“Why Do We Worship God?”
A Sermon for Holy Trinity Sunday on Isaiah 6:1-8.
It was Sunday morning. The minister stood up before the congregation and looked at the worshippers that day. It was a vast sanctuary, but it was almost empty. The pastor looked out at all the empty pews and saw the four lone people in the back - one young man, and three elderly women.
The minister begins to speak. "I give thanks to God that there are at least a handful of us who have made the effort to come to worship. I’m glad to see some of us believe God is more important than the football game on television." Suddenly, the young man in the pew jumps up. "Oh no, I forgot about the football game!" And with that he runs out of the sanctuary.
That’s the attitude of so many people today. We think we have more important things to do than attend worship. There are chores to be done, sports to be played, movies to watch, and web sites to surf. We say, “What why should I abandon the television set and shut down my computer in order to worship?”
So let me ask you, “Why did you come to worship today?
Some of us may come because we are struggling in our life. We are grieving or we are hurting. We are lonely and afraid. We are lost and searching for answers.
Still others may be here against their will. You are here because your parents made you come, and they are bigger than you. Or perhaps your wife made you come, and she’s bigger than you are, too! Giving into her is the prudent thing to do.
The story is told of a man who was enjoying a pleasant sleep in bed one Sunday morning. His wife suddenly yanked the covers off the bed and announced, “Time to get up! Time to get ready to go to church.”
Meekly, the man told his wife, “I don’t want to go to church today. Just let me stay here and sleep in this one day.” Without any compassion, his wife looked at him and said, “Look, you have to go to church today. You’re the pastor!”
So why come to worship? Our Old Testament Scripture Lesson from Isaiah 6 is a great place to look for answers to this question.
First, we see that worship is not an escape from reality. It is something that happens in the midst of everyday life. Isaiah begins this passage with an interesting statement. “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord.”
It’s like saying, “In the year the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, in the year that Kennedy was assassinated, in the year of 9/11, I worshipped the Lord. In the year that I was married, in the year that my first child was born, in the year my best friend died, in the midst of all my experiences, both good and bad, I was worshipping the Lord.”
Worship inside this sanctuary can never be oblivious to what is happening out in the world. Why do we worship God? Not to escape life out there, but rather to learn how to deal with life out there.
In the Psalms, one writer said (Ps 86:6-7), “Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my cry for mercy. In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.”
It is a natural part of worship to bring to God all of the concerns of your life. We gather here and we bring all the fears we face, all the hurts we experience, all the worries we have about our family, and we lift them up to the Lord in worship and prayer. We seek God’s comfort and guidance.
Secondly, true worship also focuses on the Lord God. This is where we often make a common mistake. We assume that worship focuses on us. All too often, we treat worship as something that is supposed to entertain and amuse us. But what is most important here is that the Triune God is the object of our worship experience. We are here to worship the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity.
In Isaiah 6, the prophet goes to the Temple, and he says “I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.” It is the presence of God that fills our worship. True worship always focuses on the Triune God.
This brings to our third point - worship always begins with an awareness of God’s holiness and forgiveness. We’ve lost something of that. In recent years, many Christians have emphasized the personal nature of God to such a degree that we’ve forgotten that our Triune God is also an awesome and holy God. We have changed God into a “little buddy” or someone to pal around with.
When Moses was aware of God’s presence in the burning bush, he was afraid. When Jacob had his dream of a ladder to heaven, he woke up and said, “Surely the Lord is present in this place and I didn’t know it.” And the Bible says he was filled with awe. Time and again, when people are aware of the presence of God, the Bible describes that experience as one filled with reverence, awe and wonder.
This presence of God’s holiness helps us to understand ourselves and our shortcomings. Then, we are led to seek God’s forgiveness. In Isaiah, the angels sing, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." And immediately, the prophet cries out, “Woe to me! I am unclean!” Here, Isaiah speaks of his own sinfulness. We cannot come into the presence of God without becoming aware of our own ungodliness.
Paul, in his letter to the Romans, says (Rom 3:23), “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And as people who have fallen short of God’s perfection, it is impossible to approach his presence without being aware of our own shortcomings and sins.
That is why in our worship service, a confession of sin is always present. And what happens after our prayer of confession? The Absolution: the declaration of God’s forgiveness of our sin for the sake of Christ. In Isaiah 6, the prophet experiences the holiness of God. This moves him to become aware of his own sinfulness and to admit that sin. That confession leads to the free forgiveness of God’s grace. In Isaiah 6, an angel takes a hot coal and touches the lips of the prophet as a gesture that his sins are forgiven.
We have that same event happen in our worship experience. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from unrighteousness.”
Why do we worship? One reason is to experience the forgiveness of sins. We need to hear the same message the Prophet Isaiah heard. “Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." We need to hear, “Almighty God is his mercy has given his Son to die for you and for his sake forgives all your sin.” We need to hear Christ has atoned for all of our sin through his holy cross and passion.
A final reason we come to worship is so that our lives will be different. And the difference should be in terms of service to others. Worship always motivates the worshipper to roll up the sleeves and to get to work. We enter to worship, but we depart to serve. Worship and service always go hand in hand.
In our Old Testament lesson, the Prophet Isaiah is in the Temple worshipping God. He hears the call to worship, with angels singing “Holy, Holy, Holy.” He is moved to confess his sins, which is followed by the assurance of his pardon. He then hears the voice of God saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"
And what follows now is the service to others. What follows worship is the sharing, the witnessing, the rolling up of sleeves and the reaching out to others. The Prophet Isaiah says, "Here am I. Send me!" True worship will always result in service. We cannot enter the sanctuary without departing into the world to serve. For the prophet Isaiah, he was sent out to speak a message of hope and salvation to others.
But what are we sent out to do? What is the Triune God calling you to do this week? Who is it in your life that you need to love a little more? Who do you know that needs to hear a message of hope and salvation? Who in your family do you need to reach out to a little harder? What God calling you to do this week? What God calls us to do from one week to the next may change, but may our response always be that of Isaiah’s -- “Here I am Lord, send me!” Amen!