Easter Lunch and Spirit-filled Worship
We get a long weekend over Easter here in the UK – Good Friday, then Easter Monday. Loads of locals legged it home for the break so it was nice to have the “left-over” people round for lunch after Easter service. A mish-mash of people who hadn’t met before – some had been at the Local Church for almost a decade and some had only visited three times, but all chatting happily and discussing life and doctrine by the end of the meal.
The English lamb shoulders were superb. Bunged 4.5kg in the oven at 120°C just before leaving for the Easter service and they were just about done by the time I’d managed to extricate myself from various happy chats to run home and turn off the oven. Seasoned only with salt, pepper, garlic, and rosemary, the meat was tender and sweet and flavourful without the stench of sheep.
To accompany the baby sheep, we had “truffled” potato dauphinoise and roast carrots and parsnips, and a simple salad of spinach leaves and strawberries with poppyseed dressing:
Before pudding (blood orange almond cake and lemon cream tart), we’d gotten to what it looked like to live as Christians. Happily, because i live in a house full of church associates, Bibles were quickly produced and Romans 12 was pointed to.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
It’s far too insipid and trivial to think of worshipping God as merely a matter of singing and dancing; it is about giving our whole selves over to God, to be living sacrifices. It would be frankly ridiculous to think that God would be interested in just the things produced by our vocal chords or flailing limbs over the period of a few hours – our man-made idols might accept that, but not the real and living God of the whole creation.
And we begin to be able to worship God rightly in our living by first being transformed by our already renewed minds (see previously in Romans). We start by having a right view of ourselves, especially in relation to the church:
3 For by the grace given to me I say to every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgement, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Worship doesn’t start with wanting the opportunity to use our talents to the full within the body or some other form of self-fulfilment; it starts with understanding that we all contribute to life in the body of Christ, and also that we are innately inter-dependent (“individually members one of another”!). And so we serve with the right attitude.
9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
How diametrically opposed to the hell-ish reality described in Romans 1:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practise such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practise them. (Romans 1:18-32)
The changed life of the Christian detailed in Romans 12:9-16 sounds great, we might say, but it seems more like one of those things to nod about and aspire to, with the knowledge that, like so many New Year resolutions and diet fads, we will never really stick with it. Yet, it is absolutely vital that Christians not conform to this world as described in Romans 1:18-32.
This is not a matter of following the rules of the new club we’ve joined, but a fundamental change in us – we once did not and could not rightfully honour God and now we have both the desire and ability to do so. We were once dead in our sins but are now alive in Christ; we were once slaves of unrighteousness but are now slaves to righteousness etc…why would we want to go back to eat our own vomit?
We can now worship God rightly because Jesus has paid the price for our sins so God’s wrath no longer remains on us and his judgement is no longer against us. And we do so with the third member of the Godhead himself – the Spirit. Again, how frankly ridiculous to think that we somehow control the Spirit by inviting him to our “Sunday Worship Sessions”, and even more frivolous, asking him to perform magic tricks like making people faint or giggle or have gold fillings in their teeth.
The Spirit does a far more important job of enabling us to worship God rightly with miraculously changed lives! And not only that, as we pray constantly for God’s help in living in a way that pleases him, the Spirit gloriously helps us – magnificent assurance that God will help us persevere to the end:
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8)