The Heart of Weorthscipe June 5, 2011 Isaiah 6:1-8
As you’ve already heard, this is the first sermon in a series of three that Christine and I have been wanting to do on worship. It’s an important subject to visit every now and then because it’s so easy to get lost in our routines.
For example, it’s not uncommon for me to miss a turn when I’m driving because I’m so used to driving a certain route.
Often, when I get into the car, my mind switches over to auto-pilot.
Now and then I find myself almost ready to turn into the church parking lot when I remember I was actually going to the grocery store.
Routines aren’t bad, but unless we’re able to step back from them now and then, they’re not going to help us get where we’re intending to go.
So you can think of this series like a chance to step back for a minute and look at what we’re doing.
I’m guessing that for most (if not all) of us, it’s pretty easy to make a weekly worship service part of our routine as Christian people.
We enjoy religious freedom in this country, so attending church on Sunday mornings doesn’t require a lot of sacrifice.
We have a beautiful building with both heat and air conditioning, so no matter what the weather is like outside, we can be comfortable as we come together and worship.
We have a couple of parking lots, and we have well-maintained roads that our taxes pay for, so getting here is easy most of the time, even from great distances.
We’ve got it pretty good when it comes to how, when, and where we choose to worship.
And it’s not just us Christians who enjoy this religious freedom that we have.
All American citizens, are well within their constitutional rights to practice any religion they want to.
We come to church, others go to a Temple. Still others attend a Synagogue, or a Mosque. A few prefer their own Living Room, and others like the Woods…some would even include certain sporting events and the local courthouse as places of worship.
On the surface, and under the guidelines of our constitution, all of these places have their place in our country. They’re all easily accessible, and it’s illegal to discriminate in certain spheres based on where somebody chooses to worship or the particular religious beliefs that they hold.
So what’s it mean, to ‘worship’, anyway?
…The word itself is derived from the Old English word “weorthscipe”. I’m not sure how to pronounce it, which is why it’s printed in the title of my sermon in the bulletin this morning.
It’s a word that means worthiness or worth-ship.
At it’s most basic level, to worship something is to give worth to something. It’s a word that needs an object to act on, otherwise it doesn’t make sense.
For example, Christian worship can be defined as the action of giving worth, or giving value to Christ and to the God he revealed.
Other religions have different objects of worship. Islam worships Allah, Judaism worships God the father, but not Jesus the Christ.
Some religions worship the earth, or the ancestors, or an altered state of mind.
The one thing they all have in common is the practice of worship; giving worth, or value, to the object of their affection.
But what that worship looks like from one religion to the next couldn’t be more different.
So what is it about Christian worship that makes it unique? How does a specifically Christian understanding of worship make a difference in the world?
We picked Isaiah 6 to begin this worship series because it gets beyond some of the empty rhetoric we often use when we talk about worship.
The encounter Isaiah has with the Almighty God in this passage; it describes what happens when we dare to give worth to God!
And when I say ‘give worth to God’, I don’t mean God needs us to give him value, or worth. God is inherently valuable, just like everybody who draws breath on Planet earth is inherently valuable; inherently full of worth.
And I’ll even say that worthiness, that value…it extends into all of God’s creation.
It’s not that we worship creation, or worship our fellow human beings…but this whole wide world is inherently valuable because God who is full of infinite worth put the whole thing in motion!
To paraphrase a camp counselor I met one year, God made everything including you, and God doesn’t make junk!
So it’s not that in giving worth to God, God becomes more worthy.
It’s not even that in giving worth to God, that we somehow become more worthy.
It has to do with recognizing the worth that’s already there.
And the mind-bending truth is, that giving worth to God, or ‘worshipping’ God is just what we were designed to do.
I’m suggesting a definition; that Christian worship is an authentic encounter with a ferociously loving God, who relentlessly pursues us into the fullness of life He intended all of us to have.
Like the song says, not just in heaven light years away, but here. In this place!
Worship is not a time-constrained nicety that’s neatly scheduled into our routine.
Rather, Christian worship is a prophetic call that fills our lives with smoke and thundering glory, like Isaiah.
It is the shaking of the doorposts and thresholds that we’ve come to rely on.
Worship is an encounter with the Living God so that we recognize that His ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts.
So let’s look a little more closely at these verses from Isaiah. There are three movements in the passage I chose for this morning.
You might know that this is the ‘call’ story of Isaiah. Isaiah was one of the major prophets in the history of God’s people, and chapter 6 is where he receives the ‘call’ to his prophetic ministry.
There’s something I like about comparing worship to a prophetic call laid upon someone’s life.
So anyways, these three parts have just as much to do with Christian worship as they do with the calling of a servant of God from one life into another.
The first part is that Christian Worship begins first of all with the recognition that God is. Isaiah encounters God, he has a vision of the hem of his robes filling the temple.
He sits on a throne as angelic beings attend to him, covering their feet, their eyes, and flying while singing God’s praises.
Holy, Holy, Holy, they cry.
And so Isaiah’s call begins, and in the same way authentic Christian worship begins as well.
It all starts with the statement that God is Holy, and that the whole earth is full of His glory!!
It’s too bad, it seems like that statement has almost become normal for us to say, you know?
I wonder if we don’t talk about God with language that’s just a little to familiar sometimes.
The way we talk and sing sometimes, you’d think He was either our best friend, or a toaster.
Isaiah encounters God in this way, and he can’t help but utter the words “Woe is me!”
And that’s the second part of this that I’d like to bring to our attention.
Isaiah is faced with a vision of God in his full glory, and he rightfully responds by saying
“Woe is me!” “I am a man of unclean lips, I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
Even the seraphim were covering their eyes.
But that’s what happens when Christians give worth to God; our eyes are opened, sometimes whether we like it or not!
We are moved from seeing God for Who He Is into seeing ourselves for who we are.
And if seeing who we are in the presence of the Most High God doesn’t lead us to repent, then it’s not really worship.
In other words, you can’t give your worth to something else unless you’re willing to part with it. Repentance pries our fingers away from our self-righteousness, our selfish ways and the value we’ve been storing up for ourselves.
It’s like that children’s story about the monkey who’s given the chance to escape from the zoo, but he reaches through the fence to grab an apple and can’t get his clutched hand back through the fence.
All he’s got to do is drop the apple and turn around; he’d be free! But he really wants that apple and he doesn’t let it go.
…Repentance is how we let go, and if you don’t think you have anything to let go of, I might suggest to go back to step one; seeing God on His throne in full glory.
Isaiah let’s go when he realizes that he is ruined in the presence of the Holy God.
He sees the truth about God.
Then he sees the truth about himself, and is moved to repentance.
Finally, he is purified by the live coal that comes on the wings of grace. His sins are forgiven, his guilt is removed, and he is called to a Holy vocation.
Actually, he volunteers for it.
He hears God say “whom shall I send?”
And Isaiah can say “Here am I”…”send me.”
See, that’s where truthful worship always ends up; with a commission for continued work, continued faithfulness, a new twist to a familiar story.
Worship is a lifestyle. It’s not just an activity or a frame of mind.
It’s a reality into which we live.
Worth-ship has as much to do with how you treat the Wal-mart greeter as it does with what you do on Sunday morning. It has to do with how you treat the environment, how you treat your dog, what kind of jokes you laugh at and where you spend your money.
Worth-ship has to do with bestowing worth.
It has to do with encountering the life-changing reality of a God who loves his people enough to die for them.
It has to do with letting go so that we can hear the question Isaiah heard: “Whom shall I send?”
In other words, the business of worship is the business of availability!
It’s as simple as that and as difficult as anything you’ve ever done, because it goes a lot deeper than just showing up on Sunday morning.
Isaiah was transformed and sent by God.
Who’s sending you?
If you read the next chapter, you see that the message God gave him was not exactly joyful.
But it was truth. It was worthy of being carried.
What message do you carry?
You are commissioned, but God isn’t going to force you into anything.
Christian worship means clearing enough space in your life to hear the question that’s also an invitation; “Whom shall I send?”
And I don’t think one morning a week is enough to hear the question.
You don’t have to go like Isaiah did, but I think you’re really missing out if you don’t.
It’s tempting to settle for Sunday morning, you know?
You can just show up; that’s great and we’re always happy to see you.
Maybe now and then you’ll catch a glimpse of this awesome God and you’ll be moved on some deep level and even get as far as to repent anew, or make a deeper commitment to your faith.
But don’t lose sight of the reality that the point of worship is to hear God’s question and respond to it with a willing heart.
Here am I, Send me!