Call to Worship

Call to Worship

TEXT: John 4:7-42

“Behold, I am making all things new… I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.” (Revelation 21:5-6)

Jesus invites us into worship. Today we are focused in on that invitation or call to worship. It’s one of the first things we do in our worship service, but those few short lines of scripture represent the greater and ongoing invitation from Jesus to all who could come and drink of the living water he offers to us. This summer we are digging into the meaning and biblical basis for the things we do in our worship service and today we are looking at the “Call to Worship.”

I thought about simply talking about what worship is. That’s the direction we went in Sunday school. And I’d love to give you resources on what worship is. I even wrote a devotional book about it and would be glad to give you one if you want it! But for the sermon today I want to look at some of the different ways Jesus invites us into worship using the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well.

Invitation at the Well (vv.7-25)

What’s going on with you today?

The story begins with a Samaritan woman coming to the well outside her town to draw water. Jesus was traveling with the disciples, but they had all gone into the town to buy food. And Jesus was at the well. The preceding verses say he was tired from the journey and stopped there to rest. But when he sees her there preparing to draw some water from the well, he initiates conversation by asking for a drink. The literal translation is “Give me a drink” (v.7) but it’s not an order, simply a request for water, “May I have some water?” And while he is surely thirsty it becomes clear that he intends more depth to the conversation. But he is meeting her where she is. He’s noticed what she is doing and is inviting more conversation and interaction. Isn’t that an interesting way to contemplate beginning a time of worship.

What’s going on with you today? How was your week? Anything on your mind this morning?

While I don’t begin our formal worship service with those questions, consider that we almost always have folks at the door inviting and welcoming you into the building. They greet you and invite conversation. And then you all are notorious for staying out there [the gathering area]… we’ve had to ring handbells, ask people to come in, and sometimes I even go out to say we are ready to start. You all are checking in with each other or meeting new people. It is how we begin our morning of worship together here. What’s going on with you today? So many of you have already asked or been asked this question!

Are you ever surprised at this? I’m sure newcomers and visitors have been. The woman was surprised that Jesus interacted with her. It was twice unusual because in that culture men didn’t speak to women publicly and Jews didn’t interact with Samaritans. And the Samaritan-Jewish difference was because of religious and racial history. Jesus doesn’t address this question at this point, but sticks on the topic of water to offer her something of greatest value.

There is life and truth and blessing through Jesus Christ

He goes on to say, “If you knew the gift of God and who [you are talking to]… you would have asked and He would have given you living water” (v.10) Jesus is actually offering her water! If she only knew what God was doing and who Jesus was, she would have asked him for water instead. He has “living water.” Perhaps this does answer her question about why he is talking to her. It is not a casual exchange; rather Jesus says that God is up to something and through what he says and how he says it, he invites her into further conversation.

God is here in this place. There is more going on here than you showing up to sing, pray, and hear a sermon. There is more going on than seeing each other. God is here and is doing something! If you could see it, believe it, receive it. This is how Jesus invites us into worship and into the presence of God!

She’s interested. She notes that Jesus doesn’t even have a bucket to draw water from the well. Where will he get it. The great Jacob dug this well and got water from it many generations ago. Does Jesus know something he didn’t know? Is he greater than Jacob?

Do we know the power behind what’s going on when we worship? It’s not in the preacher or the great music or the great community. It’s not the building or the history or the degree of exuberance or faith. It’s the very presence of God. Can we trust that God has something to offer, something to bless us with? Are we open to it and willing to receive it?

Jesus clarifies, “Whoever drinks [this water Jesus offers] will never thirst… it will become a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (v.14) The well water, even as great as Jacob was, is just regular water. You’ll drink it and need to come back again. But the living water that Jesus offers is something else entirely. It quenches a thirst that is more than physical. It’s what we need. It renews itself like spring water within us. It leads us to eternal life with God.

Why do we keep coming to church? We recognize that we need God in our life. If we are fortunate we find a church that we enjoy. We like the sermons or the music or the people or the food. Maybe all of the above. And it’s all good. But it’s possible to come drink from that well, be right next to Jesus, and miss the living water he offers. The woman could have drawn her water, met Jesus, and gone on her way. Don’t miss the infinitely greater blessing!

While she didn’t understand, she wanted it: “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.”

Come on in – warts and all.

Jesus response is baffling at first. If I had gotten this far and one of you said, “I love the music and people and food and all, but what I really want is a deeper relationship with God; can you tell me about that?” I would cheer and say, “Absolutely! Let’s do it!”

But Jesus seems to take a left turn here. He says, “Go, call your husband and come [back] here.” (v.18) What’s going on? On one hand, he might be attending to the appearance of propriety; is she married? Should they be talking alone? But that does not seem to be his focus. He’s inviting her to be truthful with him, perhaps on his way to talking about “worshiping in truth.” She dips her toe in the water and says, “I have no husband.” But Jesus knows there is more. She’s been married many times and is now living with a man who is not her husband.

Have you ever considered that Jesus invites confession? While not explicitly connecting these dots, he may be indicating here that confession of sin (and repentance?) is a necessary part of receiving the living water. Hear that right: don’t hold back because you are unworthy, but enter in because you are unworthy! Jesus invites our confession while knowing us deeply! We hold back just like the woman, but Jesus already knows everything about us. (That’s how she describes him later: “a man who told me all the things that I have done.”) No wonder she thought he was a prophet!

Come to Jesus, not hiding who you are from him, but realizing that he invites you, sin and all!

Can you wrap your mind around that? He doesn’t invite you to get yourself cleaned up and presentable and as near-perfect as you can be, then to come and he will reward you with living water and eternal life. He invites you to come authentically as you are – in truth – and receive his gift of life.

Jesus is calling us to worship!

Having made clear that he wants YOU as you are to give you life and truth and blessing, Jesus invites you to worship!

The woman takes her own seeming left turn from there and says, “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain… and [the Jews in] Jerusalem.” Was she changing the subject? Was she digging in to the deeper matter of living water, worship, and truth? I don’t know. But it became the context for Jesus to teach her and us about worship.

Things are changing, he says: “An hour is coming, and now is…” (v.23) The things that divided the Jews and Samaritans were coming to an end. His conversation with her, a Samaritan woman, was indication of this. True worship, says Jesus, will no longer be defined by where you worship, but how you worship. It’s no longer this mountain or that city, this building or that; it is by worshiping in spirit and truth. Our spirit aligns with God’s Spirit; and God’s truth reveals to us what is true about God and about us.

Jesus goes on to say that “Those who worship [God] must worship in spirit and truth” (v.24) What does that mean for us to worship “in spirit and truth?” It means that we worship in the presence and power of God through the Holy Spirit. We gather in God’s name and there the Holy Spirit is in our midst. We gather around the Word of God in scripture because God’s Word is truth. We recognize that we are worshiping not because we are Presbyterian or at Good Shepherd or our parents were Christian, but because God is here in spirit and truth.

Perhaps wanting to demonstrate her own knowledge of spiritual things the woman declares back to Jesus at this point. Or maybe it was the language of a time that is coming and is now here. She says back to Jesus, “I know that Messiah is coming; when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.”

It’s important to recognize that Jesus understood himself to be more than a Rabbi or prophet. He recognized himself as the Messiah and Son of God: “I who speak to you am He [the Messiah].” (v.26) Jesus has given a final invitation or call to worship by declaring himself as the Messiah.

Jesus invites ordinary and imperfect people to receive God’s life and truth and is still inviting you today.

What’s going on with you today?
There is life and truth and blessing with God
Come on in – warts and all!
Jesus is inviting, calling, offering

What do you do with that?

At this point the disciples return and the woman goes back to town (leaving her waterpot at the well).

Come and See! (v.28,39-42)

The woman has come into the presence of God through Jesus. If that’s the “first movement of worship” then what follows is the second: she goes out and shares what she has seen and heard. She goes into the city and tells everyone, “Come and see a man who told me all the things that I have done! Could he be the Messiah?!”

Surely she thinks so to risk her already questionable reputation in this way. And we read that many did indeed come and see, AND BELIEVE. And they did so “because of the word of the woman who testified” (v.39). Her act of worship in truth was to tell the truth about Jesus and herself and it invited others to come, see, believe, and worship.

Jesus stayed several days and MANY MORE believed because of His word. And they commented to her that because of her initial testimony they were able to hear for themselves directly and know that Jesus is “indeed the Savior of the world.” (v.42)

Don’t miss this second movement of worship. We talk about it… being the church out there, beyond the doors and walls, all the other days of the week. That is also worship and it is worship to which Jesus invites us. When we carry the news of what we’ve seen and heard out into our neighborhood and workplace and school and activities, we carry God’s spirit and truth as invitation to our neighbors. Jesus invites us to COME and SEE and then sends us to GO and TELL.

And this is how people believe and drink of the living water. They hear the truth of our witness and are invited to meet and experience Christ directly and believe in Him, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Come, let us worship the Lord!

Some Music Used

  • Preludes
    • Dancing on the Waves (We the Kingdom)
    • Build My Life
    • Christ the Lord (GSPC Choir – Easter 2021)
    • God So Loved (We the Kingdom)
  • God of Wonders
  • Open Up the Heavens
  • Praise to the Lord, the Almighty