Honoring the Nestorian Christians

Saturday, February 22, 2014


 Fred Vergara. St. James' Episcopal Church, 84-07 Broadway, Elmhurst, NY 11373. February 23, 2014. Contemporary Worship Service 

The time is coming---indeed it is here now---when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.” John 4:23 (New Living Translation)

My sermon today is about Praise and Worship. What is praise? What is worship? What is the difference between praise and worship? How do we worship in spirit and in truth?

There was a story of a man who wanted to buy a horse. It was quite an expensive horse so the man asked the owner why it costs so much. The owner said, “There’s something special about this horse. He is a religious horse. When you want the horse to run, you say “alleluia” and when you want it to stop you say “Amen.” So the man tested the horse. He mounted it and said, “alleluia,” and the horse ran. He got so excited so he said again “alleluia, alleluia” and the horse ran faster. He got even more excited that he shouted “alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!” The horse galloped and ran even faster. As they were nearing a cliff, the man wanted the horse to stop but he forgot the magic word. As the horse was about to fall off the cliff, he finally remembered just on time and said, “Amen!” They were just about a foot from the cliff. As the man realized how lucky he was, he looked up to high heaven and shouted, “Alleluia!”

PRAISE – is thanking God for what He has done for us and for what He is doing in our lives. One hymn of praise says ““Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation! O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation! All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near; Praise Him in glad adoration.” Another one says, “From the rising of the sun, to the going down of the same, the Lord’s Name is to be praised.” (Check this video below for an example of a Praise Song)

The Bible asks us to praise the Lord at all times because there is power in praise. When you’re down, stressed out and troubles abound, instead of falling into depression, try praising God and your emotional climate will immediately change.  In the Book of Acts, chapter 16, Paul and Silas were unjustly arrested, tortured and imprisoned. Instead of sulking and feeling sorry for their fate, Paul and Silas praised God. They sang praise songs similar to what we have just sung, they were joyful in thanking God, and all of a sudden, there was an earthquake and the prison doors were broken and Paul and Silas were able to escape. 

When King David was in so much trouble and was regressing into self-pity and depression, he spoke to himself and said, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why are you so troubled? Praise God!”  He began to praise God, extolling the greatness of the Lord---and his depression vanished like a fog at the outburst of the sun.

Praise is oftentimes an outburst of our emotion that speaks of our gratefulness. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, he was met with emotional outpouring of praise. “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” The people spread palm branches and the children rejoiced and people clapped their hands in praising Jesus for the miracles that He has done. The Pharisees tried to prevent the people from praising God and Jesus said, “Do not prevent them from praising God; for if you do, even these stones will cry out.”

So what is the difference between praise and worship?
Praise is an outburst of an emotion that speaks of our gratitude. When someone does a good deed or makes an excellent performance, we offer our praise. If my sermon today is great, you will praise me. If it is bad, you will criticize me. In other words, praise is oftentimes dependent on how something has affected you. It is a grateful acknowledgement of the good things that someone has done for you. And because God has done so many wonderful works, and that God has given so many blessings, then God is worthy of our praise.

Worship on the other hand is not dependent on our emotions. Praise leads to worship but worship is not exactly the same as praise. Praise is thanking God for what God has done but worship is thanking God for who God is. The English word worship comes from two words “worth” and “ship.” In other words, God is worthy of our worship---whether or not God has done something worthy of praise. (Check this You-Tube video for an example of Worship Song)


The best example in the Bible about true worship is Job. Job was a God-fearing man; his heart is after God’s heart. He strives to be faithful and obedient to God and as a result he became wealthy and prosperous. What is noteworthy about Job as a rich man is that his character was impeccable and his family was exemplary. But one day, for some strange reason, Satan challenged God. He said that Job was righteous because he was given divine favor and protection. If God would take that protection away from him, Satan said, Job would curse God. 

Well, one by one, the riches of Job were gone. Then his wife died and his children died. Everything and everyone he held so dear were gone and he was left with nothing and no one. Then Job was afflicted with boils and sores all over his body. One by one, people came and challenged Job to curse God. Then his three friends—Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar-- also challenged the righteousness of Job and urged him to curse God and die.  What was Job’s response?  He tore his robe and shaved his head and he fell to the ground and worshipped and said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb; and naked I shall return. The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” 

The story of Job ended well, with his fortunes and family restored twice as much. But throughout all his trials, Job did not blame God, Job did not curse God, Job did not waver in his faith. Why? Because he has learned the meaning of worship. He has learned to worship God in spirit and in truth! 

Worship is not dependent on the blessings that you receive. You do not worship God simply because you are blessed with wealth, with power, with money, with good health, with long life, with a lovely wife and beautiful children. No, you worship God even though you are poor. You worship God even though you have no lovely wife or no handsome husband or girlfriend or boyfriend. You worship God even though you have no money, no power and not in good health. Worship is total surrender to the One who owns everything and who holds all things together.

In one of his many prayers, the founder of the holiness movement and the Methodist Church, John Wesley said: “Let me be full, let me be empty; let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and wholeheartedly release myself to you, O God!”

The Greek word for worship is prokoneo , which literally means to kiss like a dog licking its master’s hand. The Hebrew word for worship is shachah, which means to bow down or to prostrate in homage like a subject paying homage to a king. The culture of bowing is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture. It is called Ojigi and it has many meanings: as a sign of respect, as a sign of gratitude, as a sign of greeting, a sign of repentance and humility. It is also a sign of worship, like worshiping the Emperor.

In the worship of God, all of these things are true. We praise God, we thank God, we respect God, we adore God, we bless God, we glorify God, we humble ourselves before God.

The actions of praise are to clap our hands and to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. The action of worship, however, is to raise our hands in total surrender, to listen to the still small voice of the Spirit, to ojigi before the royalty of God's majesty, to  proskoneo on the "Ground of our Being," to bow in awe before the mysterium tremendum, the tremendous mystery, to shachah before the awesome holiness of the most high God!

"All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give
I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.
I surrender all, I surrender all
All to thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all." Amen.

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