Feature Presentation

Posted by on Sep 5, 2013 in Faith Words | 0 comments

Words of Faith

Rev. Rita S. Platt

June 23, 2013

“Feature Presentation”

 

New Testament          John 4:19-24

 

I love going to the movies. I love the smell of popcorn, the comfortable seats, the experience of being with friends and family. I don’t go to just any movie; I am rather frugal so I only go to the ones I can’t wait to see.

You know the experience? You’re sitting there in a barely lit room, answering the trivia questions that pop up on the screen. There is a sense of excitement as you wait for the movie to start.  And then the lights begin to dim…the screen changes from trivia questions to previews of upcoming movies. The sense of anticipation builds even more as the previews end and everyone stops talking. The anticipation builds; it’s almost time. . .

How many of you know what I’m talking about? There’s a sense that you are about to experience something truly amazing.

I get the same feeling when I go to a concert, or to the theater.  There’s that sense that I am about to experience something that will energize me and stay with me for days, weeks, or even years. I can still remember the first concert I attended. My girlfriend and I sitting in the Civic Arena, waiting for the Iron Butterfly to take the stage; and I remember sitting in that same venue at an earlier time: my aunt took me to see the Ice Capades and they opened the roof that night.  I remember the feeling of anticipation – this was going to be something special.

We should have that feeling every time we walk through the doors of church. Regrettably, it doesn’t always happen

 

God spoke these words to the prophet Isaiah, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

Today, this would often be referred to as half-hearted worship. We go through the motions, but there is a disconnect between our words and our hearts. We participate almost as if we were half asleep rather than fully alive. We treat worship as the previews, rather than the feature presentation.

 

But worship is the feature presentation. Here we experience God.

 

Isaiah 6: the prophet tells of being caught up in a vision where he experienced God.  He describes it in such a way that we feel like we were there. “The Lord seated on the throne – his robe filling the space – the smell of the incense and the sound of the angels “Holy, holy, holy….”

It is a place to pause, to be silent and receptive. We are in the presence of an awesome God.

Individuals stand in long lines to catch a glimpse of their favorite celebrity- we even bring our children to share in the experience.

My mom took me to see President Eisenhower when he was near Carnegie. We walked to the entrance of the Parkway – approximately 2 miles from my home – all I saw was a bald headed man standing in a car waving at the  crowd, but my  mom was completely in awe. This was the President of the United States! She talked about that experience a long time after the event. She told everyone.

In worship we come into the presence of GOD and something happens. Like the psalmist we wonder, “What are humans beings that you care about them; yet you have made us a little lower than the angels. You have crowned us with glory and honor and majesty.”  And we are completely overwhelmed by the extent of God’s love for us.

When we experience God – we  see ourselves and we see  the  world.   Isaiah: “Woe to me!

I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.

Richard Foster, in his book Celebration of Discipline, writes the following: “To worship is to experience reality, to touch Life. It is to know, to feel, to experience the resurrected Christ in the midst of the gathered community. It is breaking into the glory of God, or better yet, being invaded by the glory of God.”

 

When we understand worship in these terms we can’t help but get excited. But there is more. In worship we connect with others.

 

Now it isn’t that we just say “Hi”-  although it is important that we greet each other. Every person coming to worship should receive a warm greeting.  Every person should know they are welcome in this place; but in worship  the connection is deeper.

 

And it is not about connecting because of the things on our list.  You know what I mean…

I need to connect with Glenn to make sure there are no questions about today’s power point…

the lunch program starts Monday so I need to talk to Naomi to make sure everything is in place…I need to talk with Gay about the hot dogs and corn to see how I can help.

 

How many times have you come to worship with your list?  Those things are important… our list is about ministry and we can’t do it alone. So on Sundays we use the opportunity to connect with others.

 

But worship offers a much deeper opportunity to connect. In this sanctuary, safe space,

we remember we are not alone. How many times have you felt like you were all alone?  Here are your brothers and sisters and they are on the journey with you…they love you.

 

Today our lives can be so busy…it is not that we don’t mean to connect…and it happens to all of us. At annual conference I saw at least 5 persons that last year I said we should meet for lunch…dinner…friends.  It didn’t happen.  E-mail and social media are a poor substitute…there is something about the power of touch…someone looking you in the eye. In worship we can connect with others and the connection is rooted not in the fact that you like them, but  that God loves them.

 

We experience God, connect with others and we go out and serve.

 

How many times have you heard the phrase “The worship is over, now the service begins.” Worship is a recharging station. During the time we are together we hear God tell us what we are to do to bring in the Kingdom of God.  Each of us has an important part to play.  It takes energy.  Just as my cell phone needs to be plugged in each day so it will be available when I need it, so our spiritual batteries need to be recharged if we are going to live faithfully

 

It is a cycle…experience God…connect with others…go out and serve.

 

And when we remember we get excited about the featured presentation.  It is important to remember that to really worship requires participation.

 

A parable is told of a community of ducks waddling off to duck church one Sunday to hear their duck preacher. After they waddled into the duck sanctuary, the service began and the duck preacher spoke eloquently of how God had given the ducks wings with which to fly.

He pounded the pulpit with his beak and said, “With these wings, there is nowhere we ducks cannot go!  There is no God-given task we ducks cannot accomplish!  With these wings we no longer need walk through life.  We can soar high in the sky!”

Shouts of “Amen!” were quacked throughout the duck congregation.

The duck preacher concluded his message by exclaiming,  “With our wings we can fly through life!  WE……CAN…..FLY!!!!¨

 

More ducks quacked out loud AMENS! in response.

Every duck loved the service.  In fact all the ducks that were present commented on what a wonderfully convicting message they had heard from their duck preacher…. and then they left the church and waddled all the way home.

It will be so sad if we waddle away from worship the same way we waddled in…. unchanged.  There is so much more God wants to do in each of us.

 

Experience God…connect with others….serve God

As Eugene Peterson so eloquently stated, “Worship does not satisfy our hunger for God—it whets our appetite. Our need for God is not taken care of by engaging in worship—it deepens. It overflows the hour and permeates the week.”

 

It is the feature presentation.

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