From now until November 10th, please bring canned Cranberry Sauce to our Winter Park Campus. We are collecting side items for Thanksgiving so that 450 hungry families in our community can have a healthy and bountiful holiday meal. This food drive is sponsored through Hopeful Harvest at United Against Poverty.
In my 35 years of life, I have been able to worship in many locations and in many communities. My parents always encouraged traveling and worshipping in different places whenever we were out of our normal routine. In the few times a year that Ryan and I are not leading in worship in our own churches, we make a point to worship somewhere else on that Sunday so that we can experience a different thing and be a part of the Kingdom of God in a new way. I have worshipped in Europe and India; in Haiti and Honduras. I have preached in a school cafeteria, sang on a rooftop, and sat in the oldest pews in Ireland. And believe it or not, I felt God as powerfully as I did in different locations as I do in my ordinary one. You see, God’s power and presence is all around us, in every crevice and corner, every musical note or handclap of praise. God’s power and God’s presence is real and alive and moving in every culture and is spoken about in every tongue.
The problem becomes, sometimes we get in a rut and become too comfortable. When God’s presence becomes predictable, we stop expecting to be surprised.
Early in my ministry, Ryan and I were sent to a Worship Conference here in Orlando and we learned from a worship leader from Southern California who had recently written a book about his epiphany regarding Spirit-led worship. The book, Discover the Mystery of Faith by Glenn Packiam dives deep into the “Christian Culture” of performance worship and critiques what worship is really supposed to be about. Glenn was a member of the Desperation Band that was popular in the early 2,000s and he began to ask the question about what they were doing performing on large stages and who were they doing it for. It led him to dig even deeper into the theology of worship which I wanted to share a part of with you today.
The beginning of the book challenges us with this Latin phrase:
In other words, the way you worship and pray (orandi) shapes the way you believe (credendi) which in turn shapes the way you live (vivendi). Think about that order for just a second. What a wide and prophetic thought. This would explain how I could have experienced so many different ways of worship in my lifetime and yet, all were authentic and representative of the way of life for the collective people that were gathered. Haitians clapped with their hands and feet because drums were too expensive to own for their church. My Dinner Church family sang off-key but came eagerly to receive the bread and the cup because they hadn’t ever felt comfortable in a traditional church setting before. Europeans stood in next-to-empty cathedrals that were beautiful and ornate, but not as full as they could be.
The way you worship and pray shapes the way you believe and in turn shapes the way you live. When you think about REVIVING your presence with God in corporate worship, what is it that you do as a member of this body that shapes what you believe? And then is the consistency and seriousness of your worship practice shaping how you live? When we REVIVE our presence in Worship, it is less about the hour of church in the end, and much more about the transformation happening the other 167 hours in your week. For instance, if you lift your hands in worship as a sign of surrender on Sunday mornings, do you also surrender your hands and feet and finances and time to be used by God in the rest of the week? If you come forward (when we were in the habit of coming forward) with open and eager hands to be filled up through the sacrament of Holy Communion, do you walk into your job, or marriage or community involvement with openness and eagerness during the week too? When you hear the Word proclaimed and you are challenged by what the preacher has said, do you find ways to rub shoulders with those in your own life that you disagree with and listen to them more deeply than before?
These questions are only litmus tests for how we measure our own presence in worship. We have all been challenged to increase our prayers and our presence in worship by 1% this year which is a great goal. And we will know if our presence in the hour of worship is in fact being REVIVED when the community around us looks a little bit more like God’s Kingdom at the end of this year. If the hour of worship is our place to practice what we believe, then the rest of our time will be shaped as well. There will be small changes at first. A little less anxiety, a little more peace, a more contemplative heart and hopefully a lot more joy. If we REVIVED our presence in worship a little more this year, how might this shape how we live as a faith community? What might it say to this community about the people called Methodists and the family called First Winter Park? I look forward to finding out more together with you.
1 Make a joyful noise to theLord, all the earth. 2 Worship theLordwith gladness; come into his presence with singing.
3 Know that theLordis God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.
5 For theLordis good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
I must admit that I prefer the version of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew over Luke. But this Sunday, as we talked about Prayer in our new Sermon Series, Revive, I saw this Scripture in a new light. If you remember, the Scripture Pastor David preached from was Luke 11: 1-8 which begins with Jesus praying in a certain place and then teaching his disciples how to pray. What I struggle with in Luke 11:5-8 is just how human and raw it really is.
As a mom, nighttime is a coveted time. It is the time I look forward too for relaxation and downtime and reconnection to my husband after a busy day. I rarely find myself out and about in the evenings because I am home soaking up school day stories, helping with dinner, bath time or entertaining the latest inspirations of my children’s imaginations (tea parties, cupcake baking, fort making and rocket ship building…just to name a few). I am fully engaged from 5-8PM in the evening and once they are in bed, I rarely want to be bothered. And so, I felt a sting of guilt when reading this passage on Sunday as if it was speaking to me. I think we all struggle with carving out time to turn off work or school or family responsibilities and the nighttime may be a coveted time for you too. There is nothing wrong with having healthy work/life boundaries and sticking to them. But what if there was something deeper in Jesus’ admonition that followed the Lord’s Prayer in Luke.
Here are the words again from the NRSV:
“5 And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; 6 for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? 8 I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.”
After Matthew’s version of the Lord’s Prayer came Jesus’ admonition to forgive others, but in this passage comes the assurance that God answers prayers. If a neighbor answers another neighbor’s request, then shouldn’t we also believe that God answers those who call out to God in need too? In order to better understand this comparison, we have to understand the structure of homes in a typical Galilean village. Homes were small, one or two rooms only and very close together. Therefore, if I were to have gotten up, gotten the bread, answered the door and unlocked the bolt; it would have woken up my entire family. If we think of this situation with modern eyes we may miss something. In Jesus’ day, they didn’t sleep in separate rooms, there wasn’t privacy or an entertaining area for guests. It was all one big space and so you can imagine the inconvenience for the door to be answered in the middle of the night and heaven help the family if there is a sleeping baby involved. Can you see the deeper meaning here? Not only were homes different in those days, but so was the expectation of hospitality. How far we have moved from the expectations of hospitality in today’s culture. In Jesus’ day, there was a sense of shame for any neighbor that did not provide for the needs of their friend, even if it was at an inconvenient time.
Jesus often drew parables from common experiences, like pastor’s who share their personal stories in their sermons. Maybe Jesus remembers being a kid woken up in the middle of the night for his father Joseph to offer bread to a needy neighbor. We don’t know, perhaps. Regardless, this parable requires us to compare our expectations of a neighbor with our assumptions about God. We know that God does not slumber or sleep (Psalm 121:4), and so a friend might have to be woken up to respond to a need, but our Heavenly Father knows our needs and is ready to meet them. They may not be answered in the way we hope or in the time frame we demand. But we worship a God that is not stopped by inconvenience when it comes to His Children. Therefore, we may pray confidently, not because we trust in our own persistence, but because we know that in a time of need, God is even more trustworthy than a neighbor or a friend.
I think there also something here about the use of the bread imagery. You see, bread was a staple part of the Jewish diet (I learned that quickly having travelled to the Holy Land almost two years ago). And so, when Jesus says, “I am the BREAD of life” (John 6:35) it means that Jesus is the staple and the constant part of life. You can’t survive without Him. How interesting that it is bread that the neighbor is asking for in the middle of the night, not milk or honey, or medicine, or an extra blanket, but BREAD. Maybe, just maybe this had a double meaning too. And that understood in its fullness means that we are called to meet the needs of neighbors at inconvenient times and also offer them Jesus while we are at it. It may be uncomfortable, it may mess up your routine or your coveted relaxation time, but we have been given the gift of life and we are called to share it.
In honor of our upcoming Pumpkin Patch at Trinity Christian Academy, let me offer this devotion for us to consider this morning. As all of us are getting decorated for Fall, maybe we place things from our fireplaces or hang wreaths on our doors. Maybe we are helping our children and grandchildren pick out their costumes and we have our fingers crossed hoping for cooler Fall weather. It is a season of change, both in weather and within us.
In the DeLaune household, we have a beautiful home to decorate. We have baby pumpkins on our fireplace mantel, fall-themed stickers on the windows and an Autumn themed dining room table waiting to be used. The rest of our house may be a mess, but we are learning to love oranges, browns, and greens in this new season as a family. Both of the kid’s schools are doing science experiments and parties that are all Fall themed and I find my schedule way more packed this time of year.
So, the question becomes, can we slow down together for just a minute and look at how the images, decorations, and overall ambiance of this busy season can point us back to Jesus?
In all my years of Children’s Chapel, Camp Counseling, and disciplining my own children, I have always loved what can be learned from the Pumpkin and what it can symbolize in our walk of faith. In many ways, we are like a Pumpkin. As members of Christ’s Holy Church, we are picked, even chosen by God to be the bearers of light in this world. This Saturday we will have a chance to serve at the Pumpkin Patch at our Church’s off sight preschool, TCA and we will get to meet the community that has all come out with their families to pick out a pumpkin. Remember that we too have been “picked” to be a part of God’s Family and that comes with some beautiful responsibilities.
Part of those beautiful responsibilities is first allowing Jesus to clean out all of our gooey insides to help us look more like him. The dirt of sin and shame is washed off of us and we are cleaned out by the Holy Spirit from the inside out. In much the same way, we clean our pumpkins on the outside and then do the slimy work of cleaning out the inside. Let’s just say that it isn’t my favorite part of this season. But it is necessary. Because before light can shine through, the inside must be cleaned out.
Then Jesus gives us a new identity. We are a “Happy” Jack-o-lantern kind of family, but no judgment if you like the scary kind. The point is that the pumpkin is transformed and given a new identity, sometimes we even name our Jack-o-lanterns, and it is the same way with Christ. Through coming to know Christ, growing in your faith, worshipping, serving and discipling that is done through the faith community, we develop a new identity.
Last we celebrate that the light of Christ now has a place and a purpose within us. It is a light that shines best in the darkness and illuminates the night. The light of Christ is attractive and inviting and draws people in. But it also helps point the way in the darkness. Are we people that are helping point the way back to Jesus in the midst of darkness?
Over these next few weeks, I invite you to see this time as a season of healthy change and illuminating grace as you unpack the analogy of the Pumpkin in your own faith journey. And I invite you if you haven’t already been asked to come out this Saturday, at 12:30PM to our Reeves Campus to unload pumpkins or to encourage our Team that will be there. Sign up to volunteer at the Pumpkin Patch, come and invite your neighbors to the Awesome Autumn Festival or come and participate at the MSEE Fall Festival. There isn’t a shortage of ways that you can serve or deepen your relationship with the people and ministries of this church. I hope you will join us!
“What has come into being4 in him was life,and the life was the light of all people.5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” John 1:3-9
Growing up in a beach town most of my life, I spent countless hours in the sand and near the ocean. Like most kids, I enjoyed building sandcastles or pools near the water and then watching what happened when all of my fruitless energy got washed away by a strong wave. As a kid, it was fun; as an adult, it’s just annoying. Why work so hard to build something only to watch it destroyed or washed away?
Jesus asks the same question, posed as a statement in using this metaphor. Hearers are those that only hear the words and build their house on the sand. But doers are those that hear and do whereby building their house on the rock. After three chapters of deep and convicting teaching, Jesus finishes his “lecture series” at the end of Matthew chapter 7 with these words.
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand.27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”
28 Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, 29 for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.”Matthew 7:24-28
Jesus has just finished a long three chapter teaching to an outdoor crowd of hundreds, maybe thousands of people. If you go back to chapter 5, commonly called The Beatitudes, you see that Jesus has grown popular after calling his first disciples and he now has a following of people from
“Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.” (4:25).
Jesus has obviously made a great first impression and he is building momentum on what it means to be a member of the Kingdom of God. For three chapters he teaches on anger, loving your enemies, almsgiving, the practice of law, prayer, anxiety, and judging others. And then he ends by setting up this image of a man that builds his house upon the rock verse a man that builds his house upon the sand. Jesus says that if we are to merely be hearers of His words of teaching but not actively doing them, we might as well build our house on sand. This would have been sand in the Ancient Near East, not beach sand. But sand is sand; it is fickle. Easy to push the foundation into, but when the water and wind come, it is a disappointment, to say the least. Rock is a much more firm foundation, but hard to build a foundation on; an effort that will be painstaking and sweat-inducing. And yet, the foundation, once built, remains firm when the water and the wind comes.
How is it with your soul? Have you built the foundation on your faith on sand or on rock? Is your faith fickle that was easily constructed around comfort and convenience, or do you have a rock-solid faith that took a labor of love to build but is unwavering? It is one or the other, and I think you know which one Jesus would encourage.
Yesterday, at the pediatrician, Charlie was singing his latest favorite song to the doctor. After he was fully checked and tested for COVID (negative, thank you Jesus) he just started singing the song many of us learned as children. I have included the lyrics below in case it is hard to understand his 3-year old enthusiasm. After watching his rendition of this song, I invite you this week to go back through Matthew 5, 6 and 7 and begin to prayerfully ask God whether you are a hearer or a doer of this word.
Whether or not your faith is built on sand or rock, I invite you to consider taking one part mentioned in these three chapters and moving from a sand foundation to a rock foundation and see what God might do through that transformation in you.
In the name of God the Father, God the Son, And God the Holy Spirit. AMEN.
The Wise Man Built His House
The wise man built his house upon the rock The wise man built his house upon the rock The wise man built his house upon the rock And the rains came tumbling down
The rains came down and the floods came up The rains came down and the floods came up The rains came down and the floods came up And the house on the rock stood firm
The foolish man built his house upon the sand The foolish man built his house upon the sand The foolish man built his house upon the sand And the rains came tumbling down
The rains came down and the floods came up The rains came down and the floods came up The rains came down and the floods came up And the house on the sand went crash
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