Bible Readings: John 4:1-42
Free Resources: Come to the Well (Cross+Gen Worship)
Unit Theme (January 28—February 11): Invitation to Abundant Life
Given that I own a company called Spirit and Truth Publishing, it may not be surprising that this story has a special place in my life. My first product was a curriculum about teaching elementary-aged students about the meaning of worship. With this focus, I named the curriculum Spirit and Truth: Teaching Kids the Heart of Worship. This began with identifying a problem, the fact that children (or others) are not taught the meaning of the liturgies and language we often use in worship, so it’s not surprising if they can’t pay attention or understand what they’re doing. Even when I expanded to include products for the Narrative Lectionary, my focus has still been to support participation in worship, specifically our corporate worship services.
A Conversation on Worship
Jesus and the Samaritan woman begin their conversation with the topic of water. As is typical in John’s Gospel, they started with physical water and moving quickly to water as a spiritual metaphor. This leaves the woman behind, who is now thinking of how handy it would be to never need to draw water again. A brief interlude about her marital history convinces the woman that Jesus is a prophet, so she asks a question that probably has been wearing on her for a long time. One of the several issues that divided the Jewish and Samaritan neighbors is the issue of worship. Specifically, where is the right location. I think the question hidden in her statement is this: okay, so you obviously have a direct link to God. So, which one of us is right, the Jews or us?
Jesus takes her “question” about the physical and changes it to the spiritual. A major change is coming; soon it won’t matter where you worship, but how you do it. God wants people to worship “in spirit and truth.” But, what does that mean?
Worship in Truth
Worship is an action. It’s about doing something, and it involves something physical. The Greek word used here specifically refers to someone bowing down or prostrating themselves, clearly out of reverence. But, as with any physical activity, it’s possible to go through the motions of “bowing down” and forgetting the “out of reverence” part. God has never had time for empty worship.
On one level, true worship is the opposite of empty worship. It is the act of worship performed as our reverent reaction to God’s love. In fact, the definition of “worship” I use in all our products is: Worship is any action where we show our love to God for all that God has done for us. Actions, whether ritualized or spontaneous, are important, but it is the motivation based on God’s marvelous gifts to us that is essential.
Worship in Spirit
Worship is a spiritual act as well. I think this has a double meaning, “worshipping in (the) Spirit,” and “worshipping in spirit.” We have been graciously given the Spirit of God who empowers us to love God and love our neighbors. This Spirit helps us to pray and to worship. And, I don’t know about you, but I need all the help I can get.
God also calls for us to worship in spirit, worship with our most inward self, the essence of who we are. This is worship where we are loving God “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). This is to love God, to worship God with everything we have, with who we are.
How to Worship
Worship is a spiritual act, but it’s still a physical one as well. It’s an experience that we plan and implement every week in our corporate worship services. We can’t make people worship with their inmost being, but we can lead worship that makes it easier. I call this “vibrant worship” (for now at least). This worship has four main characteristics: it is welcoming, engaging, participatory, and relational.
Vibrant worship is designed in such a way to help everyone:
- Feel welcome in this time and space.
- Engage in worship through their senses and unique learning styles.
- Actively participate in the service within their comfort level.
- Start building relationships with each other, especially across generational or other divides.
If you want to learn more about vibrant worship and how to incorporate these principles into your worship services, contact me to discuss setting up a workshop in your area!
For your more immediate needs, download our free resource this week, a Living the Word: Cross+Gen Worship activity called, “Come to the Well,” which can help your worship (or other faith formation experiences) to be more vibrant!
-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!
Image Copyright: enterline / 123RF Stock Photo