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Spiritual Worship - John 4, HCLD 35

A service plan focused on on the nature of God--that he is spirit--and the method of our worship of God--"in spirit and in truth"--in a series on the Ten Commandments, as explained in the Heidelberg Catechism.

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

God makes exclusive claim on our allegiance in the first commandment. With the second commandment we address the matter of how he is to be worshiped. He has declared that our worship should not include images of him that we have made. God is spirit, and our worship must be given to him as a spiritual being. This service will focus on the nature of God (that he is spirit) and the method of our worship of God ("in spirit and in truth").


We suggest a number of resources that will be valuable tools for you in this study of the Ten Commandments.

  • Each week we will provide references for you from the Heidelberg Catechism and both the Larger and the Shorter Westminster Catechism.
  • The website of the Center for Excellence in Preaching at Calvin Theological Seminary also provides sermon ideas for each of these commandments and Lord's Days.
  • Comfort and Joy: A Study of the Heidelberg Catechism, Andrew Kuyvenhoven, Grand Rapids: CRC Publications, 1988.
  • Our Only Comfort: A Comprehensive Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism (vol. 2), Fred Klooster, Grand Rapids: Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2001.
  • The Ten Commandments: Manual for the Christian Life, Jochem Douma, tr. Nelson D. Kloosterman, Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 1996.
  • Mere Morality: What God Expects from Ordinary People, Lewis B. Smedes, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1983.

Catechism References:

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 35
Westminster Larger Catechism, Q.107-110
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q.49-52


Prelude: "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty" [see <href="#music" >music notes]

The Call to Worship

*Song: "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty" PH 482, PsH 253, RL 145, RN 57, TH 53, TWC 77, UMH 139, SWM 45 [see <href="#music" >music notes]

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:
Congregation of Christ, who do you trust?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

*Song of Response: "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise" PH 263, PsH 460, RL 7, RN 46, TH 38, TWC 62, UMH 103 [see<href="#music" >music notes]


The Children's Moment [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

The Call to Confession
What is the great and first commandment?
Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul and with all your mind.
What is the second commandment like it?
Love your neighbor as yourself.
What does this mean?
Love is the fulfilling of the law.
To what does this call us?
To a life of faith working through love. (The Worship Sourcebook, 2.7.5, based on Matthew 22:37-40)

Our Prayer of Confession [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]
Gracious God,
You who desire that we worship you in spirit and in truth,
we come today confessing our frequent failure to do so.
At times we don't even desire to give you the worship you desire,
at other time we try but fail because our hearts are far away,
and still other times the idols of our minds and hearts get in the way,
and we give take for ourselves the honor that belongs to you.
Be merciful to us, gracious God;
forgive our sins,
and create in us clean hearts.
in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Assurance of God's Pardon

The Call to Grateful Living: Romans 12:1-2 [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

Song of Response: "The Ten Commandments" PsH 153: 1-3, 9


Anthem: "The Lord Is a Mighty God," Mendelssohn [see <href="#music" >music notes]

The Reading of the Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day 35 [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

The Prayer for Illumination

The Old Testament Reading: Exodus 20:1-6
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

The New Testament Reading: John 4:1-26
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: Spiritual Worship
Shaping Our Gratitude 4
Text: John 4:23-24

The Prayer of Application


*Our Renewed Vows of Obedience [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

*Hymn of Response: "Oh, for a Closer Walk with God" PH 396, PsH 551, TH 534, RL 437, TWC 547

The Prayers of the People

The Offertory:
The Offering of Music: "Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above" [see <href="#music" >music notes]
We offer our gifts for..


*Words of Sending: Romans 12:1-2 [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Sung Response: "Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above" PsH 465:4, RL 146:4, RN 52:4, TWC 50:4, UMH 126:4

Postlude: "Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above" [see <href="#music" >music notes]
or: "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty"

* You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes

We should be aware that not all Christians see this as the second commandment. The Roman Catholics and Lutherans consider this to be an additional part of the first commandment. The historic Protestant position, however, considers this to be the second commandment. One's position on this issue, of course, will affect the numbering of all the remaining commandments.

In preaching on this commandment, it will be necessary to understand both the principle that is being taught here, and the manner in which to apply this principle in our obedience and worship. The principle is that God is not to be represented for worship by some image of wood, stone, or metal that has been crafted by human hands. Isaiah 40:19-20 describes the manner in which such peselim are crafted. Psalm 115:4-8 sets forth the foolishness of worshiping such images. The point is not that images are evil in and of themselves, but a sin is committed when they become an object to be worshiped as god. The Hebrews readily understood the importance of this commandment for they lived in a context of other peoples who used such images to represent their local deities. We can see some of the same tendency in current New Age thinking, particularly through the increasing prevalence of pantheism today.

The truth behind this commandment is that "God is spirit" (John 4:24), and this is the lesson he was attempting to teach the woman at the well in John 4. God is not a local deity who has supremacy in a small area and can be worshiped only in that locality. Nor does he allow himself to be worshiped by a material image. Because he is spirit, he may be worshiped in Samaria, Jerusalem, or anywhere else in the world. And because he is spirit, our worship must be given to him as a spiritual being. No material image can ever do justice to who he is. No image can ever represent the delivering God who presents himself in the Preface to the Law (Exodus 20:1-2) as the one who expressed his love so mightily by delivering them from the torturous slavery in Egypt. (Protestants have generally understood that images may not be used for worshiping purposes, but may be used for purposes of education. They view the statements of Lord's Day 35 Q&A 98 in the context of reaction to the perceived idolatry of image veneration within Medieval Catholicism. This subject is beyond the scope of this sermon.)

The benefit of this commandment for a modern day congregation lies not only in the prohibition of images for worship, but in comprehending that God has come to us "in truth." In his truth (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17), God has revealed himself as Spirit, ".a single and simple spiritual being." (Belgic Confession, art. 1). (See Exodus 20:4-6, Exodus 32 and Isaiah 1:11-15 for examples of "failed worship.")

We must acknowledge that God has handed us a difficult task; to worship God "as spirit" is difficult for us, tied to the tangible and visible as we are. Worshipers will need to exert careful and prayerful effort to worship meaningfully. The following suggests some ways to understand worshiping God in spirit:

  • Worship is a corporate conversation with an invisible God.
  • Worship happens at God's gracious initiative.
  • The worship liturgy should reflect a dialog between worshipers and God.
  • God's voice comes through his Word in worship.
  • We speak to God in our prayers, our songs, professions, and gifts.

Music Notes:
Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SWM Sing With Me (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Suggestions for prelude based on the opening hymn and alternative harmonizations for it can be found in the following resources:

LOBE DEN HERREN ["Praise to the Lord, the Almighty"]

Bach, J. S. Six Organ Chorals(Schubler, ed. Riemenschneider) Ditson [1952] ( M-D)
Behnke, John A . Five Preludes of Praise, set 4. Concordia 97-7039 [2003] (E-M)
Bender, Jan. Festival Preludes on Six Chorales. Concordia 97-4608 [1963] (M-D)
Bish, Diane. The Diane Bish Organ Book, vol. 1. Fred Bock B-G0548 [1980] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 2. AMSI OR-3 [1981] (M)
Cherwien, David. Postludes on Well Known Hymns. Augsburg 11-10795 [1997] (M)
Haan, Raymond H. Four Hymns of Rejoicing. Morningstar MSM-10-518 [1998] (E-M)
Harris, David S. Ten Hymn Preludes in Trio Style. H. W. Grey GB632 [1974] (E)
Honore, Jeffrey. Classic Embellishments. Augsburg 11-11005 [1999] (could include solo
instrument; E)
Kerr, J. Wayne. Prelude and Toccata on Praise to the Lord Almighty. Flammer HH504 [1986]
Krapf, Gerhard. Sing and Rejoice, vol. 1. SMP KK234 [1978] (adaptable for piano, E)
Leupold, A. W. An Organ Book. Chantry Music Press [1960] (E-M)
Manz, Paul. God of Grace. Morningstar MSM-10-599 [2004] (M)
Manz, Paul. Ten Chorale Improvisations, set 2. Concordia 97-4656 [1964] (M)
Rotermund, Melvin. Five Preludes. Augsburg 11-6040 [1990] (E-M)
Shaw, Martin. Processional. Cramer APS 487 [1940] (M)
Shoemaker-Lohmeyer, Lisa. Partita on Lobe den Herren. Concordia 97-6144 [1992] (M-D)
Visser, Larry. Four Chorale Preludes on Lobe den Herren. Wayne Leupold Ed. WL600064
[1996] (M-D)
Webber, Walter. Trumpet Tune. Ashdown [1956] (M)

Gerig, Reginald. Piano Preludes on Hymns and Chorales. Hope 251 [1959] (M-D)
Wilhelmi, Teresa. Hymns.Light Jazz Style. Word 301 0136 315 [1997] (E-M)

McChesney, Kevin. Praise to the Lord, the Almighty. Agape 1499 [1991] (2-3 octaves, E-M)
Morris, Hart. Let the Amen Sound. Alfred 17544 [1998] (3-5 octaves, level 4)
Sanders, Patricia. Praise to the Lord, the Almighty. NMP HB-235 [1985] (3 octaves, M)
Shaw, Martin/Wood, Dale. Grand Processional on Lobe Den Herren. SMP S-HB62 [1990] (3-6
octaves with organ, M)
Wagner, Douglas E. Festival Prelude on "Lobe den Herren." Agape 1438 [1990] (3-5 octaves,

Choral Resource:
Bunjes, Paul. Praise to the Lord, the Almighty. Concordia 98-1473 [1959] (SATB with organ,
trumpets and congregation; E-M)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 1. Ludwig O-05 [1975]
Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]
Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9292 [1968]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Organ, Anne Krentz. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

The hymn of response also serves well as an introduction to the children's moment. Alternative harmonizations for "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise" can be found in the following:

ST. DENIO ["Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise"]

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]
Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9292 [1968]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Helvey, Howard. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

The anthem "The Lord Is a Mighty God" by Mendelssohn is edited by Olaf Christiansen and scored for SATB voices. It is published by Kjos 9 (E-M).

The offertory music could be instrumental, sung congregationally or chorally. Resources are as follows:

GENEVAN 138/MIT FREUDEN ZART ["Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above"]

Bender, Jan. (1974 Chantry) Augsburg Organ Library - Easter. Augsburg 11-11075 [2000] (M)
Candlyn, T. and Frederick H. Prelude on Mit Freuden Zart. Abingdon APM-148 [1961] (E-M)
Ferguson, John. Three Psalm Preludes. Augsburg 11-10823 [1997] (M)
Haan, Raymond H. Canonic Variations on With High Delight. Concordia 97-6167 [1992] (E-M)
Leavitt, John. Three Hymn Preludes. Concordia 97-5894 [1985] (M)
Leavitt, John. With High Delight. Concordia 97-6845 [2000] (E-M)
Wolniakowski, Michael. Partita on With High Delight, Let Us Unite. Morningstar MSM-10-416
[1996] (M-D)

McChesney, Kevin. Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above. AGEHR AG23006 [1993] (2-3
octaves, M)

Choral Resource
Lantz III, David. To God All Praise and Glory . Flammer A-6081 [1983]
(SATB and piano with opt. brass and timpani; E-M)
Pfautsch, Lloyd. Sing Praise to God. Summy-Birchard 5315 [1959]
(SATB and keyboard; Praise; E-M)

The postlude music could be based on either the closing sung response of the service, or you could surround the service with the melody and the remembrance of the text of the opening hymn. In either case, consult the listings above.

Liturgy Notes

1. Because this service focuses on the second commandment and the worship of God, his claim on our worship should be obvious from beginning to end. You will find it reflected in the Service of Renewal and the Children's Moment, in the commitments made after the sermon, and also in the words of sending at the conclusion of the service.

2. Though it is a difficult concept to understand, we encourage you to speak to the children about the fact that God is invisible—yet, though invisible, we believe that he is present.

3. You will notice that the Prayer of Confession is tailored to the content of the second commandment. This may be read by the worship leader as representative of all, or it may be read in unison by all worshipers.

4. The Call to Grateful Living is from Romans 12:1-2. It would be helpful to remind worshipers that corporate worship is intended to issue into whole-life worship (24/7). Hopefully, it will be clear that worship is both corporate and obedience through life. The Romans 12 passage is used both here and for the "sending" words at the close of the service for reinforcement.

5. We suggest that these words of the Heidelberg Catechism be read responsively: either the worship leader reads the question and the congregation responds with the answer, or vice versa. To reprint for personal use, a ministry setting, or classroom use, include this credit line: © 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI. Reprinted with permission.

Q. What is God's will for us in the second commandment?
A.That we in no way make any image of God
nor worship him in any other way
than he has commanded in his Word.

Q. May we then not make any image at all?
A.God can not and may not
be visibly portrayed in any way.
Although creatures may be portrayed,
yet God forbids making or having such images
if one's intention is to worship them
or to serve God through them.

Q. But may not images be permitted in the churches
as teaching aids for the unlearned?
A. No, we shouldn't try to be wiser than God.
He wants his people instructed
by the living preaching of his Word—
not by idols that cannot even talk.

6. For each Sunday in this series, the service will include a section after the sermon entitled "We Respond with Our Renewed Commitments." The worshiper should feel led to such a response after the Word has been spoken. The Commandments, in one of its forms, should be the substance of this commitment. There is a variety of resources you may draw from. Section 2.7 of The Worship Sourcebook (pp. 127-137) provides a variety of resources for this purpose. The Psalter Hymnal (pp. 1013-1018) provides additional responsive readings of the Ten Commandments.
To reprint responsive readings of the Ten Commandments for personal use, a ministry setting, or classroom us, include this credit line: © 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. . Reprinted with permission.