29 January 2021

Worship In The Spirit

If asked what a Samaritan was, most people would reply with a statement about charity. Few know the differences in worship or beliefs between First Century Samaritans and Jews. Samaritans accepted only the books of Moses as scripture while the Jews accepted a larger body of text and oral traditions as well. In many ways, the two groups were as similar as say Reformationist Protestants and Catholics are today.

When Jesus met a Samaritan woman near a well in the town of Sychar (possibly Shechem), he addressed one of these differences. In his day, Jews worshiped God at the Temple in Jerusalem and Samaritans at Mount Gerizim. When the woman asked him where it was proper to worship, Jesus rebuked the idea that worship requires a designated place because, "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth" (John 4:24).

A church can split over whether it is proper to light candles, display colored banners, sing new songs or old hymns, whether to include instruments in worship, how many prayers to say before communion, or whether to have communion every week, once a month, or only twice a year. The list of our differences goes on and on. But just as Jesus told the woman at the well, these differences are of a model that no longer carries any meaning. They are things that are meant to bring us together in worship, that is where their value lies.

In order for worship to be worth anything, it must be in the Spirit and in truth. The Spirit is the presence of God. That presence can be felt wherever "two or three" gather in Jesus' name (Matthew 18:20). To worship in truth means to open yourself to experience God, to surrender yourself and all that comes from human ego, the need to be in control, to be right, to be a good provider, and surrender it to God. Let God define what those things mean for you.

If you can do that, it doesn't matter if you go to meet God in a church, or a temple, or a park, or a cafe, or in your living room sheltering in place, God is there with you. That is what it is to be the kind of worshiper God seeks.

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Please remember to be kind to your brothers and sisters in Christ.