The Nature of Worship
John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.
Jesus is conversing with the Samaritan woman. There were sharp disagreements between the Jews and the Samaritans and this included the place of worship. Jesus’ words are both prophetic and evangelistic. Because of his action in the world there is already and will be a new way to worship God. No longer will it be necessary to go to Jerusalem to worship in the temple made by human hands because “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” The good news for her was that the nature of worship was much more important than the place of worship. This woman — a Samaritan who had been married multiple times and did not have a good reputation — would have access to the throne room of God because the nature of worship would be radically changed for those who lived in the Spirit.
Jesus was breaking down every possible obstacle to this woman’s worship of the Father. She had everything stacked against her and yet, Jesus, was able to break down those barriers. He is a model for us and an example of how we are to be engaged in reaching our world for him.
This begs the question as to whether we have created too many barriers to our worship. Yes, there are those who have worked hard to make “seeker sensitive” services, but is that really the place where the barriers need to be removed? I would argue that the barriers that Jesus removed for this woman had everything with the nature of worship and providing a pathway for her participation. He was sitting at the well talking to her and showing her the way right at the point of her deepest need. The pathway to worship was initiated not by what happened at the temple, but by his going out and meeting a needy woman at a well in the middle of the day.
I think it’s possible that we have spent much time and energy trying to make the type of worship that practice in church the place where the barriers come done and possibly in doing so, we have watered down the true nature of worship. I don’t think the barriers are found in church but are found in us! We are afraid to go to the woman who is at the well in the middle of the day — the unfavorable person with whom no one wants to speak. It’s easy to try and change the worship service and hope people will come — but it’s much harder to go to the sinner’s hang-out and lead them by the hand into the very nature of worship.
Jesus knew how to do this because he knew how to be intimate with God. It could be that we are simply so unfamiliar with intimacy with God that we don’t know how to lead anyone else to that place. We must first personally discover the nature of worship before we can lead anyone else there.
The invitation is to worship the Father in spirit and truth. This is the nature of worship which the Father desires from you and from me. Let’s begin in that space and then reach out following the model of Christ to lead others in the same direction.
Lord, may I faithfully serve you and worship you. Amen.
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