Does Familiarity Breed Contempt?
What we worship will always shape us.

All the Readings for Today - A Call to Worship


Detail from Religion by Charles Sprague Pearce (1896)

As humans, we tend to lean toward the worship of something,

Is it the great something in the great somewhere or is it a very specific Magnet of Truth and Realty that draws us toward reverence and intimacy?

What difference does it make in our lives, our relationships, and our world, that we either worship or do not worship God?

And does it matter that it matters?

Let us allow this question to be in the backdrop of our thinking as we explore some of the scriptures in our daily readings for today.

"I will praise the Name  of the Lord Most High." - from Psalm 7:17

The word “praise” occurs 248 times in 216 verses in the King James version of the Bible. 

According to the psalmist, it is according to God's righteousness that we praise Him.

If we are going to properly position ourselves in relation to God, it must be from this perspective.

God is righteous, holy, worthy, and wonderful.  All glory, honor, and majesty belong to God. 

God deserves our worship and delights to receive us. 

When we praise God, we enter into His delightful joy and experience the wonder of His presence. 

In Psalm 4, we pray.

Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.

O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah.

But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto him.

Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.

Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.

There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.

Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.

I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.


Take some time to engage if you like or come back to it,

Consider the following conversation from the book of Job. What do you make of it?

All the characters in  Job believe in God, acknowledge God's sovereignty, and worship God.

They know much about God and what they actually know about God is fairly accurate.

But, do they know God?

Job 4:1,5:1-11,17-21,26-27
New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered:

“Call now; is there anyone who will answer you?
To which of the holy ones will you turn?
Surely vexation kills the fool,
and jealousy slays the simple.
I have seen fools taking root,
but suddenly I cursed their dwelling.
Their children are far from safety,
they are crushed in the gate,
and there is no one to deliver them.
The hungry eat their harvest,
and they take it even out of the thorns,
and the thirsty pant after their wealth.
For misery does not come from the earth,
nor does trouble sprout from the ground,
but humans are born to trouble
just as sparks fly upward.

“As for me, I would seek God,
and to God I would commit my cause.
He does great things and unsearchable,
marvelous things without number.
He gives rain on the earth
and sends waters on the fields;
he sets on high those who are lowly,
and those who mourn are lifted to safety.

“How happy is the one whom God reproves;
therefore do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
For he wounds, but he binds up;
he strikes, but his hands heal.
He will deliver you from six troubles;
in seven no harm shall touch you.
In famine he will redeem you from death
and in war from the power of the sword.
You shall be hidden from the scourge of the tongue
and shall not fear destruction when it comes.

You shall come to your grave in ripe old age,
as a shock of grain comes up to the threshing floor in its season.
See, we have searched this out; it is true.
Hear, and know it for yourself.”

There is nothing here that is not true.

But how much of it is relevant to Job's current situation? How much of it brings Job into face to face encounter with God where worship takes place?

I leave it to you, the reader, to explore.

We move to Paul's encounter with God in Jesus who has died, risen from the dead, ascended to Heaven, and now, appeared to Paul in a blinding encounter. Paul has been converted and is now being activated for service.

... and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” All who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?” Saul became increasingly more powerful and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Messiah.

After some time had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night so that they might kill him, but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.

When he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples, and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He spoke and argued with the Hellenists, but they were attempting to kill him. When the brothers and sisters learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

Meanwhile the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was built up. Living in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.

Paul will do more to advance the worship of the God of Israel among the nations than any other human being of his time. He will speak boldly among people who are seeking to kill him and those threats will result in the church being built up,.

The further result will be a paradoxical worship experience: comfort and fear.

Say them in any order, comfort and fear, fear and comfort. They do not contradict each other. They evoke praise, They accompany worship. They create an atmosphere of worship and they emerge from an atmosphere of worship.

Revisit Jesus as he was among us in the flesh in his ministry, still from the NRSV, John recounts.

John 6:52-59

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" 

So Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever." 

He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

What could be more intimate than this?

What could be more familiar?

What could be more esoteric and yet, what could be more down to earth?

It is immanent! It is transcendent.

It is worshipful.

It is ordinary.

So much of our concept of God is other-worldly. So many of our ideas a absolutely consistent with those of Eliphaz or, for that matter, the psalmist. And they are not wrong. But how do we come to the balance seen in the experience of the disciples in Damascus?

It is here where "This is the bread that came down from heaven."

Where we find it difficult to ascend to a higher view, the bread comes down.

The bread comes to us.

What do we, then do, in order to meet God?

We eat the bread. We receive the gift.

We live forever and forever starts now.

Yesterday, in our lectionary, we read from Marks gospel of how a prophet is treated with contempt in his hometown. 

There is a gap between contempt for Christ and for all that is of God and the reverent worship of God. Contempt in any form for divinity brings self contempt as well. we cannot have self-respect or respect for others until we center ourselves in the praise of God.

For that reason, I will turn the floor over to Alister Begg to speak to us from Mark 6:1-6.