Formations lesson for March 23: The Gospel and Acting
March 7 2003 by David Stratton , Mark 11:1-11

Formations lesson for March 23: The Gospel and Acting | Friday, March 7, 2003

Friday, March 7, 2003

Formations lesson for March 23: The Gospel and Acting

By David Stratton Mark 11:1-11

Much has been written about "Worship Wars," a label applied to clashes over styles of music used in worship. A study released on Nov.19 by The Barna Research Group (see www.Barna.org) suggests these "wars" may not be as widespread as many seem to think. Their research reveals a more fundamental problem of shallow understandings of worship.

In this study "congregants were most likely to understand worship as activity undertaken for their personal benefit (47 percent)." Only 29 percent viewed worship "as something that is focused primarily on God."

Perhaps most disturbing is the revelation that "one out of every five attenders admitted that they had no idea what the most important outcome of worship is."

Our consumer-driven culture appears to breed confusion about the true nature of worship. An examination of worship in the Palm Sunday account recorded in Mark 11:1-11 is a timely action.

The people worship Jesus Worship of Jesus is the common theme in all four Gospel accounts of Palm Sunday. Matthew and John also include the fulfillment of messianic prophecy (Matt. 21:4-5; John 12:14-15). Luke and John mention the disgust of the Pharisees (Luke 19:39-40; John 12:19). However, in Mark's account, worship and the preparation for it is all there is.

As Jesus approached Jerusalem on a colt, many people spread cloaks and branches on the road before Him as expressions of honor. Those ahead of Him and those following Him shouted praises befitting the Messiah. Mark reveals a simple scene of exuberant worship of Jesus.

Most significant is the Lord's desire for worship. The passage begins with Jesus preparing for this scene of praise by sending two disciples to get the colt He rode. Jesus did not stop the people from filling the roadway with their cloaks and branches or from filling the air with His praises. Rather, He accepted the worship. Indeed, He orchestrated it through His earlier preparations.

In Luke's account, when the Pharisees told Jesus to quiet the crowd, He refused, insisting the rocks would praise Him if the people stopped.

The people worshipped Jesus and He liked it.

An end in itself Mark strips away Palm Sunday distractions so that we are left with the foundational theme of the worship of Jesus. The emphasis of this passage is not what Jesus gave to the people. Rather, the focus is on what the people gave to Jesus.

For a moment the people stopped asking Jesus for His help in order to honor Him. For a moment the people stopped looking at themselves and they turned to Jesus simply to praise Him. For a moment the people stopped waiting for Jesus to act on their behalf and they got involved in the action of worshipping Him.

And Jesus liked it.

"Worship is an end in itself; it is not a means to something else." So states the first line of the first chapter of Franklin Segler's book, Christian Worship: It's Theology and Practice.

Yet, we so often "worship" with a movie theater mentality. We pay our money and we want to see a good show. This is the wrong attitude. As Mark's Palm Sunday account illustrates, worship is not about self-gratification; it is about glorifying the Lord. Worship is not me-oriented; it is God-oriented.

The people in this passage certainly did not fully comprehend Jesus as the Messiah, yet they saw Him as one worthy of praise and they gave voice to that conviction.

Do we still believe Jesus to be worthy of worship? Do we act unselfishly upon that conviction?

In his book, The Power of Realistic Thinking, Donald McCullough wrote: "Worship, simply put, begins with focusing on God. It does not mean searching for spiritual ecstasies or cultivating an optimistic disposition or ignoring disappointments. It means turning from the usual preoccupation with ourselves and giving attention to God. In worship we neither deny personal concerns - our longings and strivings - nor cover them with a thin veneer of piety; we simply ignore them for the moment and look in a different direction. In worship we make room for God at the center of our lives (p. 97)."

And Jesus likes it when we do so.

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3/7/2003 12:00:00 AM by David Stratton , Mark 11:1-11 | with 0 comments
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