Sermon Starters: Acts of Worship

by Steven W. Manskar

Scriptures:

  • Isaiah 6:1-8
  • Matthew 14:13-21
  • Luke 14:15-24; 24:13-35
  • John 2:1-12
  • Acts 2:37-47; 4:32-37; 10:34-43
  • 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
  • Hebrews 10:19-25
  • 1 Peter 2:4-10
  • Revelation 22:1-7

Acts of worship are the social and public works of piety of the General Rule of Discipleship. Worship is shaped by the liturgy of the church found in The United Methodist Book of Worship and The United Methodist Hymnal. Liturgy means “work of the people.” Christians gather on Sunday morning, and other times, to give themselves in service to God through word and sacrament.

God meets us in Word and sacrament. When the assembly participates in them we are available to the Holy Spirit. The spirit in each of us greets God’s Spirit. Word and sacrament center us, as a community and individually, in the life and mission of Jesus Christ.

John Wesley lists three acts of worship in Rule #3 of The General Rules:

The public worship of God

  • Showing up, the effort required to get yourself to church for worship is an essential discipline of the Christian life. The Christian life is incarnational. This means we need to show up, to be together in the same space where we can see, touch, hear, smell, and taste (kiss) one another.
  • Something holy happens when the congregation prays and sings together as one, united as the body of Christ. Worship is a physical and sensual experience of God’s holiness.
     

The ministry of the Word, either read or expounded

  • An essential part of Christian worship is reading Scripture and prayers aloud. The Word engages the sense of hearing which then engages the mind and imagination.
  • Hearing the word of God read and interpreted in preaching opens the minds and hearts of the assembly to grace needed to inspire and motivate the people to join Christ and God’s mission in the world.
  • The Ministry of the Word illumines the word of God and the gospel so that the people can connect their life story with God’s story.
     

The Lord’s Supper

  • Jesus Christ told his disciples to break and share bread and wine whenever they gather in his name (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). He said “Do this in remembrance of me.”
  • The Lord’s Supper re-presents (anamnesis = “remembrance”) Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection in the symbols of bread and wine.
  • The Lord’s Supper is a foretaste of the coming reign of God, “on earth as it is in heaven.” “By your Spirit make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world, until Christ comes in final victory and we feast at his heavenly banquet.”
  • The Lord’s Supper celebrates God’s goodness and provision in creation and human labor through the bread and wine, which are produced from the earth and human labor.
     

In Sermon 16: “The Means of Grace”, John Wesley wrote: “By ‘means of grace’ I understand outward signs, words, or actions, ordained of God, and appointed for this end, to be the ordinary channels whereby he might convey to men, preventing, justifying, or sanctifying grace.”

The public worship of God, the ministry of the Word, and the Lord’s Supper are gifts from God that open our hearts to grace. They point us towards Christ and invite us to surrender to his love.

Acts of worship form us into a people who are more than a collection of isolated individuals having their own private experience of God. Worship unites our hearts and minds and joins them with Christ.

Acts of worship forms us into “a people who profess to pursue (in whatsoever measure they have attained) holiness of heart and life, inward and outward conformity in all things to the revealed will of God; who place religion in an uniform resemblance of the great object of it; in a steady imitation of him they worship, in all his imitable perfections; more particularly, in justice, mercy, and truth, or universal love filling the heart, and governing the life” (“Advice to the People Called Methodists” by John Wesley, 1745).

 

Categories: Covenant Discipleship for Groups and Class Leaders, Sermon Starters

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