Sermon Scripture: Revelation 4
Sermon Purpose: Our job in heaven is to worship the Lord. Better start practicing now.
Sermon Title: Worship Is NOT A Spectator Sport!
I grew up in Huntsville, Alabama. Huntsville is about 20 minutes from the Alabama Tennessee state line. In that place between SEC football dynasties like the University of Tennessee, The University of Alabama and Auburn University I was an oddity. I really didn’t care about football. If pressed about it I claimed the University of Tennessee. In high school I was band geek at a school that had lost every game for three years straight. We had to learn how to have fun in the stands because watching the game was no fun at all. When I couldn’t afford out of state tuition to attend the University of Tennessee I attended the University of Alabama. I will never forget the first University of Alabama football game I attended at Legion Field in Birmingham. I don’t remember the game specifically. But what I do remember is the experience of being in the student section and hearing the crowd roar as Alabama played. That day I was officially converted. I have never since pulled for the University of Tennessee. I have been an Alabama fan ever since. I think the thing I loved most was being a student watching the game from the stands. There were no passive fans in the student section. Everybody shouted. Everybody cheered. In November those aluminum stands didn’t have a chance to get warm because we never sat down. In those days I worshipped at the house that Bear Bryant built. Today, where I worship, and who I worship has changed, but the way I prefer to worship has not. Worship should not be a passive thing. I am not at all certain that worship should be a rock concert; but this much I know for sure. Worship should never be a spectator sport.

Worship should always be a spiritual affair. Worship is not about what songs I like, or how I think the worship service should be run, or what is popular with most of the congregation. According to dictionary.com when the term worship is used as a verb worship means, “to render religious reverence and homage to.”[1] The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible describes worship through two Hebrew words meaning “service/adoration,” and, “to prostrate oneself.”[2] To prostrate ourselves means to take a posture or a position of submission. To put it more plainly worship is not about feeling comfortable. Worship is not about relaxing. Worship is not about catching up on much needed rest. Worship is not about feeling the Spirit. Worship is not about us. Worship is about giving reverence, adoration and praise to God. Worship is not a passive thing. Worship was never meant to be a passive thing. Worship has always been an intentional act of reverence and submission towards God.

In this morning’s passage John is taken in the Spirit to see the heavenly throne of God. And what a sight the throne of God is to behold. But before we can talk about God’s throne we need to talk about how it was John was able to see God’s throne. John sees all of this in the Spirit. To say John was in the Spirit means John was intentionally focusing his heart, his mind and his soul on the upward call of Jesus Christ. John was actively pursuing God. To worship God in Spirit is not a passive act. I once heard it said, “being still and doing nothing are two very different things.”[3] Being reverent in worship is about a lot more than sitting still with our mouths shut unless it is time to sing. Sitting still and keeping our mouths shut is attending worship – not worshipping. There is a difference. Worshipping is not sitting around waiting on the Spirit to come to us, and a worship experience is not about getting the conditions just right for the Spirit to move. Worship begins with us focusing on God. That’s the reason I invite the congregation to focus their hearts and minds on God during the prelude. That’s the reason why our praises and concerns come so early in the worship service. The idea is to put away the distractions and to be better able to focus on God. After all, God and Jesus Christ should be the reason we come to this space every Sunday. We shouldn’t come looking to get something from the service. We should come to worship to give glory and honor to God because that is what worship is all about.

Many of us have seen people worship the Lord with their hands in the air. Hands in the air during worship can be a little unsettling at first. However, the purpose behind it is very important. When we worship we are coming to the Lord. We are giving ourselves to the Lord. Those who raise their hands in worship are not waiting to be chosen by God, and they are not flagging down a waiter in a restaurant. The purpose is to give themselves up in their Spirit for God’s honor, God’s glory and God’s praise. Hands lifted high in worship are all about honoring God and making ourselves available for God to use. Over the last (two) years y’all have heard me say on a number of occasions what we do in this space cannot be about us. What we do in this space has to be about God. Hands raised during worship are not about people trying to draw attention to themselves. Hands raised in worship are about giving honor to God. As we have this time of exhortation during our worship service what are y’all doing to worship the Lord? What might y’all be doing to do a better job of worshipping the Lord?

Let’s look at the cloud of witnesses surrounding the throne of God. Rev 4:4 tells us there are 24 elders surrounding the throne of God. These 24 elders are dressed in white robes, and each has a gold crown and their own thrown. Before the throne of God there are seven torches of fire representing the seven spirits of God. There are also four living beasts; each with a different face. One has the face of a lion; one has the face of an ox, one has the face of a man, and one has the face of an eagle. Each of these; the elders, the torches and the beasts must have been an awesome sight to behold. However, what impresses me is not the odd appearance of the beasts, or the crowns and thrones of the elders. What impresses me is the way they relate to God. Night and day the beasts and the elders sing,

For all of their wonder and splendor; for all of the honor that would come to someone sitting on one of those thrones the elders throw it all away. James Madison once said, “All those who have power, will when they can increase it.” However, these elders lead by a different example. They get out of their thrones and throw themselves on the ground at the feet of the Lord. They cast their crowns before the Lord’s throne and proclaim;

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
      to receive glory and honor and
for you created all things
      and by your will they existed and
were created.” (Rev 4:11)

My sisters and brothers this is worship, and there aint nothing passive about it. When we come to the Lord’s temple we will find there are no spectators. There are only those who worship the Lord. We might even say worshipping the Lord is the national pass time of heaven. There is a line in the movie Gladiator when the general Maximus tells his men, “What we do in life echoes in eternity.” Brothers and sisters what we do in worship is practice for eternity. Worship is practice for the national pass time in heaven when we kneel and pray, and sing before the throne of God. That’s a good thing. Practice makes for improvement. But, if spending all of eternity worshipping the Lord does not sound appealing then perhaps we need to reexamine the attitudes we have about worship and ask ourselves this question. When I come to church on Sunday morning who is it for – me? Or God?

In the Name of Jesus Christ,


[1] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/worship
[2] Interpreters Dictionary. Vol 4 p879.
[3] “The Karate Kid 2010” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1155076/trivia?tab=qt&ref_=tt_trv_qu