For the last three weeks I have been using this time of exhortation to define for us what we mean when we say that we worship Jesus. We have defined Christian worship as “our all-of-life response, empowered by the gospel of Jesus, to who God is and what he has done.” For the last three weeks, my aim has been to help us see that worship is not simply an activity that we do at church for an hour and a half on Sunday mornings, but that we are at all times and in all places worshipping whatever it is that we most deeply desire. Everyone one of us has some imagined vision of “the good life”, and the thoughts, decisions, and actions we take to achieve that vision are our acts of worship. That said, what is the role of corporate worship in shaping our deepest desires? My answer is that corporate worship is intended to re-captivate our hearts and imaginations with the reality that Jesus himself is the good life.
Every waking moment, we are immersed in competing narratives about what is most desirable. From conversations in our workplaces, to the advertisements we see, to the sitcoms we enjoy, we are inundated with stories that have a tendency, even at a subconscious level, to tickle our ears and capture our imaginations. And over time it can lead our hearts to fall in love with alternative stories to the gospel of Jesus. In fact, for all of us, our hearts are much like the clock on my stove - the one that runs on a 58 second minute, which I don’t realize is off until a month later when it’s seven minutes ahead of my watch. This is why we desperately need corporate worship; because corporate worship is the Big Ben Clock Tower by which we check our hearts to make sure they are in-sync with the gospel story.
Every Sunday at Cities, corporate worship consists of rehearsing the gospel with the prayer that our hearts would be re-captivated by it. We call this rehearsal our liturgy, which consists of five C’s.
Call to Worship
Every week we start our services recalling the fact that it is God who has initiated a relationship with us. It is he who created us and it is he who freely chose to make himself known to us. He has called us from our spiritual slumber to awaken to him, and, remarkably, he is glad to have us.
Confession of Sin
In view of God’s holiness, we are reminded that we have disobeyed him, both in the things we have done and the things we have not done. Every week, we remember our sins against him and our need for forgiveness. And every week, in response to the confession of our sins, we are assured that because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus all of our sins are wholly forgiven!
Every week we listen with both our minds and our hearts to God in the preaching of his word that, by the Spirit’s help, our thoughts and desires would be conformed to God’s own thoughts and desires.
Every week we share a meal at the table with King Jesus. We experience through touch, taste, and smell the body of Jesus given for us and his blood poured out for us. Being united around one table, we remember that we all – the rich and poor, young and old, black, brown, and white – have been fully reconciled to God and to one another through Jesus.
Every week we are reminded that as worshippers of Jesus we are sent out by his authority and with the assurance of his continual presence to make him known by proclaiming his gospel and teaching all he has taught us.
Because worship is not only a matter of right thinking, but also of right desiring, worshipping Jesus is almost caught more than taught. Therefore, week in and week out, as we each participate in the rehearsal of this story we start to dig deeper and deeper tracks for our hearts and minds to run on. This is the goal of doing the same liturgy and rehearsing the same story every week; that the gospel would be come so familiar to us that every morning we wake up we would realize that God has called us to worship by giving us another day of life; that every time we sin, we would remember to confess and be assured that Jesus stands to forgive us; that our ears would be tuned to treasure God’s word more than gold and riches; that when we feel alone we would remember our union to Jesus and his people; and that when we feel purposeless, we would remember that Jesus has given eternal significance to our lives and work by commissioning us to make him known in all that we say and do. We gather every Sunday because we believe that corporate worship shapes our hearts to love and desire Jesus as we are once again caught up in and re-captivated by the greatest story ever told.