take your shoes off. This is holy ground.” In that moment of worship he received instructions from the Lord to be the liberator of the Jews from Captivity.
Yes, at every age, there are worshippers. And in worship, we receive instructions. We have the opportunity to become one in body and mind as believers in God. In worship we have our values clarified, and our directions made clear.
Was it not Isaiah who was in worship in the Temple after the death of his relative, King Uziah, and in that moment of worship he heard the sound of the cherubims and seraphims echoing in the Temple, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” and in that moment of worship Isaiah received the word from God to go and to speak truth to power, and to bring to his people the good news that God reigns. It was in that moment that God commissioned him to proclaim that mountains will be brought low, and the valleys will be brought up, and the rough places will be made plane, and the crooked will be made straight. It was in worship that he received the revelation to go.
For in worship, my brothers and sisters, is that precious moment that we understand that the earth is crammed with heaven, and every busy is aflame with God. We must worship God, regardless of our circumstances, regardless of our conditions, for it is in worship that we receive from God inspiration, strength, direction, and a fresh word to go on in faith.
Paul and Silus did not cease to worship because they found themselves in stocks, chained in a Philippian jail. The New Testament story relates that about midnight they began to worship, and when they began to worship God, in his presence God’s power for liberation, God’s power for protection, God’s protection for direction and strength, was manifest. The prison doors were opened and they walked out free men to continue to preach the Gospel.
We must worship him, for he alone is worthy to be worshipped.
Yes, everyone worships, but not everyone worships the true and the living God. For Cain was a worshipper. He offered to God his leftovers. He gave to God that which was marred and damaged. He did not give God his best. So the text reminds us that God did not accept his gift of his leftovers, the damaged possessions that he had because God requires our best, our time, our talents, our intelligence, our resources. Worship requires that every facet of our being be involved, our mind, our body, our imagination, for God is great and greatly to be praised.
Cain worship is still going on amongst us. There are still those who offer to God their leftovers and what is not important to them. God desires the sacrifice of our best.
There are others who worship amongst us not as Cain worshipped, but as the Samaritans worshipped. The Samaritans were an interesting group who worshipped on Mount Jerison (?). And they had an interesting approach. They bowed down before the cult of conformity and believed in the deity of diversity. They did not simply worship Yahweh, Elohim, but they worshipped Baal and Ashterof and Milcum and all the gods of the nation. They did not agree that God deserved total obeisance, total subservience, total devotion. So they worshipped God along with the other gods that were present in the land. Not only did they worship many gods, but the Samaritan worship was the kind of worship that did not affect one’s conduct. This was made clear in the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well. She talked about her worship and her religion, but it had not affected her conduct. For here she was encountering Jesus and he revealed that he knew all things, and talked to her about five husbands she’d had and the man she was shacking with then. Her religion did not affect her conduct. Her worship made no difference in her behavior. Worship was divorced from behavior. Samaritan worship must be rejected.
For above, the cacophony of voices that calls to each of us to bow down before some shrine to worship materialism, communism, capitalism, sexism, or any other ism, there is a clear voice that rises above every voice that can be heard ringing down through the centuries, is the voice of God. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is One. Thou shall have no other God before me.”
The worship of God requires that we give him our best. The worship of God requires that there must be a relationship between our conduct and our faith. The worship of God requires that we engage in an intimacy with him through devotion and prayers, and with our lips and with our lives, honor him who deserves praise.
My friends, the wonderful Book of Psalms teaches us so much about worship. Throughout that wonderful book we are exhorted, we are encouraged to worship God in the beauty of holiness. But the perhaps the greatest word regarding worship was set forth by Jesus when he talked with the woman from Samaria. He declared that God seeks such to worship him who will worship him in spirit and in truth, worship God in the beauty of holiness. Belonging to God exclusively, worshipping God only, having all our devotions and praise directed toward him so that we can enjoy the intimacy that comes in worship. For it is in worship that we have a fresh encounter with God. It is in worship that we again are enabled to have an epiphany to understand the wonder of God’s love and the glory of God’s grace. For it is in worship we h ear the God of justice speaking to us. And he always sends us forth from worship to be an advocate in this world where there is so much injustice and pain, suffering and helplessness. In worship we are sent forth from this place of worship to speak truth to power, and to advocate on the part of those who are voiceless. Yes, in worship, we have a new and fresh encounter with the God of peace who sends us forth with fresh instructions, follow peace with all men, and holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. Seek peace, and pursue it. What a word for the turbulent time in which we live! In worship we again have an encounter with the God of love, tells us again and again, my little children, love one another for love is of God. He that loves not knows not God. For God is love. Why worship? Worship God who created all things who sustains us, who has promised to be with us in all of life’s circumstances, who will never forsake nor leave us, and since God is God, we should enjoy the intimacy of loving him, praising him, and lifting up his holy name. O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, while praise and worship is comely for those who love the lord. And the people said, “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” “Hallelujah!” That’s right. Amen!