On July 6, 1958, a lay preacher named Charles Minton and an elder named Lawrence Calaway officiated at the first meeting of the Riviera Beach Christian Church. The scripture that day was Psalm 122. Today, as on that day, let us hear the word of the LORD:
Please pray with me. Father, please help us to profess our faith, to proclaim your hope, and to practice the love of your Son, Jesus Christ. For it is in his name that we pray, amen.
You know, this place called Jerusalem was important to the house of Israel. King Solomon had built there the very House of the LORD. It was a gated city high on a hill, and it was a crown jewel of the Middle East. There was a time when the House of Israel would declare God’s love for them with a one word exclamation: JERUSALEM! Verse four calls Jerusalem the Testamony of Israel. It was a testament to God’s covenant with the House of Israel.
When Jesus walked the earth, it was Herod’s rebuilt temple. Saducees were the officials running the temple. Pharisees were the religious zealots insisting on their rights there as well. Merchants flocked to the temple, because it was a curiosity at the crossroads of the Roman world. It was a tourist attraction, a showpiece. And of course, Roman law enforcement was always nearby to referee, and to keep the peace.
Place is a funny thing, isn’t it? As far as Jesus could tell, the Temple had already been destroyed. This showpiece of Herod’s was a hollow shell. It was a poor attempt to insinuate that Herod had restored the covenant as he had rebuilt the Temple.
Jesus knew that shortly after his death and resurrection, the Temple would be completely destroyed, and that the faith of Israel could no longer be pinned to a particular building, or a particular city. He predicted that not one stone would be left upon another. In just a few decades after his resurrection, that prediction had come to pass.
Today Jerusalem is a divided city, and the Temple is closed for business. And are we still praying for the Peace of Jerusalem? Jerusalem remains a beloved city, but it is no longer the best illustration of God’s covenant with humankind.
So do we have a better illustration? Tropical Sands was launched 43 years ago as a missionary church to this area. Certainly, that trailer park rec room was not the picture of what we would become. I understand the next building was a complete disaster. So I look at these walls around us today and I say Praise God and Thank You Lord Jesus. But even at that, I know better than to pin the love of God to my satisfaction level with this building.
In his days on earth, Jesus revealed the Master Plan. The Master must be God Himself, and if there is a plan, its purpose must be to fulfill God’s desire here on Earth.
When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, he revealed to her God’s Master Plan for worship. She said Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.
But what did Jesus say? In John 4.21 he said, “Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor at Jerusalem, worship the Father. The hour cometh, and now is, when true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
So the point is not a place. The church of Jesus Christ is not a place. It is more like a club — and I think Jesus would say it is more like a family. We are drawn together not by a place, but by a spirit.
You know, on that day, the woman drew crowds to Jesus, and he made a lot of people happy. He made them happy because he told them that salvation was for Samaritans as well as for Jews. He made them happy by telling them that they did not have to possess the Holy City of Jerusalem, nor even the Holy Mountain, to stay in touch with God. As a Spirit, God is not restricted to a particular place.
So what does it mean to worship in Spirit and in Truth? Now I have not studied exactly what the original text might mean by that, but let me take a layman’s stab at it. A spirit of worship is one that accepts the presence of God. To worship in spirit is to have not just some outward appearance of worship, but an inward sense of it, and a real need to get in touch with God. It is our heart seeking the heart of God. That is worship in spirit.
Now, for truth. What does it mean to worship in truth? I think we can agree that Jesus had a special contempt for hypocrites. Christ was absolutely venomous toward pious religious people who held others to the jot and tittle of ceremony without even tipping a had to service. He called them bad shepherds and blind guides. They could indeed worship, but they did not worship in truth.
A worshipper in truth is one who is actually interested in pleasing God. You might notice that every little thing today is done by someone different. Kim did the children’s moment. Tom Brown wrote the skit. Pearl Callaway has a history for us later. You’ll soon have the best food you ever tasted, after service. We have special music. You know, I didn’t have to beg anyone to do anything. That’s because these people are hear to worship, and they worship by teaching children, and by writing skits, and by helping out with the service.
That is worship in Truth! Worship in Truth is hands on worship! To worship through service to others is to worship in Truth. That is the worship that keeps us connected to one another and to the coming Kingdom of God on Earth.
We have a lot to do today. At the luncheon, we’re going to induct our new slate of officers. Please don’t let that scare you off, with food like this, it will be worth it. And our elders are going to induct a new elder into their ranks today. Tom Brown has agreed to step up to the plate, and he has accepted the call to become an elder in this church. I am very proud of Tom because he is willing to serve as a leader of this church. In becoming an elder, Tom Brown is worshipping in spirit and in truth.
So what is the master plan? It is not about place. It is not about Jerusalem, White Temple, or Southern Trailer Court, or Southwind Circle, or Burns Road. It is about worshipping in spirit and truth. It is about worshipping with a sense of gladness, with a joy that draws others to your Church, and to your Lord. It really is about skits, and food drives, and Sunday School, and elders, and music specials, and covered dish luncheons, and reaching out to the people around us. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship him in Spirit and in Truth.
Tropical Sands Christian Church was born to be a missionary church. I say that it is still a missionary church, and we are just getting our second wind. The Master Plan is to profess faith, to proclaim hope, and to practice love, and to do so right here, in this community.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Tropical Sands Christian Church – July 8, 2001