Bread for the Journey – Rev. Michael F. Bailey

Fuel For The Journey: Worship and Eucharist
Becoming: The Path from Here to There
Rev. Michael F. Bailey
October 25, 2015
Hebrews 7:23–28

“Furthermore, the former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

 For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.” 

Today, we have our last sermon in the series “Becoming: The Path from Here to There.” “Here” is where you are. Grace is like that; grace meets you and accepts you where you are, but grace never leaves you there! “There” is new life, forgiveness and growing more like Christ through the Spirit. Now, just by way of a reminder, we’ve used the overarching image of journeying on a path or trail as a metaphor for our spiritual journeys. Our first Sunday we considered how Jesus blazed the trail for us and is our guide; then we looked at how we have a guidebook in the Word; and last week we considered the need to rest, stop, listen to God, pray, play, and wonder. This week we look at that which fuels and feeds us along the way—worship and, specifically, the holy meal of communion.

So have you been on a long hike? Did you take anything to eat? Perhaps you took a full picnic with you, or maybe just snacks. Turn to a neighbor and share your favorite food for journeying out of doors.

Mine is nearly always the same and is fixed by my cycling and hiking best friend and brother in law, Hal Stoneking. It’s always a great apple; Gorp, which is a trail mix; smoked Gouda cheese; and, if we’re particularly luxurious, summer sausage and French bread. It never varies and always fuels us for the journey.

And just as there are many things we can fuel our body with on a path, God has blessed us with many things that feed our soul: studying the scripture, prayer, meditation, service of others, small groups, and ironically even fasting. For me, however there is one way that feeds our soul, which is one of, if not the highest and best: worship and Communion.

Let’s talk about these, but first just a word about our passage. Hebrews is a book directed toward a group of Christian converts from Judaism, who, perhaps under the threat of persecution, were wavering in their profession of faith in Christ. The writer is their teacher, now away from them but who hoped to return to them. He’s writing urging them to hold fast to their confession of Christ. Because of their background he uses a lot of imagery from Jewish temple life. It’s great stuff to study and know about, but for our purposes today let’s focus on a couple of the verses: “He is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” And “unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself.” I love two of the teachings here about what Jesus does for us: Jesus “is able for all time to save those who approach God through him” friends, approaching God through Jesus for salvation is worship. And then, we have a reminder of Jesus’ work on the cross, being the ultimate sacrifice of love, “this he did once for all when he offered himself.” Friends, that is what we remember when we have communion. Let’s look at these ways God feeds our soul for the journey.

I think to approach God through Jesus in worship means that we need an understanding of what worship is and what it isn’t. Worship comes from an old English word, werthern, which means to ascribe or give worth. So, when we start giving highest worth to something, allowing it to change and shape our lives—because giving high worth sets priorities—we are worshipping that which we’re focusing on. If that which we give highest worth to, isn’t Jesus, we’re breaking the first commandment, “you shall have no other Gods before me.” So, what do people often place before God, what do they give higher worth to than Jesus, what do they often worship? Well, you know some of the things: money, wealth, power, status, what people think about them, self-image, relationships, their own feelings, political movements; the list could go on and on. True worship however, for the Christian, is to put Christ above everything else! It is to live a worshipful life by putting Jesus first in everything. It is on Sunday morning to come to church to focus on Jesus, to give worth to him! And even this is a challenge sometimes. You see, we, church leaders over the past several decades have failed to teach this! We leaders of the church in general have somehow given the message that worship is about what you, as a consumer, want. We’ve given the message that worship is to be designed by the people’s desire for the people’s satisfaction. That’s so wrong! Worship is the one place in our society where we come not as “consumers” but “contributors.” We sing to Jesus, we express love for Jesus, we lift Him up in all we do. Worship is where we come approaching “God through Jesus who will save us;” we come not to be entertained, not hear what we want to hear, not to have our status quo affirmed and validated! We come to approach the almighty God of the Universe through Jesus. Just as Christmas isn’t your birthday, so worship isn’t your “worth day.” Worship is Jesus’ worth day!

And worship focusing on Jesus is holy, and holy worship transforms us!

The Psalmist says to “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (96:9). Holy means to set apart from that which is common and ordinary. So open your eyes folks! This is a Holy Day; what you are doing is Holy, uncommon, set apart. In a day and time when more folks are skipping worship this morning than worshipping, is it set apart that you are here? You bet. How about this, how many other times this week have you gathered with people and sung music about a rabbi who walked the earth 2000 years ago? Not many. How about gathered with a diverse group, shared your hearts, bowed your heads and prayed? Any other places you go and give significant money to care for people’s souls and bodies? Didn’t think so. How about join in hearing a thousands-of-years-old book guide you and join in a prayer taught by a rabbi 2000 year ago? Here’s the point, the very act of what we’re doing in worshipping, in the midst our life routines, is holy, set apart from the ordinary and that, coupled with giving Jesus the focus, changes us. Remember Isaiah? He got a glimpse of heaven. It was super holy: He fell on his face and confessed, an angel brought cleansing to him, he raised up and heard the Word say, “Whom shall I send?” and he replied, “Here I am; send me.” That’s the pattern of what holy worship can do in our lives.

It re-orients us! Against all of the background noise of the world, it reminds of who and whose we are! The world says your worth is in your nationality, wealth, and degrees, whereas worship reminds us that our value is found in the love of our Heavenly Father for us, so great, “He gave his only begotten son.” The world says be a “taker” and worship says be a “giver.” The world says think of yourself first and worship orients us toward others in humble service.

On a trail a compass is important. By using the compass and orienting the map to due north, everything falls into place and the right way to head is evident. And really, orienting the map orients us! It points us in the right direction. Conversely, if we’re not oriented, we’re lost. That’s what worship does for us and that’s how important worship is.

And finally, for the people called Methodists, Wesley thought a critical element of worship was Communion. He said that we are to take it as often as we can, recommending every four or five days. Sadly, we’ve fallen out of following Wesley’s teachings here. Think of what communion does for us. Foundationally, eventually, it gets our verse into our hearts, souls and minds, namely that Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice on the cross—which “he did once for all when he offered himself,” is how our passage puts it. We come to realize that Jesus’ body and blood were separated on the cross to show his love and power overcomes our sin in the grace of his forgiveness. But more, he comes to live in us in communion! The body and blood of Christ come together in us, individually and collectively! And as a forgiven and freed people we are to go into the world as the body of Christ for the world! The members of Jesus body are re-membered—put back together—around the table, individually and collectively. And while Wesley never had a theology as deep as trans-substantiation and con-substantiation, he simply believed that Jesus is spiritually and mysteriously present in communion and because of that some people get saved taking communion. That’s one reason we have an open table as Methodists. Wow! What a gift to undeserving, mostly unprepared people—the very gift of himself.

Worship and communion: Fuel for the jouney! Its so critical that Hebrews later warns to never skip it! Approaching Jesus in worship is part and parcel of our salvation. It keeps us oriented and from getting lost. Communion forgives and frees for a life of joyful obedience.

Let’s bow our heads and recommit to worship and communion of and with Jesus.

Sharing Starters

  • Share with your group your favorite outdoors food. Share with your group about your most meaningful, transformational worship service.
  • Share with your group if you’ve ever experienced worship that was geared toward entertainment.
  • Share with your group about an experience of worship that focused and God and was for you very holy and set apart from ordinary living.
  • Share with your group any spiritual experiences you may have had during communion.
  • Share with your group how worship orients you and helps you find the right path.