A thought for worship…Worship Preparation
[T]he moment had come.
It was finally here.
He looked around and saw the crowds, and he knew the time had come.
This was it.
“And seeing the multitudes, he went up on a mountain, and when he was seated his disciples came to him.”
“He went up on a mountain.” Oh, what a great writer you are, my Father. The first time around, when you came down to us, to give us instructions on how to live, how to walk through life, you came to a mountain. It was on a holy, untouchable mountain that you gave Moses that first law, that first covenant. You don’t want us to miss the importance of what your Son does now, do you?
He is to bring us the new law, the instructions of how to live, how to walk through this life, under the new covenant. In the New Kingdom.
Jesus knows the significance of the moment. Is this the first time He will speak to a crowd this size? I love that Your word tells us that when he looks upon the masses of us, that what he sees is hurting sheep. What he feels is compassion. What he longs to do is gather us in and soothe our hurting, lost souls. For we like sheep have gone astray…
I wonder if you could have heard a pin drop. I wonder if in that moment, when he goes up on the mountain and takes a seat, if the masses recognize the significance of the place, of his posture. Was there immediate quiet: their thirsty souls eager to drink up the very first words and every drop thereafter of the living water he is about to share? Or is it chaos? Is there a cacophony of sound because a group of undisciplined sheep is bleating their need for a shepherd? Does the silence come only after he starts talking, and the balm starts to seep into their ears and coat the open wounds of their souls.
Imagine with me, imagine yourself there. Imagine your hunger, your intense curiosity at how he will begin. This man with supernatural powers; this man who has performed miracles; this man who has drawn a crowd; this man they say may be The Messiah…What will he say first?
I imagine Jesus’s deep breath before he speaks. What will he say first? How does he introduce this New Kingdom, the good news that He has been born to share? He wants the sheep to hear his voice and come in. He doesn’t want to frighten them further; he doesn’t want to scare them away. How will he introduce the Kingdom?
He takes a deep breath, he looks out through eyes of love. He projects his voice loudly, but gently, over the sheep…
(Are you thirsty for His opening words? His introduction to The Kingdom?)
“Blessed are the poor in Spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
What did he just say? Did he just say the kingdom is for the poor in spirit? Wait a minute…Isn’t there a long list of rules, of complicated legal forms and perfection that must be attained to even begin the process of changing my citizenship to this new kingdom? Poor in spirit? That’s me. I want to hear more…
“You are royalty if you are spiritually poor. If your spirit is low, you HAVE royal blood. The Kingdom belongs to you.
Are you sad today? You are my kind of person if you are deeply mourning something. And not only that, but guess what? In my kingdom you will find the comfort you seek. I promise you that.
You are awesome if you are a little bit shy, if you shy away from confrontation and seek a quiet life. You have a huge inheritance coming. Yes, huge. The whole earth.
Oh come near, come near me my people if you crave righteousness! If you want to please God but find it so hard to follow all the old laws and get so discouraged with yourself that you mess us LEFT and RIGHT. I love you. And even better, I am going to fill your cravings.
You are an important part of this New Kingdom if you just love to forgive people and let them go on their merry way. If you just have a hard time holding grudges and just want to live peaceably instead. You are going to find mercy for yourself in this Kingdom.
You are my kind of people if you have a pure heart, unstained by this world. If you are as good as gold on the inside, I am telling you today that you WILL SEE GOD. You will see Him with your eyes. He wants to be seen by you.
I am telling you that you are awesome and worthy if you make peace. If you just hate to see an argument and you just get in there and try to calm everybody down. You are so worthy that I’m telling you, you are God’s sons. That’s right. Princes and Princesses of the King. Royalty.
You are Kingdom people, you are blessed, you are specially anointed, if you are mistreated for the sake of doing right. If you get left out, if you get slandered, if people are downright mean to you, you get some very special blessings coming your way from me and from My Father. You get the Kingdom. You may lose a few friends here, but you get a whole Kingdom. Imagine your crown and your castle and your feasts right now.
Get excited! Be happy! Be joyful! Oh boy, what you’ve got coming to you!! I wish I could describe it to you, but you’re gonna have to trust me. It is SO GOOD what you have coming!
I love how Jesus introduces the New Kingdom. I love how he draws in the hurting, the simple, the mourners, the hungry, the thirsty. I love his promises to soothe, to fill, to comfort, to give grace, to see God. I thirst to be described as pure in heart, as merciful. I am challenged. But mostly I am warmed and soothed. I have found my shepherd, and my heart sings out!
I pray you find comfort in these words, or maybe a slightly new perspective in my paraphrase. Go back and read the life-giving words yourself (Matthew 5). They are better than my paraphrase any day.
I pray it gives your heart a renewed hunger for worship to Jesus and God our Father tomorrow.
I pray when you look around your congregation at the people who have taken the time and energy to be there for worship, that your eyes will be blind to the external appearance – to the new clothes, to the nice cars, to the fancy bags. I pray those will be completely invisible to you and you will see sheep. Confused, chaotic sheep who find peace and order in the presence of their Shepherd. Sheep who have come to drink up living water and pour out songs of praise to the Shepherd who has led them safely through the week. I pray you will see the components of the Kingdom that Jesus describes: you will see a collection of the poor in spirit, the mourning, the meek, the hungry and thirsty, the sinners who mess up RIGHT and LEFT, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted.
I pray we may rejoice together and be exceedingly glad, reminding each other of our GREAT REWARD in heaven!
“I just want to be a sheep, baa baa baa baa…”
Heavenly Father ,
We long to be in your presence, and we love to start our week gathered together: your sheep who are ever grateful for the goodness of our Shepherd. Please, Father, may your Spirit give us single-minded focus as we pour out our hearts to you. Let us worship for an audience of ONE. For we know that when we are pouring ourselves out as a drink offering to you, that it can’t help but edify those around us. It can’t help but move us and inspire us. For those are the natural by-products. Help us to remember the goal in worship is to GIVE, to POUR OUT. And it is only then, ONLY THEN, that we can receive from worship. What a great gift that you give to us – to fill us up even as we empty ourselves unto you! May we please you with our offerings to you tomorrow. Prepare us for it today, Lord God.
In the beautiful, precious, Holy Name Above All Names, Jesus Christ; Amen.