Message: Part 6: From Church to Heaven
Scripture Text: Revelation 22
1. We’re finishing a series on the history of our worship. a. We invest a lot in this time on Sunday morning. You make an effort to get here. i. Why it’s important is something we’ll spend six weeks trying to uncover.
2. Worship began with a pile of rocks (Noah’s altar), and while the way the rocks have been piled has changed the history of worship has been successive piles of rocks. a. From altars to the Temple to synagogues to house to basilicas to cathedrals to denominational churches to non-denominational worship centers.
b. And, the structure of Christian worship through the centuries has basically been putting together the essential building blocks in different ways: i. Prayers sung and spoken, Word read and preached, sacraments observed, self-offering and connecting with each other as we gather together as the church.
c. Worship has changed a lot, but also hasn’t changed much.
3. Probably because the biggest change has already happened. a. Prior to the New Testament, worshiping God went from portable to fixed. It had a location: the Temple in Jerusalem. You could find it on Google maps. i. It had a tangible way to encounter God: offering sacrifices and prayers.
b. But with the coming of Jesus to earth, worship goes from temporal to transcendent, from more and more to less and less nailed down and fixed to one address. It was both God coming to earth and earth coming to God.
c. Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well: i. Read John 5:21, 23
ii. At the moment of Jesus’ death
on the cross, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke say the great curtain separating the public courts and the Holy of Holies was torn in two, bringing into view what had been hidden.
d. The final book of the Bible, Revelation, has much to say about the new reality of Christian worship. i. In chapter 4, while himself worshiping on the isle of Patmos, the author has a vision of a doorway to heaven being opened. He is invited up to witness the worship happening before God’s throne.
ii. Within that throneroom is an altar of incense carrying to God the ‘Prayers of the Saints’ – connected to a table in the Jerusalem
Temple which had the same function – completing the connection between the two places.
iii. Rev. 22:1-3 describes heaven as a place where there is no barrier between God and the worship of his people.
e. Celtic Christians in Scotland and
Ireland in the 5th Century described transcendent worship as a “Thin Place”: a place where the boundary between heaven and earth is especially transparent. i. Have you experienced ‘thin places?’
4. Late 19th century philosopher Rudolf Otto described the experience of worship with the Latin phrase: mysterium tremendum et fascinans a. Worship is a holiness which leaves us both trembling in fear and incredibly attracted and enthralled.
b. Christian musician Harold Best writes that now, with Christ, worship has transformed from one Temple into a Temple within temples within a temple within a Temple. i. The New Testament describes Christ as the dwelling place of the living God on earth.
ii. Through faith, Christ indwells his followers so they aren’t with Christ but in Christ.
iii. Christians are gathered up into Christ’s body, the church, and Christ is present every time they worship through the Holy Spirit.
iv. The worship of the Body is connected with the ongoing, eternal worship of the saints before his throne in heaven.
c. The short version of all this is: Sunday morning is way bigger, and more important, than you think.
5. And if our Sunday morning worship is both temporal and transcendent, there is one big practical implication: we need to turn off the judging, and turn on the joy a. If worship is happening among people in the name of Christ and with the presence of the Spirit, it’s holy. i. No matter where it is, who’s leading it, how they do it, and how well they do it.
ii. So stop rejecting it because you the music is different, or the preacher isn’t a good speaker, or the place is dingy, or the style isn’t what you grew up with.
iii. It’s OK to gravitate towards what you’re used to, or your particular tastes, or a church which has a mission you feel called to join, but it’s not OK to call any worship bad unless it completely rejects its transcendence and insists on eliminating God entirely. 1. And even in those places I don’t think God is completely frustrated or blocked from revealing His holiness to people.
b. If worship is happening among people in name of Christ and in the presence of the Spirit, it’s always a time to be joyful. i. You get to leave the limitations and chains of living in the world, be
transported to the very throne of God, have no fear because of grace, and abandon yourself to praise. 1. You can sing if you can’t carry a tune.
2. You can pray with honesty and sincerity.
ii. You get to feast on a message God has especially for you, which will help you both know him better and live as you were created to live.
iii. You get to come into God’s presence through the sacraments of Lord’s Supper and Baptism.
iv. You get to connect with people who are believing and following Christ with you but in different ways; you get to join with them in Christ’s mission to bring His love into the world.
c. And if all this is accurate, here’s a quick note for those of us who facilitate worship: preachers, worship leaders, choir and praise team musicians. i. The pressure’s off. It’s not about you and how well you do. You can hit a wrong note or have an off day and it’s not the end of the world. God is in this with us, and covers our brokenness with the perfection of Jesus.
ii. But we are supposed to be good stewards of our talents – just as the worshipers give God their best we give God our best in leading worship. We prepare, practice and perform to give him Glory and show an example for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
6. If there’s one trend that’s happening in the continuous evolution of Christian worship and music right now it’s a recovery of the transcendence and mystery. The worship going on daily at the Taize monastery in France is a great example of this. a. To demonstrate that worship a little we have Noree Dolphay who is a trained musician and involved in leading worship both here and at Chi Rho Community.