An Invitation to Intimacy
Today we begin a new series: The Hour That Changes Everything. [This series is based on the book of the same name by John van der Laar. Buy the book here. I am however only using the readings and chapter headings and letting them take me where the Spirit leads]
We are looking at Worship and in particular this ‘hour’ of worship and how this ‘hour’ of regular, committed, communal and corporate worship can be something, an ‘hour’, that changes everything, especially if we allow worship to be something that changes us.... transforms us.
Do you need to change? ............Now?
Your and my answer to that is either a humble: Yes; Or an arrogant: No.
Now because you and I are a people who (whether we acknowledge it or not) need to be transformed, changed…......... God in His grace provides us with many transformational opportunities, things if we embrace, change us, transform us….............. into what? Into the image of God in which we are created, which sin destroys.
Worship is one of those ‘transformational’ opportunities (others are Bible Reading, Prayer, Receiving the Sacrament of Holy Communion, Fasting etc. ie Wesley's Means of Grace).
Our focus in this series is on Worship. Now, although we call this hour an ‘hour’ of worship and we have 5 worship services here every Sunday, I want to stress that worship is actually a lifestyle, a lifestyle that can change everything.
And the beginning of worship that changes you (and everything) is the recognition that worship is an invitation to intimacy with the Creator God who desperately wants to be, craves to be, died to be… intimate with you.
Through and in worship, God extends to you and to me an invitation to intimacy.
The dictionary definition of intimacy is:
1) The state of being intimate;
2) a close, familiar and usually affectionate or loving relationship with another person or group (dictionary.com).
Where do the most intimate relationships play themselves out… in marriage and in family life.
And so it comes as no surprise to us to discover that marriage and family life are images that God uses throughout Scripture to express the deep desire that He has to be intimate with us.
The Bible begins with a marriage (of Adam and Eve); and it ends with a marriage (of Christ – the groom, to His bride – the church).
Jesus’ first miracle (according to John) is at a marriage, the wedding at Cana, and Jesus told a number of parables which uses the imagery of marriage. Martin Luther said “Marriage is Gods best way of explaining Himself”.
In marriage the 2 become 1… that’s intimacy. In the prayer that Jesus prayed in John 17, which Jesus prays for the Church that He knew would come into being, as He prayed then for you and for me, did you notice what He prayed: “Father, just as you are in me and I am in You… May they also be in Us.”
Do you see the intimate language of marriage in these words, the 2 becoming 1.
Jesus goes on and says: “May they be one as we are one… I in them and You in me.”
God wants to be intimate with you… with me…! And worship is an invitation from God to intimacy and an opportunity for us to get intimate with God.
So the whole of the revelation of God to us in the Scriptures, is an invitation to intimacy. Jesus becoming human is an invitation to intimacy. The Holy Spirit descending into us, filling us (remember from 2 weeks ago not on top but… inside) is an invitation to intimacy.
And so Paul, writing to the Ephesians in 5: 21-32 says:
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[b] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.
Now, as we read that reading, we think to ourselves ‘Ah Paul is talking about marriage here and the relationship between husband and wife’ (and he is) but notice what he says in vs 32: “This is a profound mystery” (which it is, this mysterious union which happens between man and woman who are married and ‘become one’) but he goes on “but I am talking about Christ and the Church”.
"OH! Sorry we thought you were talking about intimate Christian marriages"… Well actually I am talking about intimate Christian marriages – because that’s the relationship that Jesus wants to have with you, the Church, His bride.
You and I are the Bride of Christ – it doesn’t get more intimate then that.
And worship is an invitation to get as intimate with him as He wants to get with you.
And by now you might be thinking: How is it that He wants to be intimate with me?
Listen to this beautiful reading from Ezekiel 16:4- 14:
4 On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. 5 No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised.
6 “‘Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, “Live!”[a] 7 I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew and developed and entered puberty. Your breasts had formed and your hair had grown, yet you were stark naked.
8 “‘Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your naked body. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine.
9 “‘I bathed you with water and washed the blood from you and put ointments on you. 10 I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put sandals of fine leather on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments. 11 I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck, 12 and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. 13So you were adorned with gold and silver; your clothes were of fine linen and costly fabric and embroidered cloth. Your food was honey, olive oil and the finest flour. You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen. 14And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign LORD.
Here God describes Jerusalem, describes His people before He reached out to them. It’s a love story, there are elements of the erotic in these verses as God describes His desire to be intimate with wayward people like you and me.
4+5 – Here God describes our sinful human nature and how this makes us lost, unwanted orphans with nothing but death filling us.
6 – Isn’t that beautiful. The giver of Life says to you and to me: LIVE.
7 – ‘I made you grow’
8 – Here is described the Old Testament Marriage covenant.
I hope you realize by now that this reading is describing you and me and our relationship with the Lord. We are perhaps lost, like that cast out baby. We are perhaps busy growing. Perhaps we are already in a covenant relationship with God.
Listen to what He does now:
9 – A reference to the cleansing that God will later provide in Christ.
10 – A reference to what Paul will later call ‘Putting on Christ’.
11 + 12 – A refererence to the God who gifts us with Spiritual Gifts and Fruit.
13 –A reference to the God who provides for us, who gives us each day our daily bread.
14 – A reference to the God who makes your (my) beauty PERFECT.
Tell me all this doesn’t make you feel loved, intimately, by God.
And if perhaps it doesn’t make you feel loved by God, then allow me to say this…
You are loved intimately by God.
Whether you have made a commitment to God in Christ or not…,
You are loved passionately by God.
Whether or not you even know or believe that God exists, let alone cares for you,
God loves even you
Worship… here, for this ‘hour’… or anywhere, for anytime, is an invitation to intimacy with our God who loves us intimately.
I urge you now to respond in a way that is fitting for you, to the God who loves you intimately.