Guest Blogger: Jesse D. Colón

Mural in Riverside Presbyterian Church
Mural in Riverside Presbyterian Church

This morning we welcome our first guest blogger, Jesse D. Colón.

Jesse D. Colón Arroyo, is a loud NewYorican who loves God and Music. He studied music in Puerto Rico and served as the Director of Music Ministries for 7 years at the church his parents founded as a mission, “Evangelio de Amor”, alongside his older brother and current pastor, Justin.  He moved to Virginia with his wife and two children in 2011 and now currently serves as a Music Coordinator at Riverside Presbyterian Church in Sterling, Virginia.

Worship

What is worship?  As a music leader in church I found defining this word harder than I thought.  It’s a word used many times to describe a type of service in church and other times referred as the musical section within the order of a service.  But if we adhere to these definitions we’re limiting worship to something that happens a day of the week or an hour within the day. Is worship done with afterwards?  Though many may agree with this perspective, it is my understanding that God has more in mind.

Looking at the word

Oxford Dictionary explains its origin from Old English–“weorthscipe” ‘worthiness, acknowledgment of worth’ (worth-shipping)

This definition could lead us to understand worship as acts of recognition.  Something we say or do to demonstrate that the object of our worship is worthy.  Some people might be okay with leaving it here but this perspective is limited.   It could be made into a checklist of things to do, and as soon as we’re done with the list, one could interpret that we’re done relating with God.  This could not be further from what Scripture teaches us.  Yes. God is worthy, but a single act of recognition is not enough.  As reflected in the Jesus of the gospels, the God I serve is worthy of my time, worthy of my attention, worthy of my affection, worthy of my resources, worthy of my service, and worthy of everything I am or have. Worship is more than just an act but also an attitude, a way of living, and a life surrendered completely and wholly to God.  All the acts of recognition we can come up with are merely reflections of what worship causes in our lives.

What does the Bible say?

The first appearance of the word “worship” in scripture is in Genesis 22:5 when Abraham is about to sacrifice his son Isaac as an offering to God.  The Hebrew word used is shachah which literally means to prostrate or bow down.  In Genesis 24:26 we can understand this meaning because it’s very direct in saying: “Then, the man bowed down and worshiped the Lord”.  Interpreting these passages support the perspective that worship is an act of offering up or sacrificing something to God.  But we should ask ourselves: what does God want us to offer or sacrifice? In the passage of Genesis 22, God stopped Abraham from sacrificing his son Isaac because it was all a test of obedience and trust in God.  1 Samuel 15:22 explains it clearly: “…Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as obeying the Lord?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”

God wants us. From creation to Moses and the Ten Commandments to Jesus dying on a cross, it’s always been about God reaching out and us reciprocating.

I think this couldn’t be any more clear as when we read: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of Gods mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1). 

What’s more revealing is that worship is what we live for and what makes us human. Thomas G. Long expresses in his book Beyond the Worship Wars: Building Vital and Faithful Worship [1]:

“Worshiping God is not simply a good thing to do; it is a necessary thing to do to be human.  The most profound statement that can be made about us is that we need to join with others in bowing before God in worshipful acts of devotion, praise, obedience, thanksgiving and petition.”(17)

A passage that gives light to this statement is Isaiah 43.  This is a beautiful chapter where the prophet is revealing God’s word to the people of Israel and he starts by saying in the first verse:

“But now, this is what the Lord says-he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israeleveryone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43:1,7).

Granted that this was written specifically to Israel, if we understand that today we are his children and his people, then here’s what we were made for.  Worship is not something we do on Sunday mornings, but what we were made for–we were created to bring God glory.  This reminds me of a Tim Hughes song called “Living for Your Glory” where there’s a part he sings: “in everything I say and do, let my life honor You, here I am living for Your glory”.

Walking this Path

I don’t know who coined the phrase “We are what we Love”.  However, I think it gives us insight on how we can start to live this life of a worshiper described in Romans 12:1–to feel completely whole and human as God intended us to be from the beginning.  Bob Kauflin expresses in his book Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God [2]: “while it’s simplistic to say worship is Love, it’s a fact that what we love most will determine what we genuinely worship”(25). Kauflin goes on to say:

“For years we’ve read or experienced firsthand the “worship wars”-conflicts over music styles, song selection, and drums. But far too little has been said about the worship wars going inside of us. And they’re much more significant. Each of us has a battle raging within us over what we love most –God or something else.”

The Great Commandment says: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind” (Deuteronomy 6:5; Luke 10:27).

No matter what stage or season in life we might find ourselves the life of a worshiper is constantly asking this question:  do I love the Lord my God with all that I am? That is worship.

Worship Workshop

On Saturday February 8, 2014 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Jesse D. Colón (Jesse@RiversideChurch.com) and Noemi Simmons (Noemi@Riversidechurch.com) are hosting a Worship Workshop at Riverside Presbyterian Church (www.RiversideChurch.com).  A continental breakfast and lunch will be served.  If this is interesting to you, please contact Jesse or Noemi for more details.

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[1] Thomas G. Long. 2001.  Beyond the Worship Wars: Building Vital and Faithful Worship.  Herdon:  Alban Institute. (www.Alban.org).

[2] Bob Kauflin.  2008. Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God.  Wheaton: Crossway.

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Almuerzo Para El Alma

Display_NocheBuena_12242011By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Each Wednesday Trinity Presbyterian Church, in cooperation with Riverside Presbyterian Church and other partners, hosts a luncheon and worship service for day laborers and other needy Hispanic people in Herndon, Virginia. This luncheon has been held weekly now for seven years.

The typical schedule is simple. Around 11:15 a.m. the volunteers gather for prayer. At 11:30 a.m. a van and other cars pick up participants near the local 7-11. Lunch is served. Participants are asked to introduce themselves and say where they are from. Several sets of Latin praise music are played and sung.  A sermon is preached in Spanish (or translated in real-time from English). Everyone is dismissed with prayer. The van and other cars then return participants to the 7-11.

Since July, I have been a weekly volunteer. My role is normally to assist in picking up and dropping participants, hang with the participants during lunch, and watching the worship leader’s kids while he sings and plays. I preached once in September and everyone was graciously attentive to my mumbling in Spanish. The volunteers, including the pastors, are all highly motivated because we know that for many participants this is their only church. Lunch is important but participants come for more than simply the food.

Participants come from many Latin counties, but primarily from Central America—especially El Salvador and Honduras. It is humbling to speak with participants. Most day laborers live a hand-to-mouth existence working only a couple of days each week—enough to survive and occasionally send checks home to their families. Many have been here in the U.S. for over a decade and still speak little or no English and live in virtual obscurity. Conversation focuses on encouraging them to open up and share.

Several observations come out of these conversations. The first observation is that most participants are Christians and their spirituality runs deep. Few are Presbyterians; many are Pentecostals; almost all have a Catholic upbringing. This observation is obvious watching Spanish language television—shows are mostly family oriented; people pray and consult their pastor in times of adversity. The second observation follows from the first. Because most participants are Christians, the number of participants with social problems (addictions, psychiatric issues, etc) is low when compared with a typical food bank or shelter population. The third observation is that the problem of narco-trafficking in Central America has seriously impacted many participants. For example, one regular participant recently had two sons murdered by drug gangs who randomly stop people on the street, exhort money, and shoot people unable to provide cash on demand. The fourth observation is that the recent shutdown in the Federal government has hurt local employment.

Attendance at the luncheon has grown dramatically in recent weeks.  Typically attendance in the summer was15 to 20 guests.  In the fall after the Federal shutdown, attendance doubled and tripled the summer rate.  For Thanksgiving, we had over 80 guests.  For Christmas, we had 280.  While there is normally an uptick in need in the winter, guests that I have spoken to in recent weeks have seen little or no work.

November 15, 2013 marked the 450th anniversary of the publishing of the Heidelberg Catechism. The first question in the catechism[1] remains most meaningful: What is your only comfort in life and in death? The answer begins: That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. At Almuerzo para el Alma, we serve body and soul.

Reblogged from NCP Online Monthy (http://bit.ly/1kv123I)

[1] Faith Alive Christian Resources.  2013. The Heidelberg Catechism.  Online:  https://www.rca.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=372.  Date: 30 August, 2013.

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