Pastor Nelson Bonilla: 03-08-20 Sermon – “Passionate Worship. Psalm 84:1-4

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Last week we learned that through Radical Hospitality, congregations offer the gracious invitation of Christ by welcoming one another as Christ welcomes us and by embracing the least, as Jesus did.

         Today we will talk about the second practice of fruitful congregations: Passionate Worship. This Worship is where the Holy Spirit is allowed to work in our lives to draws us closer to Christ; when the Holy Spirit transforms our lives and deepens our understanding and our relationship with Christ and little by little transforms us; the image of Christ grows in us.

In our relationship with Jesus, the Holy Spirit encourages the church to make disciples of Jesus Christ, and Worship -my brothers and sisters-, plays an essential role in the process. If Radical Hospitality invites people to come, Passionate Worship invites them to stay. 

         What is passionate Worship? Passionate Worship is those moments in our service and personal time when we intentionally and eagerly seek to encounter God in Christ, and each other; Passionate Worship is cultivating our relationship with God and with one another as people of God. Passionate Worship expresses our devotion, our honor, and our love for God through everything we do: our prayers collectible and personal, the sermon, the hymns we sing. Everything we do become signs and symbols of our individual and collective connection with God. 

Psalm 84:1-2 describes an intense desire, an ardent spirit, and a strong feeling. “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” When was the last time you felt like that when you were planning to come to church? Whoever wrote this Psalm speaks of the emotional connection of Passionate Worship. This emotional connection goes beyond intellectual consent. Whoever wrote this Psalm is not a worshiper who comes to the temple simple because the Law requires it, this is not a worshiper who comes to the temple to worship on Sabbath simple to “squeeze” God into his or her life, instead, this worshiper seeks to meld his or her life into God’s. 

          Passionate Worship is an encounter with a fresh vision of God’s reality in Christ so that God’s Spirit can reshape our lives and form with us and in us the image of God so that we can become the body of Christ. All these encounters and reshaping of lives can be accomplished when we worship God in spirit and truth, as Jesus told the woman by the well.

         Talking about Worship, Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish theologian compared the Worship of most of the churches in his time -and our time I would say- with going to the theater. He said that, for many Christians, going to worship is like going to see a play. They decide which show to see, how to dress, they choose to arrive or not on time, to be ushered to their seat and wait for the show to begin. They are the audience that watches all the performers. Those performers he is talking about -the ones who put on the play- are the clergy, acolytes, musicians, and ushers.

At some time, -he continues saying- they could expect to pay for admission and usually happen during intermission. After the theater, they go home, have dinner, evaluate the performance, and decide whether to return to that theater or look for another.

Then Kierkegaard, asked, “Where is God in all of this?” The performers -meaning the clergy, acolytes, ushers, and musicians- can put on a good show without God. Often, God is not the focus of attention. Sometimes, God is not even mentioned. Maybe God is standing in the wings, out of sight and out of mind.

How different that is from New Testament worship, he said. In the New Testament worship, all people in the congregation are the actors who have come to participate in Worship. God is the only audience, the One who watches, listens, and enjoys our performing. The clergy, acolytes, ushers, and musicians are only facilitators of the process of worshiping.

Therefore, Passionate Worship is a service where all who are present are participants who get involved in body, soul, mind, and heart.   

Have you asked yourself, why do I come to church? What is the reason for me to come to this place on Sunday? If the answer to those two questions is not: to worship, we must rethink why we are here. To worship God is the primary purpose of God’s people. From the book of Exodus chapter 8, verse 1, we can learn how vital Worship is for God. The reason given by Moses to Pharaoh to liberate God’s people was, “so, they could worship.” Listen, this is God talking, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” Brothers and sisters, God has set us free from sin so that we can worship Him as free people. Therefore, when we worship God, let us feel free to lift our hands and hearts to him; let us feel free to express our thanksgiving to the One who broke our chains, to the One who transformed our lives, to the One who made us new.

Let us not be ashamed to glorify the name and to “declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light.” When we worship God with freedom, great things happen. Through worship, God talks to us; He transforms our lives; He heals our wounded souls and gives us comfort. He renews our hope, molds our decisions to fit God’s will. When we worship God with freedom, He persuades us to work for change, inspires us to be compassionate, and brings us together as His people, His church. Through Passionate Worship, our minds, our hearts, and our behavior are shaped according to God’s commandments. During and through Passionate Worship, God pardons sins, restores our relationships, and changes lives.

Worshiping God is what sets the church apart from other community groups like Lion Clubs and others, who like churches do good deeds helping our community. However, besides doing good deeds, we Christians worship God together every Sunday. When we do that, we are publicly claiming and proclaiming God’s welcome and love, not only for us but for everybody.

Last Sunday, we read how Jesus took a child and asked the disciples to be like him if they wanted to enter His kingdom. Today we can use the same child and say: if you want to worship God with passion, be like a child. Have you seen how a kid acts when you invite him or her to his or her favorite place? Have you noticed how eager they become? How they plan all they will do? Sometimes they cannot even sleep the night before. That is how we should act every time we are getting ready to come to God’s dwelling place. Our souls should yearn, even faint, for the courts of the Lord; our hearts and our flesh should cry out for the living God.

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