During the “middle” Sundays of this year’s Epiphany season (January 17, 24, and 31, 2016), St. Mark’s is offering a three-week sermon series that focuses on the congregation’s three-part mission statement:  Glorify God,  Grow in Grace, and  Go with the Gospel. This is the first sermon in the series.
Sermon Series Title: St. Mark’s, Rise to Your Mission!
WORSHIP IS ALL ABOUT THE WORD
Text: Colossians 3:16
Service Video (sermon starts at 24:30)
Nearly a dozen years ago, when my wife and I had just one child who was then a less-than-one-year-old baby, we took a vacation for about a week to Yosemite National Park. We stayed in a cabin just outside the park’s borders; there were three other units in this set of cabins, and we exchanged some pleasantries every so often with the people who were staying in the other cabins. Sunday morning came around, and since there were no congregations of our fellowship near us, worship consisted of a family devotion instead of a church service. As I stepped outside our cabin that morning, I told one of the neighbors how strange it felt for me, as a pastor, to not be in church for worship on a Sunday morning. He responded to my comment, looking up at nature’s beautiful scenery around us, and saying, “Well, this is a great church! You can worship God anywhere!”
True or false: You can worship God anywhere. Like many good true/false questions, the answer to that question depends; it depends what you mean by the word worship. Like many other words in our language, the word worship can refer to more than one activity. Let me give you an example before we answer the question. Right now my Sunday morning Bible class is studying Roman Catholicism. The word catholic is another word that can mean more than one thing. Catholic can mean universal, something that Christians have done around the world and over the span of many centuries. Catholic can also mean something that is associated with the Roman Catholic Church. As Lutherans, we have no problem with activities that are universal catholic, like speaking the Nicene Creed after the sermon. And as Lutherans, we do have an issue with things that are catholic, that is, uniquely Roman Catholic, such as praying to the saints when Scripture directs us to pray to the Triune God alone. So Lutherans are catholic and not Catholic at the same time, because the word means two different things.
True or false: You can worship God anywhere. It depends on what you mean by the word worship. Worship can refer to the way Christians live their lives to honor God by all that they do. In that case, yes, you can worship God anywhere—in fact, we’ll want to worship him everywhere! But the word worship also refers to the regular, usually weekly gathering of Christians around the Word of God and the Sacraments. I can read the Bible on my own, but it would be difficult to hear it read and applied to my life without connecting to some type of larger gathering of Christians; and I will certainly have a difficult time receiving the Lord’s Supper unless I’m connected to a larger gathering of Christians. That sense of worship is something I cannot do on my own; I need to be with other Christians, just as the Bible encourages us: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 11:25, NIV84).
Today we are beginning a three-part sermon series that will consider the three-part mission statement of St. Mark’s that is printed on the large banner in the gym and is now on display on the wall in the back of church. That three-part mission statement states that St. Mark’s congregation exists to  glorify God,  grow in grace, and  go with the gospel. Today we will examine the first part of that statement, to glorify God—which is just another way of saying that we gather to worship him. Just as worship in daily life is different than worship as a group of believers gathered in God’s house, so the expression, glorify God, means one thing in daily life and another thing as a group of believers gathered together in God’s house. The two terms are basically interchangeable. So we will learn more about what it means to glorify God as a Christian assembly as we study Colossians 3:16 in depth today, and learn from St. Paul that our public worship is all about the Word. Read More…