Waldorf College Chapel
September 28, 2011
You know, we often hear the phrase “God works in mysterious ways”, but sometimes, it actually is true! I’d been planning this message for about a week or so and even though I knew most of the content, I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to start it. It reminded me of when I’d write the ends of my college papers before the beginnings of them. But then when I went to Monday Night Worship this week, and listened to Kenny Olson speak, and some of the things that he said were just a great segue into what I wanted to speak about today.
One of the things that Kenny mentioned was about the temple curtain being torn in two. No longer was God’s presence, what was called the Shekinah, limited to being experienced by one person—the high priest—going to a specific place—the holy of holies—once a year. God’s presence had broken out of the box it had been put in and was available to everyone, everywhere. There was no need to come to the temple; the temple had come to the people.
But today, when we hear the words “worship” or “church”, what comes to mind? Usually, a place we go on Sundays. Something we go to once a week to encounter God, and then we leave, and often any message we’ve heard is forgotten.
Sometimes, what we DO can be boring and routine, no matter what kind of church service we go to.
Some people think organ music is dreary. Other people get tired of singing the same praise chorus over and over…and over and over again.
Part of the problem is that all too often, our reasons for coming to chapel or church or any worship service is to GET something. We expect to be given the music we want and a message to inspire us. Putting it in the language of “Christianese”, we expect to be “fed”. And the only time we really think about giving something is at offering time, and that is often done grudgingly.
But is that really what church should be about?
Think about what we call church on Sunday (or whenever, since here on campus we have a variety of opportunities): we say “worship” or “service”. But what are those about—worship is about doing something for God. Service is about serving—either God or others. But too often, we make our worship services about me, me, me. We don’t really think much about how we are connecting with others.
A couple of summers ago I went to a conference in the cities about simple or organic church, and in the sessions that I attended, the guy leading the sessions said that church is messy, but never boring. Well, that has not been my experience of church. Messy? How could church be messy when everything is always “just so”. There’s an order to worship, and things that are orderly are not messy.
Matthew 18:20 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them."
Do we believe that? Do we really believe that Jesus is present right here, right now? And not only right here and right now, but any time that 2 or 3 of us are gathered together. Think about that for a minute. It could be here, it could be any time two people are sitting in a dorm room having a discussion about God or the Bible or getting to know each other better on a heart level. When people are rejoicing together or when people are weeping together.
Romans 12:15 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Last week, Mary Mathiasen spoke about listening, not just with our ears, but with our eyes. I want to add to that and say that we shouldn’t just listen with our eyes, but with our hearts, and we need to listen to one another’s hearts and share those joys and troubles with each other.
Sometimes, it seems as if we still act as if we have to go to the temple to experience God’s presence. But Jesus changed all that. He told people that “something greater than the temple [was] here” (Mt 12: 6). And besides, what happened when he did show up to a scheduled worship experience?
In Matthew 12:9 he enters a synagogue, is asked about healing on the Sabbath, and when he actually does heal someone, “the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him” (Mt 12:14). Or when he teaches in his own hometown, nobody believes that he really knows what he is talking about (Mat 13:54-58). Or when he reads from the scroll of Isaiah and tells them that he is fulfilling that prophecy, he gets them in such a rage that “they got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff.” (Luke 4:29).
Talk about church being messy but not boring. I think that was definitely the case when Jesus showed up.
Jesus’ real ministry happens more outside of the synagogues and the temple. It happens when he heals people, when he forgives people, when he lets them know that he cares about them and about their problems. And that was how Jesus made disciples.
At the end of Matthew, Jesus tells people “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20).
So let’s go DO that. Let’s not just go to a worship service—any worship service—and expect people to feed us what we want to hear. Let’s GO OUT and gather with 2 or 3 people at a time and know that the spirit of Jesus is with us. Let’s make disciples, not just believers. Let’s be the church in this world that we are meant to be. Let’s make sure that church is messy and never boring.