Guide for Worship for March 22, 2020

Finding Rest in God

Welcome to worship! Our worship this week focuses on the spiritual practices of surrender and rest in God. As many of us face schedule changes and the alteration of our usual plans, it can be helpful to find consistency in our spiritual practices.

Today we will worship through word, song, reflection, and prayer. Each of these is a distinct and powerful way to engage with the presence of God.

Even in the midst of uncertainty and chaos, God is faithful. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. As we grow in our practices of rest and surrender, we will find that they help us connect with God.

A Mighty Fortress

The text of this ancient hymn reminds us of God’s faithfulness and unchanging nature. “God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.” Despite the difficult things we are facing in this world, God is still present. As you sing along and reflect on this text, seek to trust in God’s steadfast nature.

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing;
Were not the right man on our side,
the man of God’s own choosing;
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabboth, his name, from age to age the same,
And he must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us;
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers,
no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
through Him Who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Psalm 62

Song of Trust in God Alone

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.

He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall never be shaken.

How long will you assail a person,
will you batter your victim, all of you,
as you would a leaning wall, 
   a tottering fence?

Their only plan is to bring down 
    a person of prominence.
They take pleasure in falsehood;
   they bless with their mouths,
but inwardly they curse.      Selah

For God alone my soul waits in silence,
for my hope is from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

On God rests my deliverance and my honor;
my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.      Selah

Those of low estate are but a breath,
those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
they are together lighter than a breath.

10  Put no confidence in extortion,
and set no vain hopes on robbery;
if riches increase, do not set your heart on them.

11  Once God has spoken;
twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,

12  and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord.
For you repay to all according to their work.

Meditation

Listen to the sermon audio using the player above, or click this summary to read the complete text.  An archive of this and other sermons is found on the Yates sermon page.

 

Over the past week, I’ve reflected on the ways churches have redirected their ministries to internet platforms in just a couple days’ time. Some approaches have worked well, and others – well – not so much. I applaud the efforts at engagement. All churches are facing the same challenge, because all our congregations were scattered and our well-laid plans were thrown into the burn pile a week and a half ago!

Deep down, I wonder if the instinctive desire to replicate church as usual online is an effort to self-soothe.  When faced with so much uncertainty, change and loss, it’s a way of saying that our situation can’t be so severe. If church, which never changes, comes to us in the way it always has, then things can’t be too off-center. If we give in to that instinct, though, I don’t think we would be telling the truth. I think this season will be profoundly inspiring and deeply challenging to us individually and as a congregation.  Our lives’ stories are being rewritten and revised right before our eyes, and we don’t even know what we don’t know about what will bring it all to a conclusion.  Now more than ever, we must learn to listen for the still small voice of God calling to us amidst the clamor and alarm.

The very first question Anna, J., Danny and I wrestled with in this new time was “What to do about worship?” After all, this is a once-in-a-generation experience, and the church has an important word to speak. But how?

We had concerns about the popular alternatives:

  • A text message from a friend last week says much about our first worry: “All this is going to break the Internet.” Most churches have not perfected their technological infrastructure to ensure successful, high-quality live streaming. We didn’t want to send out something of poor quality just to say we did it and run the risks that accompany unpracticed technological exercises.
  • Besides, not of all the Yates worshippers readily access Internet resources, and we don’t want to facilitate worship that knowingly excludes some of the beloved community.
  • Also, worship with Yates as we like to do it cannot be accomplished without a congregation in the room. There is something about being together in the same house with the Holy Spirit that cannot be fabricated for live stream.
  • Maybe most importantly, we didn’t want to reinforce the notion that the congregation is an audience, passively viewing Christian worship or, worse, consuming a worship product. When this happens, worship can become an end unto itself that need not look beyond its own ritual and routine. It is quite possible to set ourselves up to worship our worship rather than the One to whom it is intended to point.

We settled on a simpler, broadly-accessible approach for Yates to experience and share worship in unity while maintaining flexibility for each individual, small group or family at home.

I hope all my ruminations about internet worship haven’t distracted you from the important question for today. The pressing question for us is not “How will we do worship?”  The most important question is “What do we say?” For guidance, we turn to the worship book of ancient Israel and take our cue from Psalm 62.

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.” (vv. 1-2) Today we hear a song of surrendered silence before God and God alone. It is a little harder to detect in translation, because the Hebrew is almost untranslatable, but the word rendered “only” or “alone” occurs six times in nine verses! All the repetition sets a tone of special earnestness and provides us with sharp spiritual focus. In the litany of life’s challenges and victories that follows, the Psalm celebrates God’s place at the center of our past, present and future lives. I hope you can hear it echoed in our hymns this morning. The message is direct and simple: do not let your power, or lack of it, erode your trust in God. “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him. God is a refuge for us.” (v. 8)

I can imagine this Psalm being sung when King David sat with authority on his throne, and I can hear it sung when his dynasty was finally destroyed and the people scattered in exile by Babylon. This is a Psalm for the best day you can remember, and one you never wanted to imagine.  In great times and horrible ones, Psalm 62 calls God’s people to incline their lives again toward the One who calls them to worship.

We are called to worship because that is how we celebrate being at home with God – at home with God, no matter where our lives are situated. I don’t know where you are today, or even how you are. Take heart!  In worship, we celebrate that God is with us in a powerful and loving way. It is a glimpse, in concentrated form, of God’s enduring presence with us at all times and in all places.  Worship directs our whole lives toward God who is already present with us.

In our silent surrender, worship trains hearts and minds to perceive God’s presence, hear God’s Word and receive the Spiritual gifts to build up one another and share with a hurting world. We all, together, worship as the body of Christ. Christ, who in silent surrender gave his very life to bear God’s transforming love to us with resurrection power, for Wuhan, for Vo Euganeo and for Durham: “Power belongs to God, and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord.” (vv. 11-12)

I encourage you to rest in that word as you worship today.  Then begin to act on it.  How?  Well, that is up to you.  Look around. Be creative. In times like these, creativity might be the best thing we’ve got to work with.

My Soul Finds Rest in God Alone

In a season where praise may be difficult, we seek to remember that God alone deserves our praises. God is “everlasting, never failing” even in the midst of challenging circumstances. If these words are too hard to sing right now, that is okay. Use this time to reflect on this text and bring your honest, whole self to God. Seek to find rest in God’s presence.

My soul finds rest in God alone
My Rock and my salvation;
A fortress strong against my foes,
And I will not be shaken.
Though lips may bless and hearts may curse,
And lies like arrows pierce me,
I’ll fix my heart on righteousness,
I’ll look to Him who hears me.

O praise Him, hallelujah,
My Delight and my reward;
Everlasting, never failing,
My Redeemer, my God.

Find rest, my soul, in God alone
Amid the world’s temptations;
When evil seeks to take a hold
I’ll cling to my salvation.
Though riches come and riches go,
Don’t set your heart upon them;
The fields of hope in which I sow
Are harvested in heaven.

O praise Him, hallelujah,
My Delight and my reward;
Everlasting, never failing,
My Redeemer, my God.

I’ll set my gaze on God alone
And trust in Him completely;
With every day pour out my soul
And He will prove His mercy.
Though life is but a fleeting breath,
A sigh too brief to measure,
My King has crushed the curse of death
And I am His forever.

O praise Him, hallelujah,
My Delight and my reward;
Everlasting, never failing,
My Redeemer, my God.

Experiential Prayer for children and adults

Supplies: playdough or pen and paper

Link to make your own playdough:
https://www.familyeducation.com/fun/playdough/play-doh-recipes

Today we will practice praying through a kinetic experience. Begin your time of prayer by gathering either a tub of playdough or a pen and paper for each person. You are invited to move through each portion of the prayer at your own pace; using what is helpful and leaving what is not. Feel free to expand on a section as you desire. Let us now enter a time of prayer together.

Form your playdough into the first initial of your name (or draw on paper). While doing this:

      • Thank God for the good things in your life
      • Ask God to help you with the hard things
      • Pray for anything else you need to pray for today

Make your playdough into a heart.

      • Pray for your family and friends
      • Pray for people who are sick or sad

Make your playdough into a church– the Yates church or wherever is church to you right now.

      • Pray for the members and leaders of your church
      • Pray for the members who might be scared or lonely right now

Form your playdough into a ball.

      • Pray for our world
      • Thank God for creation
      • Pray for all the people in the world 
      • Pray for us and others to better care for God’s world

Form playdough into a cross.

      • Thank God for God’s love and care for you and others
      • Ask God to show you how to love and care for others
      • Pray that everyone will know much God loves them

Dear Lord, hear our prayers. Amen

Click here to visit last week’s worship experience (March 15, 2020)