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Jun 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 26, 2019


Psalm 147
Praise the LORD!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
The LORD builds up Jerusalem;

he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted

and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;

he gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;

his understanding is beyond measure.
The LORD lifts up the humble;

he casts the wicked to the ground.
. . . .

Intro: C. S. Lewis, book, Reflections On the Psalms is short but insightful
– he addresses some of difficulties modern readers have with the Psalms
• in the introduction he said,
“Most emphatically the Psalms must be read as poems; as lyrics, with all the licences and all the formalities, the hyperboles, the emotional rather than logical connections, which are proper to lyric poetry. They must be read as poetry if they are to be understood . . . . Otherwise we shall miss what is in them and think we see what is not there.”
– I chose Psalm 147 because I want to talk about worship
• but first, a little history

In 1975, a home Bible study I taught for two years became a church
– Calvary Chapel of Dana Point (now Capo Beach Church)
• when we started meeting Sundays, I knew how to “do church”
◦ I wore a suit and tie and we sang hymns
(accompanied by an organ and piano)
◦ in our home meetings, one person with a guitar led songs
• one night I realized our music and prayers had become stale
◦ it wasn’t what I felt worship should be
◦ it got so bad, one night I got a strong impression that God’s Spirit was about to leave the building
– I talked with our song leader until I had him completely frustrated
• one time, exasperated with me, he asked, “What is worship, anyway?”
• “I don’t know,” I answered, “but this is not it!”

Around that time, I asked my friend Jack, a church consultant,
– to help me develop a better organizational structure for our church
• we went over staff, finances, facilities, and our various programs
• after spending a couple months covering all the business items,
◦ he asked if there was any other area that needed help
◦ I couldn’t think of anything at first, but he kept prodding
◦ finally I said, “Well, our time of worship sucks”
– Jack invited me to his church, Calvary Chapel of Yorba Linda
(which later became The Yorba Linda Vineyard)
• at first I declined, I had lots of exposure to Charismatic worship
◦ and it did not interest me
◦ he said, “This is different. I think it’s what you’re looking for”
• so the following Sunday I went
◦ and for the first times in years, I experienced God in worship
◦ I also began mourning over the death of worship in our church

The following week I gathered the elders and church staff and told them
– for the next month we were shutting down all our programs
• no men’s group, no women’s prayer meetings, no youth meetings, etc.
• also, they were to visit the Yorba Linda church on a Sunday night
– on Sunday mornings I began teaching through the Bible,
• examining everything it had to say about worship
– Rick Founds and Todd Collins had recently been attending our church
• they had been singing before Christian audiences for many years
◦ I asked them to consider leading worship for us
◦ we would borrow the music and format of the Yorba Linda church
• they agreed, so we prayed over them and the change was underway

We soon experienced the most important turning point in our history
– our little community came alive
• we were a more vibrant and healthier group of believers
• we expected God to show up every time we worshiped
– I felt that if we invited people into that environment of worship,
• they would experience God and be moved to open their hearts to him
◦ we kept the focus on God
◦ we emphasized the importance of the Spirit’s inspiration
◦ we sought to develop music that was our own
(the kind we enjoyed listening to when not singing “church music”)
◦ and we wanted to make our music the best possible quality
• in time, that form of worship became our “tradition”
◦ and like most traditions, people developed a loyalty to its form
◦ there were other problems as well

I still believe in the essence of what we did, but its form was not perfect
– some parts of worship were missing and other ingredients were added
• creative artists need freedom to exercise their gifts
◦ however, if the music gets too complicated or too excellent,
◦ it tends to draw attention to itself and become and entertain
◦ it performs for an audience rather that create participants
• music is unique in the way it reaches and stirs emotions
◦ such is its value in engaging the whole person
◦ but worship must reach deeper than emotions to affect change
◦ people may assume their experience was spiritual when it was only emotional
. . . [your people] say to one another . . ., “Come, and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.” And the come to your as people come, and they sit before you as my people . . . behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it (Ezek. 33:30-32)
– music was an add-on to Israel’s worship centuries after Moses
• music was King David’s innovation (1 Chr. 15:15-16; 2 Chr. 23:18)
• some Christians think worship is the musical part of the service
◦ music is important, but it is not everything

For awhile, I’ve been wondering what worship looks like for us

Perhaps the first question to ask, is what are we missing?
– Psalm 147 does not tell us everything we need to know
• but it does contain some important elements
– I see the poem as an R.S.V.P. (respond if you please)
• its structured pattern is obvious, and repeats three times:
an invitation (or imperative)
Praise the LORD (v. 1)
Sing to the LORD (v. 7)
Praise the LORD (v. 12)
reasons are given (note the verbs — what he does)
The LORD builds up . . . gathers . . . heals . . . etc. (vv. 2-4)
He covers the heavens . . . prepares rain . . . etc. (vv. 8-9)
For he strengthens . . . he blesses . . . etc. (vv. 13-19)
▫ what he does for the nation, the person, and in nature
▫ from healing broken hearts to giving names to the stars
an observation is made (regarding God, especially who he is)
Great is our Lord . . . (v. 5)
His delight is not in the strength of the horse . . . (vv. 10-11)
He has not dealt thus with any other nation (v. 20)

Worship celebrates our everyday environment

He determines the number of the stars;
He gives to all of them their names. (v. 4)
He covers the heavens with clouds;
he prepares rain for the earth;
he makes grass grow on the hills.
He gives to the beasts their food,
and to the young ravens that cry (vv. 8-9)

Most of us know how close God feels in mountains and forests
– something catches our attention — a sight, sound or scent
• as we observe and enjoy, thoughts come to us
◦ if we remain aware, we begin to see more
◦ our experience goes beyond the thing that is seen to its Creator
• it is quite natural for a prayer or sense of gratitude to stir within is
◦ these are the initial inner movements of worship
– it’s possible to develop a sensitivity to God as his presence is revealed in the world,
• so that ordinary things begin to speak to us
• a bar of soap or a table set for dinner

Praise the LORD!
Sing to the LORD
Praise the LORD

Creating rituals can help us develop a habit of noticing
– Sue Johnson encourages couples to turn small gestures into rituals
• rituals that tell the other person, “You matter to me”
She says, “Rituals are an important part of belonging. They are repeated, intentional ceremonies that recognize a special time or connection. Rituals engage us, emotionally and physically [I would add, spiritually], so that we become riveted to the present moment in a positive way.”
• last week we saw that Jesus ritualized his greeting when he met with his disciples
◦ three times he greeted them with, Peace be with you
◦ Paul encouraged Christians to ritualize their hellos and goodbyes
Greet one another with a holy kiss (1 Cor. 16:20)
– Brother Lawrence, in Practice the Presence of God,
• encourages us to do every chore “for the love of God”
• and to say this to ourselves as we go about our day
◦ for him it may have been, “I am washing and peeling these potatoes for the love of God”

Worship is enhanced by music

Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre (v. 7)

Neuroscientist and psychobiologist, Jaak Panksepp, encouraged therapists to use music to stimulate “the rhythmic motor impulses of the body.” He noted that “Marathon organizers, recognizing the power of such motor rhythm facilitators, are beginning to ban iPods so that music listeners will not have undue advantages over the silent plodders. Clearly, music and the other arts need to be incorporated into all therapies that are clearly concerned with the human spirit.”
– we enhance the potential of worship to be a source of healing when we sing our prayers, praise and thanksgiving

Worship fulfills one of God’s purposes for our lives

It is not the sole purpose for our lives, but it is a central purpose

Paul wrote, Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thes. 5:16-18)

In heaven, angels and saints sing to God,
Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things
and by your will they existed and were created
(Rev. 4:11)

– worship is not what we do in church
• it is how we live every day of our lives

Conclusion: Would you consider writing yourself a reminder

To consider ways that worship can become a way of life

And pray for Reflexion,
– that God will reveal to us our own unique expression of worship
• an expression that shares rituals in common with all Christians
• and at the same time has the flavor and aroma
of our own, unique spiritual community

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