The Wednesday Word Devotional
Due to the Labor Day Holiday, we will not have a podcast today.
Our devotional is a reprint from September 8, 2021.
Acts 2: 42-46
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Last weekend, Geri and I hosted a youth retreat at our Zion property. Twenty-four people spent the weekend together. It was wonderful. The weekend included activities like swimming and paddle boarding (at Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort) short hikes, visiting, lots of great food (thank you Geri!), and of course times for devotionals. During the devotional times, we sang, prayed, listened to prepared devotionals and spent time writing “affirmations” to give to each other as a way of offering blessings.
As I think about our devotional times, I am reminded of the simplicity of early church worship. While the Bible does not describe worship services, as we read through the New Testament, we can see the components of worship. Congregations during the early years of the church met in homes for worship and fellowship. Services included singing hymns and songs of praise, prayer, scripture, preaching and sacraments. The structure of the service was informal and certainly not confined to an hour like our services tend to be. But much of what was important to early church worship continues to be important today.
Our worship service contains many different components, and for good reason. As you think about our services, which part(s) of the services are most meaningful to you and why? For some Christians, the music is most important, for others it is the sacrament of communion that is most meaningful, while for many the sermon is central to the worship experience. I have always loved hearing scripture and a good sermon (one that helps me experience something of the truth that comes from the scripture). One of my favorite memories of worship took place about 15 years ago at Annual Conference. Rev. Sharon Ragland was the preacher and she preached on one of the most difficult New Testament passages there is—the story of the Syrophoenician woman who told Jesus “Even the dogs get the crumbs under the table.” The occasion was the 50th anniversary of full ordination rites for women, and the sermon literally brought me to tears.
Can you remember a sermon that made a big impact upon your faith? If so, who was the preacher, and what was the sermon about?
As I think back upon the worship service during which Sharon preached, I can see that the service intended to lead people to give thanks to God while welling up within us a continued commitment to social justice. A meaningful service is one that helps people experience something of the truth of the God we worship.
Of course, the worship leaders were not the only people who had hopes for the worship service. Worshippers had hopes too. During last Sunday’s sermon I asked you what you expect during worship. Take a moment to think about the question. In the experience of worship, what do you hope will happen?
There are lots of answers to the question. And how we answer that question can certainly change depending upon what is going on in our lives. God meets us in the midst of the real situations of our lives, and worship is one of the places God meets us. Have there been times in worship when you were especially aware of the presence of God? Maybe this is a good time for a worship “warning!” Experiencing the presence of God in worship always leads to something. In the Acts passage, people shared what they had with each other. During our retreat devotionals, youth shared affirmations with each other. How about you? Experiencing the presence of God always leads to something.
God bless you, and I look forward to being in church together!