A History of Worship – Part 2


January 22, 2017

First Presbyterian Church – Coeur d’Alene

Message Series: History of Worship

Message: Part 2: From a Tent to a Temple

Scripture Text: 1 Kings 5:3-5

1. We’re starting a new series on the history of our


a. We invest a lot in this time on Sunday morning. You make an effort to get here.

i. It seems important. It has been important forever.

b. Why it’s important is something we’ll spend six weeks trying to uncover.

2. Christian Worship in its first 50-60 years was pretty simple, informal, and somewhat


a. The movement was growing astronomically and spreading out from Jerusalem to all sides of the Mediterranean but it was also outlawed and persecuted in many places.

i. It wasn’t allowed to have its own buildings, so it met in homes or even in cave systems underneath cities.

ii. It didn’t have a professional class of clergy.

iii. Different churches worshiped in different

ways. There was no standard form of Christian worship.

b. We don’t have many precise descriptions of worship in this early time period: no

hymnbooks, bulletins or youtube videos.

i. But we get clues from the New Testament itself, surviving documents, the writings of early church leaders and even outside documentarians.

ii. We know there was singing

and chanted prayers that flowed out of Christianity’s roots in the Jewish synagogue.

1. There was preaching about Jesus Christ by itinerant apostles based on the Jewish scriptures and new documents like Paul’s letters and eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ teachings later called Gospels.

2. People could stand and share their own testimony or prophesy, sometimes through speaking in tongues.


3. There was a sharing of the bread and cup as Jesus did with his disciples; but then also a meal before or after worship called an “Agape Feast.”

4. People would bring an offering to for needy members of the church.

5. Occasionally, like on Easter, there would be baptisms of new believers.

c. But within 100 years after Jesus, there were clear signs that things were changing.

i. Standardized prayers, hymns and liturgies (like the Lord’s Prayer and an early version of the Apostles Creed) were used more and more by all


ii. People called bishops and presbyters were full-time church workers and officiated all the worship times.

iii. The Eucharist became the central focus, replacing preaching from scripture, giving testimony and prophesy.

iv. When the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and named it the state religion, basilica-style church buildings were built in every town and city with grander architecture and ornate painting and mosaics

d. Less is more became more is more; and spontaneous and unpredictable became “the same is better. ”

e. But at the same time, powerful symbols were used in church buildings and worship times which gave Christians a sense of the awe and mystery of God’s love: the crucifix, the communion table, the baptismal.

3. It’s interesting, I think, that the same evolution of worship happens for the Jews in OT


a. Worship began as simply as it could get, praying and sacrificing to God at a pile of rocks. An altar.

i. During the Exodus, God commanded a tabernacle be built; a mobile sanctuary with a priestly class of people and a set list of feasts, sacrifices and prayers.

b. After the Jews had settled in the Holy Land, King David and his son Solomon made plans to build a great Temple to replace the tabernacle.

i. Read 1 Kings 5:5.

c. The Jerusalem Temple was massive and ornate. It made Trump Tower look shabby chic. And worship inside the Temple was sophisticated and complicated.

i. It incorporated powerful, enduring symbols

to remind people of God’s presence with his people: the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy of Holies, the Menorah, the Incense, pillars with grapevines and wheat stalks carved in them.

4. Go back to 1 Kings 5:3-5. It doesn’t use the Hebrew word Temple.

a. “Temple” is usually translated from the word “hekal”, meaning ‘palace.” It comes from the root meaning “power, victory”

i. Solomon uses the word for House – bayith. A dwelling place, a shelter for a family.

ii. Calling the Temple a “House” was like calling the CDA Resort a motel.

iii. And it seems that something gets lost from the pile of rocks to the Temple – worship is more impersonal, more institutional, more controlled by humans than useful to God for having relationship with his children.


b. But the construction of the Temple was both commanded by God and frequented, even defended by Jesus. So is fancy and formal what God really wants, or simple and personal?

5. Imagine you are invited by the President of the United States to come to the White House to have pizza and beer, watch a

football game, and just hang out with him as friends.

a. You’d be honored and excited to have such full, personal access not just to the house but also to the powerful person who lives there.

i. You’re not just visiting, you get to make yourself at home and enjoy a relationship, let your hair down.

b. But to get to the private quarters, you’d

drive up Pennsylvania in view of the Capitol, Washington Monument, Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials.

i. You’d enter the guarded

entrance, walk down the red carpet, glance into the East Room, see the hallway to the Oval Office past the Rose Garden. You’d see famous portraits of previous residents hanging on the walls.

c. All around you are symbols reminding you of the mystery, power, history, and ideals embodied in that building.

i. On your way to pizza and beer with the President, you’d be brought up short by awe, respect, and wonder.


6. God wants worship to be informal enough to protect the personal and formal enough to protect the reverence.

a. He wants there to be enough spontaneity to let the Spirit move in people’s lives, but enough structure for people to remember it’s not about them, but Him.

b. He wants worship to be exciting and different each week, but with consistent symbols and actions which, without failure or forgetting, point us to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

7. So, next week when you come to worship, be ready to come as you are, but also come ready to show some reverence and embrace the mystery.

a. You don’t have to wear a suit or fancy dress, but show some consideration and

respect to God and to the people worshipping with you.

b. Make the symbols of Christian worship a part of your worship. Fix your eyes on the cross. Remember the water of your baptism. Think about Jesus’s sacrifice as you look at the bread and cup.

c. And don’t come empty-

handed. Just as you’d probably bring a gift to the President to show your thanks for being invited to hang out at the White House (at least a bag of Dorito’s and bottle of Pace Salsa), bring a thank-you gift to God that you are invited every Sunday – really every day – to be in Holy Sanctuary surrounded by his loving presence.

8. Music has always been a big help for experiencing worship, and each week in this experience we’ll pull a type of music from the history of worship for you to experience.

a. This week’s is the Gregorian Chant – a way of praying the scriptures which was created by Monastic communities to reclaim the simplicity, but also remember the reverence of worship.


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