Sermon in a nutshell: Matthew 23:29-39
We have reflected upon the nature of our church, comparing two different questions:
- How can I win this game? (Self-centered, Win/Lose paradigm)
- How can we live together? (Relationship building, Win/Win paradigm)
The first question is asked when we operate in the human made organizations. The second question should be asked in God-created institutions. They also guide the human-made organization.
Worship is the time when we make the transition from the first question to the second question. In worship we do not ask such questions, “What about me?” “What is there for me?” or “What is good for me?” The fundamental worship experience is described in the book of Isaiah 6:1-8.
- Isaiah experienced God’s glory: In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
- Then Isaiah confessed that he is just a sinner with unclean lips: 5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
- Then Isaiah experienced God’s forgiving Grace:6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
- Finally Isaiah responded to God’s Grace and Calling with commitment: 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
These four series of transitions should happen in our worship service. Our music, sermon, liturgies, and commitment should contribute to one of the four essential components of worship. There is no “ME.” Whether it is contemporary or traditional it is not for “ME” but only for “God.”
In today’s Bible passage, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and the religious leaders because they were concerned only for themselves. Jesus lamented for Jerusalem because the people there did not experience God’s glory and God’s forgiving Grace. So they could not confess their sins and make their commitment to God.
Jesus mentioned “the blood of righteous Abel” and “the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah.” Both of them died after they worshipped God. Cain, Able’s brother, killed Abel out of jealousy. When Abel worshipped God, he was self-centered. When his gift was not accepted God, he was mad and angry because worship was not God-centered but Me-centered. When God rejects our dedication we should reexamine ourselves before we become angry against God and mad at our brothers and sisters.
Zechariah son of Berekiah is the author of the Old Testament book of Zechariah. The theme and message of the book of Zechariah is the message of Hope, Salvation, and Repentance. However, his hope was Messianic hope and his repentance required purity. Zechariah pleaded people to purify them from ritual and moral sins to prepare the coming of the Messiah. That was a traditional prophetic message centering on God’s Glory. However, “ME” centered people could not accept it and killed him in the temple.
Even though the Old Testament does not describe his death at the temple, it must be a common knowledge at Jesus’ time that he was murdered at the Second Temple that Zerrubbabel built (BC 515). Abel died at the first altar that humans built. Zechariah son of Berekiah was murdered at the second Temple as another Zechariah the son of Jehoiada was killed in the first Temple built by Solomon (2 Chronicles 24:20). Now, is Jesus going to die at the Third Temple that Herod is still building?
If people repent and restore the true worship, centering on God’s Glory, they will accept Jesus, the Son of God as the Lord and worship Him. However, if people keep the ME-centered attitude and refuse worshipping God, they would kill Jesus as they killed prophets and priests in the past. Now they did kill Jesus on the Cross. Actually Jesus voluntarily died on the Cross to save us, inviting us to repent and experience God’s saving Grace. Would you accept this invitation and follow him?
- When helps you to experience God’s glory in our worship?
- What would be your response to God’s saving Grace? What would be your commitment?