Many of you have mentioned to me that you can tell I really enjoy preaching. I do. I get to study a Bible text in the original languages of Greek and Hebrew to prayerfully grasp its meaning. I get to read what others have said about that text throughout the years. I get to ponder how that text relates to life today. I get to take God’s timeless truth and write (actually, it’s type) a message that applies it in timely ways to people where they’re at today—not only to lifelong believers but to brand new ones, seekers, and skeptics too. And then I try my best to memorize that message and deliver it with all the excitement and conviction that the Spirit has worked in me!
Inevitably though one of the things that happens every week is that in studying a text, I uncover many things that don’t make it into that particular Sunday’s sermon. There’s just not enough time to say it all. There never is. So I try and stick to the content that’s most relevant to the theme that I’ve come up with for that one message. So if you ever feel frustrated because you think there’s more I could say about a particular text…just know that I feel that way every single week! There’s not enough time to explain everything or make every possible application to our lives. That’s why I’m convinced there are about 100 sermons in every text and why I can preach on the same text every couple years and still make it fresh.
One of the things I would’ve like to spend more time preaching about this past Sunday are Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman: 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
These words are very interesting because they come right after the Samaritan woman tries to drag Jesus into an argument about where you need to be to worship God. But Jesus refuses to get into an argument about this. The Samaritan woman has it all wrong. Sometimes Christians can have it all wrong too when they argue about things that God could care less about. Where to worship is one of these things.
The right place for worship was an important topic for Samaritans and Jews. But Jesus is teaching us that genuine worship is spiritual and is no longer dependant on places and things. True worship of God has nothing to do with a physical location or a building. It has nothing to do with sacred places or spaces.
For the Samaritans it mattered where they worshipped simply because they had their own deeply held traditions and preferences. But for followers of Jesus Christ, it shouldn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter because God himself doesn’t care where we worship him. He doesn’t care whether we worship him in a movie theater or in a cathedral, in a soccer club or at a shrine. The place or the space won’t bring us closer to God. And so Jesus says the kind of worshipers the Father seeks must “worship in spirit and in truth.”
These are wonderfully comforting words that remind us to stay focused on Jesus who is “the way and the truth and the life.” What Jesus offers us through his word and sacraments should always be our focus no matter where we meet for worship. So whether we stay in a movie theater, move to a school gymnasium, renovate an industrial warehouse, or build a church building one day…the important thing is that we continue to focus our worship on Jesus Christ and his victory for us poor sinners.