Summary: Worship can either be the previews or it can be the feature presentation - make it the feature presentation.
[Call to Worship]
I love going to the movies. I love the smell of popcorn, the comfortable seats, the experience of being with friends and family. I even love the way that my shoes stick to the floor! But most of all, I love the sense of anticipation!
You know what I mean? 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. 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 a professional baseball game. 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.
When was the last time that you felt that way as you walked through the doors of church? When was the last time that you had a sense of anticipation for what you are about to experience? When was the last time that you walked through the doors in the back of this room with the sense that you are about to experience something that will energize you and stay with you for days, weeks, or even years?
There is a story told of a church that was having air conditioning installed in the sanctuary and so the pastor was meeting with the contractor. The man asked the pastor a number of questions about the seating capacity, square footage, usual attendance, etc., all the while taking notes. Then in the midst of his calculations, he suddenly crumpled up the paper he was figuring on and started over.
"What’s wrong?" asked the pastor.
"I was figuring for a theater instead of a church," replied the contractor.
"What’s the difference? Wouldn’t they be the same?"
"No, not really," answered the contractor. "You see, in a theater, with all that’s on the screen, there are certain biological changes that take place: heart rate is elevated, blood pressure increases and body temperatures can begin to climb. In other words, there is a greater need for cooling when people get excited. On the other hand, in the church . . ."
Without even realizing it, this contractor portrayed a common view of worship found in the lives of many people.
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.
Where is the sense of anticipation? Why don’t we have the same sense of expectation as when we go to the movies, or a baseball game? When we gather together for worship, we come to unite ourselves with God…with the Alpha and the Omega…the Creator of the Universe…the Sustainer of Life…the one who holds eternity in His grasp. Do not let worship be the preview; make it the feature presentation.
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.”
Are you invaded by the glory of God when you worship, or are you invaded by the ho-hum of humanity? Do you view worship as a time to unite yourself with God, or just another religious duty that you need to check off your list for the week?
God is actively seeking worshipers. Jesus declares, “The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” (John 4:23)
Archbishop William Temple, wrote the following:
“To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.”
Worship is a connection between us, as children, and God, as Father. It is a bond that can only be experienced by emptying ourselves and accepting into us the fullness of God.