File:Gian Lorenzo Bernini – Dove of the Holy Spirit.JPG
“But the time is coming – indeed it’s here now – when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24 (New Living Translation)
“But the time is coming and is already here, when by the power of God’s Spirit people will worship the Father as he really is, offering him the true worship that he wants. God is Spirit, and only by the power of his Spirit can people worship him as he really is.” (Good News Translation)
One more time, so as not to miss the riches contained in these words of Jesus:
“But the time is coming – it has, in fact, come – when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter. God is sheer being itself – Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.” (The Message)
Two thousand years later and we still haven’t realized that what we’re called and where we go to worship does not matter…
At least, not to God.
One year ago I spent a weekend at camp with seven middle school students – my Confirmation class from church. We immersed ourselves in Jesus – His words, His actions, His life experiences – and we ended the weekend with a service of worship.
Those of you who work with youth will agree that it takes a great deal of faith in the Spirit of God to allow teenagers to design and lead worship for adults. Something (SomeONE) told me, in my preparations for this end-of-the-year event, that I needed to trust Him and give the students lots of wiggle room as they planned to lead worship on Sunday morning, for their parents and mentors.
We began on Friday night by agreeing that we would not do anything in our worship service that wasn’t meaningful to us, and we proceeded to create a time of communal worship to reflect God’s presence and activity in each of our lives. One student wrote two prayers for worship (“God, at camp we went outside and looked at the stars. We were supposed to whisper a prayer, then we were supposed to yell a prayer. I yelled that You are so amazing!”).
Another student connected with the scriptures and found several passages that she read aloud, and we selected songs to go with each. Three students experienced God’s presence in a particular Station of the Cross, and they worked together to share not only the words of the Station, but their personal reflections and feelings about it as well. Two students remembered Jesus’ words at the last supper and shared these with us as we prepared to commune with Him over grapes and crackers. We built in time for hugs and handshakes and conversation about God’s Word, and we set aside time for a student to tell jokes (because laughing out loud made these students feel closer to God).
What emerged from their honest efforts to connect with each other in the presence of God was true, Spirit-empowered worship.
The kind of worship God seeks from you and me.
Two Greek words from this John 4 passage jump out at me as we seek to be literal today:
Pneuma – Spirit
Alētheia – Truth
No matter how sincerely we attempt to worship God from deep within ourselves – from our God-created spirit-nature – the only way we can do this is by the power of God’s Spirit. He is the influence that breathes pneuma into our otherwise physical existence.
It is only by the power of His Spirit working within us that we stand a chance of being the kind of worshipers God is actively searching for today.
Animated by the pneuma of God, we find a fluidity to our worship that simply flows from who He is into who we are, both as individuals and as a community of faith. This is what happened at camp last weekend, when we let God lead us into His presence (rather than creating a worship form and then trying to make God fit inside).
Strong’s Greek Lexicon describes the word alētheia (truth) as“that candour of mind which is free from affection, pretense, simulation, falsehood, deceit.” When we do the faithful work of separating from the influences of the fallen world we live in, we find ourselves free from the fiction that our culture exalts as truth. We find the ability to unbuckle ourselves from the simulators and strip away the obligatory social/political correctness, releasing us to enter into unadulterated worship of the God who sees our true selves and longs for us to see Him, too. As He really is.
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Interested in music created in celebration of TRUTH and COMMUNITY? Check out the two-woman band, Alathea.