Sunday, October 01, 2017

Sermon: The Ways of Worship

         Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi
         Rather loosely translated: “the way we worship, is the way we believe, is the way we live.”
         Our belief and our very way of being in the world, are shaped by what we do in worship. This may be why most conflicts in church involve the so called “worship wars.”
It is also why some of us are feeling a little tense here at St. Stephen. After 47 years of music done one way by one person, it is now being done a slightly different way, by a different person
—no matter how good it is, and let me tell you it is good
—it is different, and is shaping our life together differently. 
We’re in a re-calibration period
if you make this motion with your smartphone () you’ve just recalibrated where up, down, left, and right are for Googlemaps… 
so too here in worship we’re figuring out where up, down, left, and right are today—and that’s a big deal, it shapes our way of belief and way of life.
Let us pray,

         “the way we worship, is the way we believe, is the way we live.”
         I bring all of this up today—because we find in Paul’s letter to the Philippians one of the earliest Christian hymns. Paul is describing how the community at Philippi ought to live together (Lex Vivendi)—he’s describing the Christian life as loving, harmonious, Christ seeking—avoiding selfishness and embracing humility, looking out for the best interest of other people—having the mind of Christ!
         At which point, Paul has painted himself into a corner—He may have asked himself, “what does that look like in an emotional, experiential—clear, way?” 
… and then like a thunder bolt, he bellows forth this Hymn to Christ—a song he assumes everyone in the congregation he is writing to would know, because they’ve used it in worship…
         It would be like if I was writing a letter to a community that needs to know they are loved, and I just couldn’t give words to that reality—and I swept into that familiar song, “Jesus loves me this I know.”

         This song Paul quotes in verses 6-11, sings about Jesus being so deeply in love with the world that he would accept all humiliations, to re-unite God and the Cosmos, the Creator and the Creation.
He gave up his grip on Godhood, so he would have no advantage
Emptied himself of all except humanity, becoming mortal
Showed us true servanthood and humility
Died a death like ours, even execution with criminals.

And God lifted him up, and saw fit to offer him favor
Giving him the name at which all knees bow in honor
“Jesus is Lord” the confession on every tongue
With this worship all worlds—top to bottom and everything in between—give Glory to God!
         And today, as we worship, with critters and pictures of critters here and there, we do so:
Not because it is cute—though it is.
Not because it encourages visitors—though it does.

But because it is telling that story, that Jesus loves this world so deeply, 
not just those who avoid criminal execution, 
not just those of able body or mind who are living well,
not just those who are high and mighty—bold and brash
—no… heaven, earth, even those things below
—all of creation cared for, blessed
—Jesus Christ in the flesh here for ALL of us! 
For critters and people, habitation and habitat, 
the smallest quark and the largest galaxy, and even all potential universes. 
Christ comes to enfold them all, us all, in God’s loving arms.

         And as we live our lives, let us trust that:
God is among the humble—those unnoticed by the world.
God is there in the midst of death—I know I can’t get those images of grave devastation in Puerto Rico off my mind… God is there in that.
God is dying with the executed, and everyone else as well… Dying for all the world, that all the world might live in God!

And as you trust these thing to be true, may God enable you both to will and to work for God’s good pleasure. A+A