Years ago, Presbyterians were expected to learn by heart the Westminster Shorter Catechism, so a few of you may recall the answer to its opening question: “What is the chief end of man?” “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” (Book of Confessions, 7.001) While these days the language may sound a little dated, that statement remains in many ways the definition of what being a Christian in the Reformed tradition is all about. But what does it mean, our “chief end” being to “glorify” and to “enjoy” God?
It means that worshiping God is our primary work as God’s people.
Work may sound like a funny word to use when talking about worship. Sure, we know we’re all invited to worship, but surely you all have enough work to do the rest of the week – at your respective jobs, taking care of your homes and families, volunteering, going to school, running a hundred errands and . . . worship as work? Come on, Deb. Sunday’s supposed to be my day off!
Still, our tradition is quite clear on the subject: “In Jesus Christ, the Church is a royal priesthood in which worship is the work of everyone. The people of God are called to participate in the common ministry of worship.” (W-1.4003) In other words, your office and your title in worship each week, is priest. As a priest, naturally you are expected to work in worship. First and foremost by praying – either aloud or in silence during the prayers of the people. But your worship work has other dimensions as well, like your attentive participation in the reading and interpretation of the Scriptures and your responsibility for congregational singing. “Music is a duty in worship for the same reason that prayer, offering, and study are duties—God commands it and God enjoys it. We are, after all, serving the living God in worship. That’s our job.” And God loves to hear our voices lifted together in praise.
Certainly there has been a trend toward specialization in many fields in recent years; some of this has no doubt rubbed off on the Church. But as Reformed Christians we’ve never had “professional” worshipers who somehow stand apart from “ordinary” worshipers. A spectator sport this ain’t!
Now before anyone gets discouraged, let’s be clear - the work of worship isn’t difficult. And it shouldn’t be tedious. If it is, we’re probably not doing it right, and we’d better get to work on that. “What St. Augustine says about the sacraments applies in reality to all [our worship duties] – ‘very few in number, very excellent in meaning, very easy to observe.’” I’m sure each one of us has something we really enjoy doing, not because there’s no work involved, but because the work required of us is worthwhile and gratifying. Whether it’s gardening, learning to play an instrument or a sport, mastering your chess game, or making your way through that 500-page book you’ve been dying to read. Sure, these things require effort. But the effort pays off, and the work itself is fun. When we gather together each Sunday, “the work God sets out for us is … enjoyable, even celebrative; but it is still work.” And every one of us is called to join in.
I chose our two Scripture texts for this morning because they address two sides of the “worshipful work” equation. Psalm 95 speaks beautifully to this first half – worship as our work, our duty, our primary calling as God’s people. And the kind of duty it is. Mandated, yes, but more privilege than burden. “Let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! … Let us [sing] to him with songs of praise! … For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.”
The Micah passage then enters the picture as one in a long line of Scripture passages addressing the other side of the equation, reminding us that ministry (service) is also itself a form of worship. In other words, if worship is work, work can also be worship.
Worship and service are absolutely intertwined in the Reformed Tradition. According to our Presbyterian constitution - “The rhythm of life of the believer moves [continually] from worship to ministry, from ministry to worship.” (W-5.1003)
Remember, when Jesus was asked to name the greatest commandment, he said: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) If loving God in every one of these ways is worship, then we can worship God all the time, everywhere. Simply by putting our minds and our bodies to good work, and by loving one another. The prophet Micah makes much the same point when he says our acts of justice and kindness are as important as our humility before God. Or to quote a child who was asked to define the word mission: “Mission is worshiping God by helping people.”
Work, ministry, service as worship. What’s true of our respective ministries elsewhere is of course true of all those that happen within a church family.
And what is that chief end again? “To glorify God and to enjoy God forever.” Our primary work as God’s people is to worship God in everything we do—and to have some fun doing it! We all know endless to do lists can be exhausting. But worshipful work can actually be life-giving.
Today we are celebrating a remarkable individual who has been an example for us all in the area of worshipful work. Certainly it has been a job requirement for John Obourn to prepare and plan for our Sunday services, to select beautiful music and rehearse it with our choir. But you don’t need to have known John for long to know that all of this work he has done so diligently and so faithfully has been done in order to glorify God. Every anthem he has led, every solo he has sung in this sanctuary in his 35 years as our Music Director has been offered in a spirit of worship. And I don’t think it’s any secret how much John has loved this worshipful work, how much joy it has brought to his life. He has modeled for us in a significant way the assignment all of us are given – to glorify God in our worship and to enjoy God’s presence in our lives.
John, you have both inspired and equipped us for this next chapter of our music and worship life as a church family. We move forward with a deep appreciation for music in worship and a strong expectation of musical excellence. You have trained us well! Not only that, but your incredible voice will long echo through these halls. Let’s face it – there are songs for which any version we hear from this point on will pale in comparison to your own rendition! You have graced us with gift upon musical gift in your service to this congregation over the years, and for that we are deeply grateful.
What’s more, I believe John has offered us a further gift simply by modeling the joy he has found in his own worshipful work. And in this – even if we don’t have his musical chops – we can certainly follow his lead.
My prayer for every person in this congregation today is that you might see the work you do as worship. Passive entertainment you can find just about anywhere. You’re here in this room, a part of this church community, because you’ve been called to ministry. And it’s been said that meaningful ministry happens where your deep gladness or joy meets the world’s deep hunger or need. (Buechner)
So what is the worshipful work to which you’ve been called? Enjoy it – and know that God will enjoy it, too, as the offering you present to him. Amen.
 Dean W. Chapman, How to Worship as a Presbyterian, 11
 Chapman 52
 Chapman, 13.
 Chapman, p. 9.