Shortly after my last newsletter I was reading about the Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus in John 4. The two of them have what seems to be two different conversations until suddenly she realizes that Jesus is about four levels deeper than she is and dives in. Jesus does the mic drop in convo when he declares “[that] the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and trust, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” (John 4:23) I confess, this has always been one of my favorite verses. Such verses lend to a sense of haughty arrogance that says, “Yes, the Father is looking for true worshippers. Worshippers that transcend just he activity and really get what it means to put it all out for the Father. That’s me. I am a true worshipper. I get him.”
I mean, am I the only one here? Am I the only one that has a selection of verses that just make me feel good about my spiritual self?
I might be.
But I doubt it.
Second confession: I have never been able to read Jesus’ declaration and a feel absolutely sure that I had any clue what he was talking about.
So, a few weeks ago I was reading this beloved passage of mine and I was stopped. Like the Holy Spirit let me walk right into a wall while standing by watching. Then said, “Do you know what this means?”
I bit the bait and finally asked, “What is Jesus talking about here? And what does it really mean to worship in spirit and in truth?” And then I got real with him, “Do I have any clue what it means to worship in spirit and in truth??”
To get some context, the Samaritan woman is asking about where the right place to worship is. She’s asking Jesus to make some sense of this self-righteous separation that has taken place between the Jews and the Samaritans. And it’s Jesus’ response that has baffled me for years.
My roommate and I host a bi-weekly night of worship and prayer. The heart behind it is not to hold another “service time” or obligation during the week. We don’t even have a schedule for the evening. But we pray that the Lord would bring those who we’re to be connected with at the right time. We trust that the Lord will work in His will and way whether that be through song, prayer or scripture. But what’s really crazy is that it’s not uncommon that our worship looks like sharing our hearts with one another, bearing each other’s burdens, shedding tears and enjoying laughter together and, not infrequently, fellowshipping over food. Sometimes one person comes. Sometimes there’s a party. The beauty of it is that all of it is scriptural. I say it’s crazy because often when we think of church, we think of welcomes and songs and announcements, offering and preaching and then lunch. I know I’m overgeneralizing, but you get the point. There’s an associated order. It’s our natural human tendency, we need to know what to expect and what comes next. The Pharisees had an order that looked like fasting and sacrifices, rituals and regulations. Meanwhile the rest of the world that couldn’t measure up to Pharisaical perfection just did the best they could with not knowing.
But sometimes God just wants us to show up and see what He has planned. We talk about Saul’s disobedience (1 Samuel 15:18-21) because he did what he thought was best with what he thought he knew. I think this is what Jesus meant when he said “The Jews worship what they know. You worship what you don’t know.” (My paraphrase of John 4:22) We all are trying to do the best we can with what we know to give it our best effort. But that’s not what Jesus came to earth for. He didn’t send us the Comforter and Counselor so we could just do the best that we can. Jesus came to live and die and rise; the Holy Spirit dwells within us, so that we would always be present with God in what He is doing now.
This morning God asked me what it means to worship something/someone.
Me: To give reverence and honor to said person or thing.
God: How do you show honor or reverence?
Me: If it’s a thing, you put it on a pedestal and make sure everyone can and does see it. You tell people why it’s significant. If it’s a person, you submit to their authority, obey their commands, honor them with your words and actions and all of your life is filtered through the personality and commands of this person.
God: Do you think you worship me well?
Me: I try, but no. I know I’m not that faithful. But the Holy Spirit works in me….
I’m no expert, but I think this might be what it means to worship in spirit and in truth. To know truly who it is you’re worshiping and who you are and simultaneously allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify our spirit to respond in humility and adoration.