• Matthew Ritchie

The Heart Of Worship

Updated: Mar 20

The text of Matthew Richie's Sermon form Sunday 15th March


I was recently presented with a problem, what’s the right way to make chilli?

I was looking around and comparing some options, maybe pork, or beef or both, I know a good chilli recipe for both. What about beans, 1 kind 2? 4? I tend to use 4 but then how about the spice mix?

One recipe I saw was for ‘emergency horse meat chilli’ presumably a cowboy recipe for when all else fails.

Maybe you have your own recipe the one that you perfected through years of hard experimentation or one you got from a book or one that was passed down through the generations.

But I have mine. It starts with a nice brisket and uses 4 beans and some jack Daniels. Its great.

Its sometimes the same way with church services.

Everyone has their own way of doing it, there own recipe. Some of them variations on a classic, some of them new and innovative, some are an acquired taste and some are unchanged for generations.

The heart of services as we conceive of them just now is worship and that’s what this passage is talking about today.

Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

So the history of the Jews and Samarians is a long story and there was a lot of history there but one of the seminal differences between the two was the place of worship. Samarians indeed did worship at there temple on mount Gerissim whereas Jews worshiped in the temple in Jerusalem. There were of course other differences and the history between the two was long and at times unpleasant.

So when she addresses this with Jesus its an important question. Who is right, us or them.

Now we have come to expect of Jesus that this kind of question provokes an unexpected answer and it does but first of all Jesus actually does answer the question. Vs 22, its us, salvation comes from the Jews.

But then we get what we were expecting a deconstruction of the presumptions behind the question. That there is a proper place to worship God in the first place.

I think that we can get caught up in this argument a lot

Caught up in discussions about where when and how we worship

It is in fact the major argument that we have amongst ourselves.

I think we would like to see that over the history of the church we have split and fought and argued about the really major points of theology, that when churches get into what we call holy war, that its over matters of eternal consequence and that when we spend time talking in meetings its about the matters of eternity.

But I have some news for you, on the whole, its this stuff. Its where when and how we worship.

Its an argument that has taken on more focus in the last week. Where more people are staying away from church, when we don’t know if or when we will have to stop meeting when we are struggling with buildings and when we are preparing for the possibility of ministers being unwell on mass

At this time this question of worship takes on a new focus.

Can we worship from home, can we worship online, do we need to worship at all?

It’s a discussion that’s dominated a large part of my week and here today in the lectionary reading we have the answer clear as day from Christ himself.

Stop being stupid and start worshiping.

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth

A time will come and has now come when it does not matter about buildings and about meetings and the proper order of things what will matter is the spirit and the truth.

a number of years ago I attended the first trial event of club church, a worship event held in a night club with 2 internationally renowned DJ’s where worship music had been reworked into club anthems.

There was spirit and there was truth and there was worship but it looked very different

It was a recipe that I have to say did not leave me wanting more but it was one that worked for a lot of people.

On my training we were asked a question, what is the proper church of Scotland way to do a service? A simple question that I am sure any elder or regular church goer will be able to answer, differently.

The answer is that there is no correct way, just ways that work for people. For some the sound of the organ and the choir is uplifting, it brings them closer to God. For others its not, its irrelevant and stymied. For some the use of visual displays is important, and for others its distracting. Even within the order of service there are questions, some have the lord’s prayer, others don’t. some take an offering others don’t some have a sermon and others do something else.

The important thing is a church has a recipe and that it works for them. but even then I don’t think that’s the end of the matter.

You see when I look over my life at the places and the ways I have worshiped its quite a list

Because not only have I worshiped god in old buildings and new one and in nightclub an theatres and venues and people's homes and care homes and hospitals and in the street and up a hill and round a campfire but I have worshiped god with the throngs of protest all around me, I have worshiped God with sirens blocking out all other noise I have worshiped in silent crematoria and I have worshiped at my desk in the middle of the night.

You see worship is love.

Worship is our love directed up directed towards god

Love that is true and love that is faithful

Love that can come only from the spirit.

True and proper worship is not about actions and its not about words its about love

When we show love to one another and when we show love to god, for all that god has done. We worship

When we pray whether whispers in our heart or whether screams from the pit we worship

When we proclaim Gods word for us, when our actions point to God

When we lift our heart to heaven and when we lift our cares to God

We worship

Here on a Sunday we have a way of doing this that is steeped in ritual and tradition, a way that helps us to focus that love, a way that helps us to contextualise it.

And in other places other people have there own ways, some very similar to us and others that are not. But here Jesus is quite clear. On the mountain, in the temple? I don’t care, it doesn’t matter. Instead offer to me true worship. The worship of love

The worship of love expressed through every breath.

The worship we see in Jesus

Over the next weeks it's possible that we will no longer be able to meet as we do now, we hope and we pray that its not the case but its might be.

But just because we do not meet does not mean we do not worship

Because we will be out in the world, loving

Showing the people of the world the love of Christ.

So how do you worship at home. You can read the bible, you can pray, you can sing songs, you can watch services online. You can chat to your friends, you can care for one another, we will give you resources.

Because wherever there is Love, true love there is worship and wherever there are Gods people there is love

Where two or more of you are gathered, I will be there.

Life is about to look a little different for most of us and that’s ok for a little while.

But our worship will continue because true worship is not confined to this place, or any other like it.

True worship is found in our lives. And thereafter in heaven

Worship is love and everything else is the nonsense we put round it.

So lets meat anxiety with worship

Lets meet uncertainty with worship

Lets meet fear with worship

Lets meet the future with worship

Whether gathered here or as one family bringing love out into the world

With every breath, love.

Amen

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