How to Prepare for Sunday Worship (in general and for May 19th specifically)

We’re experimenting today with something new on the blog. Each Friday we will post a guide for how to prepare for that coming Sunday’s service. It will include the Bible passage for the sermon, the songs we’ll sing, and some other thoughts to help you get ready. We’ll see how it goes, and whether it proves helpful (so feedback is a good thing).

If you’re like me, you probably have in mind that you’ll go to the Sunday morning service, but I rarely give much thought ahead of time to what I’ll actually do there. When I’m getting ready to go into the auditorium that morning, my mind is in lots of other places: how it went checking our kids in to their classrooms, what we’re having for lunch, the conversation I just had in the foyer. I walk in during the 1st (or 2nd) song and distractedly start to sing, but it’s a process for my focus to come around and truly engage with what’s happening.

We live 24-7 in a world that is set up to run just fine without any notice of God. Businesses, most schools, maybe even our time at home—all of it is designed to operate smoothly without reference to God. Whether he exists or not is irrelevant. Life hums along without him. (For a penetrating analysis of this, see Craig Gay, The Way of the Modern World). I’m not saying this is the way it should be, but just that it is.

The value of Sunday morning is that it helps re-set us to a different, truer understanding. It reminds us that reality is defined first by God. Instead of squeezing our time at corporate worship into everything else, one of the best things we can do for our souls is to reverse the order, to make Sunday the lens through which we see the rest of our week.

So anything we can do to help Sunday occupy that central place is a good thing. This blog feature will be designed to get us thinking about Sunday morning ahead of time. It will give you a chance to read the passage, perhaps look up song lyrics, or reflect on the themes. You can let those things tick over in the back of your mind before the service.

This Sunday, May 19th, Keith Simon will preach from James 4:4, “Friend of the World = Enemy of God.” James 4:4 reads, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

As we’ve seen in James, he doesn’t pull punches. These are hard words. But we’ll have a chance to reflect on how ultimately they are life-giving words, that their sharp edge is to draw us toward God. Perhaps you might think about what makes someone a friend. What do you look for in a friend? And what is it about being a friend of the world (and what exactly does world mean, anyway?) means that we become God’s enemy?

Our music and readings before the sermon will point us toward God, especially in his greatness and holiness, and cause us to consider our own unholiness. But the wonderful truth is that no one condemns us, because Christ died and rose for us, and now reigns and works on our behalf.

Our songs this week:

How Great is our God by Chris Tomlin, Jesse Reeves, and Ed Cash
Sanctus, traditional lyrics set to music by Christine Cover and Scott Johnson
Holy by Jason Ingram, Matt Redman, and Jonas Myrin
With Melting Heart and Weeping Eyes, lyrics by John Fawcett and music by Clint Wells
O My Soul Arise, lyrics by Charles Wesley and music with additional lyrics by Eric McCallister

After the sermon, we’ll sing a new song, Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken, with lyrics by Henry Lyte and music by Mozart, arranged by Bill Moore. You can listen to it here.

See you Sunday morning.

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