Week of March 6: Looking beyond styles to the truest form of worship


By Rev. Doreen Smalls
Lesson scripture: 1Timothy 2:1-6; 3:14-16
There is much conversation surrounding the different styles of worship in the church today. Some prefer contemporary services while others prefer a more traditional worship.  In recent years, emerging and seeker worship services have become popular in some churches.  Although varied styles exist, the type of worship is not what is most important.  The church’s primary focus should be who we worship.    
The truth about the world
The author of Genesis makes it clear that God created the world. God’s love for the world can be traced throughout the books of the Old Testament and the New Testament. God’s love for the world is made clear in this familiar scripture: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).   The truth is that God loves the world and God sent his Son to redeem it.
In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he directs Timothy and the community of faith to pray for the world. Paul explains, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving should be made for everyone” (1Timothy 2:1). Everyone simply means all people.   No one is to be excluded or left out.
In the second verse, the author added, “kings and all those who are in high positions” (1Timothy 2:2).   Paul understood the need to pray for rulers because their decisions directly impacted the people and their communities. Some scholars believe this special focus on kings and others in authority stemmed from the community’s perilous situation within the empire where many believers were facing hostility and persecution. It was the believers’ desire to “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity” (1Timothy 2:2). Furthermore, Paul comprehended that the life of Christian is a life of intercession. Our prayers are not to be limited to personal requests. We should offer prayers on the behalf of others as well.
Paul’s inclusive language regarding prayer is a reflection of the love God has for the world. We often say, “Prayer changes things.”  If we believe this to be true and the world is not what it could be, then we should pray for it. What do you think would happen if the people took seriously Paul’s advice to pray for everyone, including “those who are in high positions?”
The truth about God
The writer declares there is only “one God and one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all – this was attested at the right time. Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is great … ” (1Timothy 1:5, 3:16).  The author reminds the community that there is only one God and one mediator, Jesus Christ. The truth is the only way to be reconciled to God is through His Son, Jesus Christ.  
And the great mystery is the incredible love that God has for humanity. He loved us so much that God came in human form to show us the way to an abundant and eternal life.   I do not understand or explain the depth of God’s love for humanity. But I firmly believe it to be true. That is the great mystery of our Christian faith! It is not a riddle that needs to be solved. It is a truth that should be believed.
In a world full of various doctrines and beliefs, how do you hold onto this “great mystery?”
The truth about ourselves
“When we encounter God in worship, we not only discover the truth about the world and the truth about God, we also discover the truth about ourselves,” says Rev. Kevin Baker, pastor of Reconciliation United Methodist Church in Durham, N.C.   When Jesus met the Samaritan woman, she did not attempt to hide the truth about her past or her present; she simply told Jesus the truth (John 4: 16-25).  When we encounter God, we cannot hide who we really are. We are not perfect people; we are sinners in need of God’s forgiveness, grace and guidance.
Paul tells the congregation, “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:14-15).   Obviously, there were some behaviors among the Christians that were not appropriate or godly, and the same is true for Christians today. We all need to examine our attitudes and actions because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).   
When we worship, we can reveal our true selves and understand that in the midst of our faults and frailties, God still loves us and wants to be in relationship with us. And that is God’s honest truth! When you worship, do you reveal your true self? When was the last time you were true to yourself and true to God?
Rev. Doreen Smalls is an associate director at the Office of Connectional Ministries and she serves as Conference Secretary to Global Ministries. If you have any comments or questions, you may contact her at doreen@sgaumc.com.