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Ben Fleming: The Way of Worship, Psalm 122

February 8, 2023

Audio Recording

Worship is not coerced from anyone. True worship is always voluntary. Our worship is somewhat akin to what we do when we have free time, or what we spend money on when we have extra. Worship happens when we want it to. Why do we do this? What does it do for us?

A Long Obedience In The Same Direction
Ben Fleming: The Way of Worship, Psalm 122

Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

00:07 Good morning, Westside. My name's Ben. I'm one of the senior pastors here on staff, and I'd just like to throw out there to any of you who are online submitting your location. If you have a guest house in Italy and a plane ticket, then, I would appreciate it. See you there.

00:26 You're already there anyway. Okay. I hope you had a good weekend. It seemed like a great weekend for skiing and all that stuff. Hope you guys got out to the mountain, a few extra inches, all that goodness. I spent my weekend hanging out with mostly six year old girls because my daughter's sixth birthday happened this last weekend. And, man, a lot of Mario party, a lot of cinnamon rolls, a lot of cupcakes, , a little bit of rooting around into trashcan for a rock that happened. one of her incredibly sweet friends gave her a rock that nobody knew that she had given her in before I knew it, somebody was telling me inside the wrapping paper, which is inside that trash can, there's a rock that we need to get. And I was like, so this is my job,


01:11 Understand the assignment. And then I asked the, the girl for a description of the rock, can you tell me the way? Did you paint it? Is it glittery? She said, it's it's gray

01:20 .

01:23 If she asks you, we found the rock. Okay, the night of my daughter's actual birthday, which is Friday, I'm putting her to bed and I'm laying down in her little tiny twin bed bunk, you know, above her Princess Castle thing. And my daughter started talking at night a lot. I don't know if it's the delay, the going to sleep process or what, but she was just talking even more just excited from the day and, and she said, you know what, dad? I, I've been here a long time now,

01:53 .

01:54 And I said, yeah, you know, I can't imagine life without you. And she goes, you know how I know cuz I started on my second hand

02:04 .

02:05 And I was like, and you guys, it was a lot. She'd gotten her haircut earlier that day, turning six, telling me she's starting on her second hand. I was like, I'm not gonna just like cry as I'm trying to read you a story right now. This is too much. but it did also remind me, maybe it was just in preparation for this message, but it reminds me of the church a little bit. Sometimes we can get so much in our own time, in our own moment, which matters. It has incredible value and God sees you as an individual and us as a movement right here in this space and time. But we are a part of this world and this tradition of Christianity that has gone a lot farther than us. It's been around much, much longer. And there's a richness that exists in the Christian tradition, especially through the act of worship, which is what we're gonna be starting today.

02:49 That so often it's, it's tempting to get caught up in our own personal story and our own thing at all times. And really what we're doing is we're looking at the Christian faith, or we're looking maybe at other people that have gone before us and we're going, you know, we've been here for a long time, just started on our second hand . And this is a long journey, which is why we're talking through Eugene Peterson's book in the form of six different messages along obedience in the same direction, trying to engage with this idea, this truth that we believe in, how we wanna model our church. That the walk of faith is not based on a few different encounters, which again, are valuable with God, but instead based on this long obedience and walk in one direction of faithfulness. And Eugene Peterson models his book along obedience in the same direction after the Hebrews that would make a pilgrimage from their land into the Holy land of Jerusalem for a celebration and for worship and for a greater, greater gathering.

03:42 And they would sing these psalms together, these songs together as a reminder of what the journey is all about. And to tell each other and to remind each other of exactly the nature of God. And so we find ourselves in Psalms chapter 122 this morning, and I'm gonna read the whole thing. It's just nine verses says, I was glad when they said it unto me. Let's go into the house of the Lord. And now here we are standing inside your gato Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a well-built city. It's seamless walls cannot be breached. All the tribes of Israel, the Lord's people make their pilgrimage here. They come to give thanks to the name of the Lord is the law requires of Israel. Hear, stand the thrones where judgment is given the throne of the dynasty of David. Pray for peace in Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper, oh Jerusalem.

04:30 May there be peace within your walls and prosperity in your palaces. For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, may you have peace for the sake of the house of the Lord are God, I will seek what is best for you. O Jerusalem. Let's pray. Father God, we want to embrace this idea of a long obedience in the same direction. We want to be a people that desire peace in our own hearts, yes, but in our families, our community, and in the place that we live, or Jesus, I pray that we would patiently understandingly follow after you in this long obedience. It's our heart's desire. In Jesus name we pray. Amen. This sermon is titled The Way of Worship. And we're gonna talk all morning about worship. And some of you might say, well, you know, worship is an expression of my service to the people around me, my love of the people around me and my love for God.

05:23 And it comes out in all kinds of different ways in my life. And I would say absolutely, I agree with that. Our act of worship is not regulated to a specific song or set of songs or a gathering, but instead our life is a form of worship. But I want to contend today for the tradition of the gathering of worship that is talked about in this Psalm chapter 122 and what I believe is important for us here today. I want to talk about this gathering that we have together, the value of it and why it helps us down this road of long obedience in the same direction over the long, long term. The first thing that I think about this, because I've gone all over the place, I grew up in the church and a a lot of us hit that point. And maybe you're at that point today where you go, look, church, this whole thing that we've got going together, this gathering, I just don't, I don't, I don't necessarily see why it has to happen this way.

06:12 And why can't I just kind of have a friend? Or why can't I just experience Christ all by myself? And, and all those things can happen. You can have a friend, you can experience Christ by yourself. But there is something that happens to us when we commit ourselves to a greater body that allows us to grow in the way that God has called us to grow. When we gather in a community, you see different perspectives that are not your own. If you are left to your own devices, you'll believe that God looks like you and acts like you and speaks like you and thinks of other people exactly how you do. And all of a sudden you have a God of incredible prejudice, but a God that serves you very, very well.

06:51 We have to gather together to be reminded of many things, and that is one of the biggest things, is that he is God and we are not. And a regular time spent together helps those edges. I also wanna let you know that today that this, this, the gathering, the greatest value of it is not necessarily about this single individual encounter or moment or feeling with God. Again, I grew up in the church, which meant while all my friends were listening to ac d, c and Metallica, I was listening to Darlene Cze, and the W's. If you know the W's, that is a deep cut and I'm gonna pray for you after this, okay? But I remember at a young age, listen to this song that had just come out and the CDs would come straight to our house because we'd try to, you know, cover 'em as a worship band on Sunday, that weekend.

07:42 And this song came out from Darlene Czech that was called Worthy is the Lamb, and it goes Worthy Is the Lamb Seated on the Throne Crown him now with Manny Crowns. And there's this, there's this choir piece that shows up at the back half of that chorus and oh Jesus, it's good. It still slaps as the kids say. That's how you know you're not a kid is when you say, when the kids say . And I remember this feeling of like, oh my gosh, that song, that is the, that is something fast forward, you know, a good 20 years later I make my way out to Fenway Park in Boston for the very, very first time and I'm a big baseball fan. And in a seven ending stretch, we sing Sweet Caroline at the baseball song. And I gotta tell you, I had the same feeling when we went ba ba ba all together, as I did here and worthy as the Lamb that first time .

08:41 And I was like, oh, this feeling, I've had this feeling before, you know, at the sacred place of Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. And I believe that moments and feelings absolutely matter to us. They matter to God. But I wanna let you know that the greatest re reason that we gather together is not so that we can chase after a feeling or one moment. I believe that God can speak to you in these places in a very particular and personal way. I believe that music has an incredible amount of value with having helping us understand the creator God and the artist that is God. But I also believe that if we engage with worship only as far as our feelings will allow us to or encourage us to, we will miss out on the richness of the worship experience with Christ. We will miss out on the importance of the gathered church together because our feelings are so incredibly fleeting.

09:42 I cut wood with my dad this weekend. He came up for my daughter's birthday and so I said, Hey, why don't we go out and find some rounds in Sun River and bring him back and chop him up for the wood stove that we have in the house. And my dad was telling me stories. He said, man, I can't believe you asked me that because I would tell you we were gonna go cut wood when you were a kid and your response was not kind . You know, you wake up a 10 year old kid on a Saturday and go, we're gonna go up in the mountains and we're gonna cut some wood. And it's like, if I looked at my father and I said, look, my feelings right now say that this is a bad idea. My father would look at me and go, I don't care if you have any feelings at all, , the car is warmed up and if you're lucky, you can get some hot chocolate.

10:24 You know, that was how the conversation went. And now I find myself the smells of the wood when we cut together, even the process of loading up the soreness that I feel in my back right now because I've experienced the goodness of the process often enough, I'm actually eager and anxious a lot of times to go back and to do the work again, to engage in the community again, to do those things again. If my feelings allowed me to dictate my action, then I would miss out on the thing that God is calling me to. But instead our action can dictate the feeling. I'm getting ahead of myself a little bit, but so the first thing that I want you to know that this worship experience is intended to provide for us is a sense of structure.

11:09 Again, in Psalm 1 22 verse one, it says, I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord. And now here we are standing inside your gates of Jerusalem. Jerusalem's a well-built city with seamless walls cannot be breached. This is a reminder in this song to those who have traveled to Jerusalem and those who have not, that Jerusalem has a sense of structure and safety within it. Not only are we trying to get to the end of this road where worship can happen, but at the end of it, there is something safe for us, which is not always available on the road or in the everyday life, but we find a sense of safety in the structure that the city of Jerusalem provides. And so our worship together is meant to provide a sense of structure on which all of us and our lives and our faith can grow.

11:56 When I was growing up, we had trellises for a small amount of grape vines in our front yard off of the side of the property. And what I would notice is that the grapes that stayed along the trellis and were allowed to grow upward and over were most often the healthiest and the largest grapes. While some that would end up on the ground because we didn't always take the best care of it would end up dying or eaten prematurely before they were ripe. Growth is available to us through the structure of what we do together in worship and even the practical things of what we do. Now, if you spent enough time in church or maybe you know, a pastor or somebody that's ever had influence in this, I I, I'm going on 16 years of pastoring, grew up as a pastor's kid. And what I've done several times, just because I'm here a lot, is I go, you know what?

12:41 This church service is incredibly predictable. We should switch it up. And that's how you get, you know, the teaching at the front and the music at the back sometimes is because the staff is getting antsy. Well, we should really liven it up with this and we should do the, we should throw in some more video. We should, you know, and there's a creative process that's valuable and important, but really the whole idea behind worshiping together is that we provide a structure that actually re reflects our God. And so what happens here, and you saw it this morning, we played a song and then Lindsay led us in what is called the call to worship. Essentially what we're trying to accomplish as a reminder to ourselves that God gets the first word, God gets the first word in your life.

13:30 The scripture tells us that he saw us in, in our mother's womb, that he created us and we're intricate and made the way that we are because of him. The first word in our life is god's. And it should be the same way in our worship. A reminder that the first word in our life is God's. We complete the worship service with the benediction, which reminds us of course, that the last word is God's. Sometimes I feel like I have this sense of control in my life that I don't actually have. My life exists in this very small moment, in this really incredible universe that God has created. It is dust in the wind, it is just a moment. But when we're gathered together, we're reminded that we're a part of something greater that goes before our lives and far beyond our lives. Now this is countercultural because most of the ways in which we are sold things today, whether it's on Instagram or television or even just our own human nature, it is that you are special.

14:28 No one has ever been like you, which I believe to a certain degree, and it says you deserve X, Y, Z. Now that can be a bad thing. You deserve to buy this thing or it can be a good thing you deserve because of some of the work. But really our feelings are so heavily influenced by this individual nature that is so natural to ourselves that we can detach ourselves from the thing that God has called us to, which is this long extended community. But the beauty of that is, is that it takes away this crazy sense of urgency and fear that can often come up in the life of a Christian because we forget that we belong to something much bigger, much greater, much stronger that actually has the first word in this world and it has the last word in this world we were never meant to. And it's tempting man for churches and for Christians to be so fearful and reactionary of every headliner, every thought process that comes down the pike. I believe that we as a church are meant to speak into the world in the current things that are going on right now in this moment. But we are never meant to speak with them, speak to them with this fear that comes up from trying to protect ourselves. Look, I got news for you. God does not need my protection.

15:40 God doesn't need me to stand up and fight every single fight that comes down the pike. Instead, we are called because of this long tradition that we exist in to rest in the greatness and the glory of all that is God. And believe that ultimately he will have the first word and the last word. The structure of our gathering reminds us of these truths. We sing songs that remind us of our place with God and that is dearly loved children that don't have to fight for a place at the table, but instead embrace exactly who God has called us to be. The second thing that we receive within this time of worship together is, is nutrition. Says in verse four, all the tribes of Israel, the Lord's people make their pilgrimage here. They come to give thanks to the name of the Lord as a law requires of Israel hears, stand the thrones where judgment is given the thrones of the dynasty of David.

16:39 We gain nutrition by being reminded of how God has made decisions and cast judgments already. Now again, it could be a difficult thing to come and engage in this community, whether it's online or here in the room. Often it does take a certain sense of discipline and consistency. But again, we were never meant to allow our feelings to dictate our actions. Instead, the healthier thing is that our actions would dictate our feelings. There's actually a little bit of a scientific thing that goes on here with our bodies. I don't know if you know about this. I've never heard it described this way or put with the actual, appropriate label on it. There's something called the Heian principle in psychology where essentially we can fake it until we make it. A lot of times, have you ever heard of this? A lot of people that I know in my life that are really, really fit say that they apply this principle to their lives. Not as many people as you might think really, really love getting up and going to the gym .

17:42 But eventually when you perform the action often enough, you receive from it often enough and your brain actually begins to wire together. Okay, going and doing this thing and exercising is actually good for me on this side. And so our actions begin to dictate our feelings instead of, I feel like I want to go to the gym all the time and relying on that feeling, but instead we can actually perform an action to change our feelings. And that can be true when it comes to the gathering of the people. And when we arrive in this place, we receive a nutrition sustenance for the rest of the week so that we're not relying on the fumes of our own ego or feelings, but instead we function within how God has called us to function. And the third thing is this that we receive in these times of worship together.

18:30 Gathered worship together is a focus. We center our attention on God himself and the decisions that God has made about this world and about us. It says in verse six, pray for peace in Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper, oh Jerusalem. May there be peace within your walls and prosperity in your palaces. For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, may you have peace for the sake of the house of the Lord our God. I will seek what is best for you. Oh, Jerusalem, we can focus and center ourselves again with regularity on the decisions that God has made about us and the world around us. There's two words in here, peace. Which number one, that word is shalom. Shalom is such a massive, huge word that is really a singular word, that is an effort to try to describe God bringing to fulfillment, to gather all things together to complete and bring peace into the world.

19:30 It's a difficult thing to understand in just one individual word. So I would love to describe it as best I can, but my mind falls short. But the second word is this, pray prosperity to your palaces and to your nation prosperity. Now the first thing that I think of when it comes to prosperity is how we measure the prosperity of nations. Right now we measure how much money they have, economic influence in the world, how's their market? And we measure things like military might describe how well they can defend themselves. And so I gotta be honest with you, I have, I have taught this before by using actually in, in a positive light, those measurables for our lives. And I look closer at the word. This is why people should not become pastors when they're 21 years old. Speaker 3


20:22 Look closer at the word and prosperity in this context you guys. This is so good. It doesn't mean more weapons and full coffers, it means leisure prosperity is leisure. Oh my goodness. That means that the goal of our time of worship together and the goal of this long obedience in the same direction is not that we would just set up the perfect desires and to claim victory over every little thing. Instead it is that we would literally recline in the presence Speaker 3

21:11 Of God.

21:15 I love holidays, I love Christmas especially. I love all the gift giving and all that stuff, but the older I get, the more I realize the biggest reason that I love Christmas so much is that it's an agreement that all of us make culturally at the same time to slow down and to stop working and to quit moving around because I like relaxing, but knowing that everybody else is doing the thing, it makes me feel like I have to compete in order to keep my place at the table. You know what I'm saying is I get in fights with my wife and I fought with my dad over this when I was a kid too, where he would say, we're gonna sit down and watch the football game and be like, oh yes, finally we're gonna sit down and watch the football game one quarter in my dad's working the vacuum right in front of the tv, you know, . And I'm like, I can't Speaker 3

21:56 Relax.

21:57 You keep Speaker 3

21:58 Moving around

22:01 And then I feel like, well, I need to participate or I need to go do something else. You know, especially with my wife now is this, she starts cleaning up and she's kind of looking at me and she's cleaning up and I'm like, ah, but I just wanna Speaker 3

22:12 Sit here.

22:17 You guys, Christians will have the most incredible impact on the world around us, on the culture, around us, on the community, around us. If we can start every conversation and interaction

22:30 With our attitude steeped in this understanding of I deserve and welcome peace and leisure in my life because of how I understand God to be in my relationship with him, I can relax and recline in the grace that he has offered. And while so many people have spoken so many things over my life that would attempt to dictate who I am and what I believe about myself to be, God is coming in and he's given me a different title. He's called me a son or a daughter, and he's given me grace that is not based on how well I can work things out, but instead of how close I simply am to him, I just wanna be with God. I just wanna rest and recline in that place. And all of a sudden our reactions to whatever happens in this world don't become fear-based and wicked and mean. Instead, they become full of that same grace that God has given us himself. Because I can relax, feel like I don't have to compete and experience Lees leisure in the presence of God. Eugene Peterson says it this way. He says, our everyday needs are changed by the act of worship.

23:38 We're no longer living hand to mouth, greedily scrambling through the human rat race to make the best we can out of a mean existence. Our basic needs suddenly become worthy of the dignity of creatures made in the image of God. So is all this really worth our time? It takes a lot to create these gatherings together. It takes a great commitment from you. I would say it's worth our time. We're looking for that peace and prosperity, that leisure relaxed stance that knows that everything is all right because God is for us before us and behind us. Now, the reason that a lot of times it doesn't seem like it's worth it is cuz it's this real stopping and slowing down to consider things we don't always consider. And again, I'll go back to cutting wood in the woods. When I was a kid, sometimes we would stop while we were on some mountain road in the middle of nowhere. And again, as a kid on a Saturday trying to get back to Super Nintendo, that was frustrating for me. Why are we stopping? Can we finish this thing? But why we would stop is so that my dad could actually sharpen the chainsaw.

24:53 And I don't know if you've ever sharpened a chainsaw, but it takes these small incremental little sharpenings of all these little independent barbs. And if you were to walk up on our family at one of those times, you would go, these people aren't doing anything. But the work that is to be accomplished in our everyday lives during the week is only truly made possible by a sharpening of the tool. In the meantime, it's not laziness and it's not wasteful. Our slowing down together, together and to sing and to recline and to spend time in conversation gleaned from the wisdom of scripture and from the Lord and from the tradition that this Christian thing is based on is actually a sharpening of our lives so that we can do the long walk of obedience in the same direction. Father God, we give you praise this morning. I pray that we would hold ourselves accountable in this place, that our actual gatherings from nine to 10 o'clock, from 10 30 to 1130 or that we would be willing and held accountable to this slower pace where we stop and we consider again, our life that gets to be lived in leisure because of where we stand with you. Lord, we love those huge moments of encounter,

26:31 Incredible words that are spoken over us, Lord Jesus. But I pray that our chasing again and again and again after those moments, or the pursuit of a specific indi individual feeling would not be our guiding light, but instead it would be the consistency of wanting to come and be together and be with you. In Jesus name we pray and everybody said Amen.