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15-43 149th Street
Whitestone, NY 11357

718.746.7858

The First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone has been at work in northeast Queens since 1871, seeking to proclaim God’s Word and live out God’s justice and peace in our lives and our community. We welcome all to join us for worship, fellowship, learning, and service in our small but vibrant community of faith.

Sermons

Gathered

Andy James

a sermon on Micah 6:1-8; John 4:19-24; Psalm 100

Come all you people, come and praise your Maker;
come all you people, come and praise your Maker;
come all you people, come and praise your Maker;
come now and worship the Lord. (Alexander Gondo, transcrb. I-to Loh)

For countless generations, women and men of all ages, all around the world, have gathered to praise our Maker and worship the Lord. The shape and form of worship has changed and shifted in a variety of ways, adapting to local customs of words and songs, adjusting as we have come to think in new and deeper ways about God, and guiding us to more faithful and hopeful ways of living out our faith and our worship in the world. So over the next several weeks, we will take a step back from the lectionary readings and begin pulling apart the worship service, looking at the meaning of its various parts, thinking more carefully about why we do what we do, and trying to sort out how we embody in our worship God’s call to gather in this place and go out to serve.

Just as our worship begins with the gathering of God’s people, so too this journey begins as all God’s people come together to praise our Maker. Our readings today lift up different elements of why and how we gather: the command from the prophet Micah to bring a different kind of offering of justice and kindness and humility to our worship; the instruction from Jesus to gather for worship in spirit and in truth; and our sung psalm that directs us to “sing to the Lord with cheerful voice” and “enter then his gates with praise.” But whatever the reason for our being here, whatever we bring with us, whatever we do when we arrive, when we gather for worship we come together in the presence of God.

Come all you people, come and praise your Maker;
come all you people, come and praise your Maker;
come all you people, come and praise your Maker;
come now and worship the Lord.

Coming together is an important thing these days. Our world is an increasingly lonely place, and coming together seems less and less important. We live in a day and age when we can limit our interactions with others by doing things online with a few clicks rather than by phone or in person. Especially in this large city, we can easily avoid the sorts of social interaction that were once the norm and make it just fine, it seems, on our own. We so easily become consumed with our own affairs that we miss the ways in which we can and should interact with others along the way. We allow ourselves to become comfortable with the way things that we become afraid of the differences we might experience with others. And all this culminates in the attitude shared by so many that it is just fine to worship on our own on Sunday mornings, maybe with a cup of coffee and a copy of the Times, maybe with a leisurely and relaxing morning without the stress of getting ready by a certain hour, maybe with time shared by choice with our favorite family or friends.

But the core of our worship of God begins as we come together across all our boundaries, beyond our families of origin and choice, stepping outside our comfort zones, to worship as God’s one people. Coming together to worship shakes us out of our complacency in thinking that we can make it through anything and everything on our own. Coming together to worship reminds us that we gain strength for living our faith as we gather together. And coming together for worship gives us the energy and courage we need to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.

Come all you people, come and praise your Maker;
come all you people, come and praise your Maker;
come all you people, come and praise your Maker;
come now and worship the Lord.

Coming together for worship might seem to be an easy thing, but this isn’t always the case. Just ask Jesus’ disciples, who even on the night of the resurrection gathered together under cover of darkness in locked rooms for fear of who might find them out. Just ask the early church, who were gathered for worship underground, in secret, for decades in the face of persecution. Just ask those who sought reform in the church over the centuries, who were challenged and even killed for trying to shape worship as they saw fit. Just ask the slaves of nineteenth-century America, who gathered under cover of darkness when their human owners told them that they could not worship as they pleased. Just ask our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers, who were looked upon with suspicion in our own country for centuries because of their commitment to a particular way of worship and leadership that seemed unusual to others. Just ask the victims of the Holocaust, who were forced into gas chambers because of their heritage of prayer and worship. Just ask our Muslim friends, who gathered to pray alongside suspicion and spies for years after 9/11 because others were afraid of what might be said there. And just ask our sisters and brothers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, who gathered for prayer and study this week and even welcomed a guest into their midst only to have him murder nine of them after their conversation.

Come all you people, come and praise your Maker;
come all you people, come and praise your Maker;
come all you people, come and praise your Maker;
come now and worship the Lord.

In the face of all these challenges, confronted with all these fears, we keep coming together for worship, trusting that God will be present in our midst. It’s not that this is the only place where we see God at work; it’s not that we think that God lives here in the church, nesting somewhere in these rafters or bunking next to the boiler in the basement; it’s not even that we find that something special happens when we gather here. We gather to worship because we know of no better way to be in full and deep and real relationship with our sisters and brothers and no better way to show our gratitude and thanksgiving for all that God gives us along the way.

So just have you have come to worship today, keep gathering here in this place, trusting that God will be here with us and that in sharing this time with one another we can worship in Spirit and in truth, offering our praise and thanks to the God who made us and who makes all things new. Thanks be to God!

Come all you people, come and praise your Maker;
come all you people, come and praise your Maker;
come all you people, come and praise your Maker;
come now and worship the Lord.