“Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” (The Samaritan woman at the well, John 4:20)
The place we worship is important. It makes the intangible tangible and the local specific. The style of our worship is also important. Jesus cuts to the quick in noting that worship must be filled with spirit and truth.
The story of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-30) is filled with all kinds of ideas worthy of discussion, one of which is the subject of true worship. The context of the story informs us of the starting point of any discussion about true worship. Jesus is brashly breaking with some serious cultural norms. First, he speaks to a woman in public. Second, he speaks to her about theology, assuming she is equal to the discussion. And third, she is a Samaritan, which according to the Jewish culture of that day made her unworthy to speak to even if she were a man!
It is in the midst of these outrageous circumstances that we must hear Jesus’ words, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (v. 24).” Jesus makes it clear by his actions and his words that differences of culture are not a barrier and in fact are not even the issue.
The articles which follow present us with some thought-provoking ideas. Each of them deals with an issue of current concern in the church regarding worship and evangelism. In these articles we hear some of the many cultural voices among us in the Metro Chicago Synod. We hear some of the issues that have caused, and continue to cause barriers to be erected among us. It is our hope that these articles will cause each of us to reflect on our own cultural context, and on Jesus’ admonition that we must worship in spirit and in truth.
We may not agree with all that is said. Or we may think the articles do not go far enough. But the heart of the issue is not whether one culture offers something better for worship. Rather the issue is how one culture contributes to another as we gather in the One Body of Jesus the Christ to worship the One who has created us all and called us to offer what we have.