True Worship - Dedication Service
September 25, 2016
But an hour is coming and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and Truth. John 4:23
It is the highest duty of man to worship God, but not any old worship will do. But rather the worship Jesus teaches us here, "worship in Spirit and Truth." This little verse is one of the least understood sayings of the Bible, so today let's find out what it really means.
If we don't already know it we should learn today that there is right worship, and wrong worship; true worship and false. And, much to our dismay, a proper place of worship as well, all others imposters! This is what baffled the Samaritan woman, the Jews, and still confuses people today, until our Lord reveals the true place of worship to us, as he does in today's gospel.
It is not Mt. Gerizim as the Samaritan woman thought, nor Jerusalem as the Jews supposed, but an entirely new place, that place is the flesh of Jesus himself. We know this because earlier in St. John's gospel the Lord zealously cleared the temple, disrupted its supply chain of sacrifices, and challenged those who objected by saying, "destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it again." To which St. John our inspired Evangelist adds this all important parenthetical statement: "he was speaking about the temple of his body." (2:21)
From this we learn that Jesus himself is the new place of worship, the new and true temple of God, so that where Jesus is, God in his mercy is also to be found.
But let us be careful here to get the right Jesus, for the Lord himself says, "Many will come in my name saying I am the Christ and will lead many astray." (Mt 25:5)
Not Jesus as a five letter word, not the hazy Jesus of popular religious sentiment, nor the radical Jesus of liberal theology that even the culture will embrace from time to time. But Jesus on the cross! Jesus suffering shame and torment, bleeding and dying to liberate the world from sin's slavery. Jesus pleading for sinners, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." And promising all who believe and are baptized, "This day you will be with me in paradise."
Here is liturgy! Here is worship perfected by the church's One, True Liturgist, but that is not the end of the story. Because Jesus did not do these things for himself but "for us men and for our salvation," and so we are included in him, and included in them.
In holy baptism, which takes place in this holy house, we are crucified with Jesus. Not just crucified but also buried and raised to newness of life, even as St. Paul states in Romans chapter six. We are washed, we are sanctified, we are justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God. We are incorporated into the mutual love that exists between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and become partakers of the Divine Nature (2 Peter 1:4), and there is nothing better than that!
In holy worship, which takes place in this holy house, God's people enter into holy communion with their Lord who is truly present here. Not just in our pious minds, or sweet imaginations, but factually present, brimming over with grace, mercy and peace for sinners.
When we hear the Scriptures read Jesus himself is the one speaking to us. When we pray Jesus himself is the one interceding for us. It is his liturgy that we take part in. His Eucharist that we celebrate, and his own glorified flesh and blood that we take into our dead flesh, for the remission of our sins, life, salvation, for strength in all our weakness, and consolation for all our sorrows!
It is for this reason that we have gathered today, to dedicate this holy house, so that the redeemed children of God might here worship the Father in Spirit and Truth. But what we do here today is not a charade, or a sham, but a factual blessing and dedication that makes this ediface holy ground.
The same holy ground where Moses removed his shoes, bowed to worship, saw amazing sites, and heard promises that made his head swim, and that make our heads swim as well. Promises of a virgin who, like the burning bush that was not consumed, would bear the eternal God in her womb without suffering harm or loss. Promises of the eternal Word of God and eternal Son of God who assumed human flesh from his holy Mother, so that by humility, suffering and death he might once for all demonstrate and instantiate God's great love for sinners.
Yes, this place otherwise known as 13812 Bellaire Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44135, is now holy ground! Made so by the Word of God and prayer, as St. Paul teaches; and as we will shortly see with our eyes, and hear with our ears in the Rite of Dedication.
For as the eternal Word of God and Son of God assumed human flesh, which he ever retains; even so every aspect of our holy Christian religion is likewise, incarnate, fleshy and earthy so that in conjunction with the Word made Flesh, even the very dust might become happy in the contemplation of his glory.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.