Sunday, November 28, 2010

Remember me???

So, apologies that I have been absent from the blog for the last week or so.  A combination of being away for the Philadelphia Marathon, being away for Thanksgiving and the preparation for those two along with lots of other little things meant I have been unable to update for a while.
But, there is good news - if you like reading this blog, that is.  There will be at least one post for every day of advent!  Let me explain.  

Our church is joining with other churches around the world in participating in the 'Advent Conspiracy' this Advent.  To get a better idea of what the Advent Conspiracy is all about check out the website:  
So, as part of our Advent preparations we have put together a daily Advent devotional, with each days scripture, thought and question focused on one of the four main pillars of the Advent Conspiracy.  
So each day I will post that day's devotion.  I will also post the messages I give, starting today, that are also each tied to one of the four themes of the Advent Conspiracy.  As much as I am able I will also be uploading regular lectionary thoughts and miscellaneous other thoughts on the 'normal' schedule of once a day during the week. 
So, anyway below is the message I gave today at Good Shepherd.   The message introduces the Advent Conspiracy and the first theme, Worship Fully.  I have included the Scripture passages as well as my opening prayer.  Thanks for your thoughts and your time.

Philippians 2:12-15 (NIV)

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[a] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky

Matthew 24:36-44 (NIV)

36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[a]but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
Prayer: Dear Lord, come and dwell with us know.  Open our minds to the fullness of your blessing and working in our lives and empower us to respond in full.  Guide our hearts as we seek to know your will, direct our actions as we work to follow your call on our lives.  Draw us into worship of you in everything that we do.  Hide me behind your cross, so you are what is seen and speak through me, so you are what’s heard.  Amen.

If you have been with us the last couple of weeks you know that today we begin the season of Advent – a time of anticipation of the coming of our Lord and Savior – Jesus Christ.  You also know, hopefully, that this advent we are participating in something called the ‘advent conspiracy’
Advent conspiracy is designed to ‘restore the scandal of Christmas’ by focusing on four themes
Worship Fully                     Spend Less
Give more                          Love all
I want to spend a little bit of time thinking about what worship is and what worship isn’t.
Last night many of us spent some time here ‘greening our church’ – getting the church ready for the season of Advent and the celebration of Christmas. 
Now, I am running out of ‘firsts’ to participate in, but I loved being a part of everyone coming together.  I also loved how we closed the night with a few minutes of worship together.
Part of me wants to tell all of you that those few minutes that we sat and stood in these chairs were the only moments of ‘real’ worship last night, that the rest of the night together wasn’t worship – but it was – the problem is that for many of us this hour each week encompasses our complete definition or understanding of worship
I believe that is a very flawed and incomplete understanding
Our society – and most of us, really – like things to fit into neat, easily discernable categories.  We like to be able to define people and things in a 10 second sound bite and we don’t like when the lines between one thing and another get crossed or blurred. 
Blurred or crossed lines cause confusion and  nobody likes that
We deal with this just about all the time in our house, and it made me realize that this need or desire to neatly categorize all of our experiences is not something we develop – but it seems to be innate.
In North Carolina Charlie and Jack went to day care at our church.
Every morning – or just about – Charlie would ask if we were going to church, real church or school
School was Monday, Tuesday and Friday
Church was Wednesday and Thursday – days when we were regularly at the church after or outside of school,
And real church was Sunday          
These are the definitions and delineations that Charlie came up with on his own, but in many ways I think they are indicative of how we look at not just our faith, our ‘spiritual life’ and our worship, but really our whole lives
We separate our lives into categories or boxes that can be easily labeled
Work                     Play                              School
Friends                   Family              Church
Now, of course, many of those boxes have sub-categories, and church is no exception
Fellowship                                      Sunday school
Mission                                          Worship
But worship is not intended to be a small box sitting inside of another box in your life
Pastor and author Rob Bell, in a talk called, ‘everything is Spiritual’ – Highlights that there is no word for ‘spiritual’ in the Hebrew language – In Jesus eyes and understanding there is no separation from the spiritual world and the rest of the world we live in. 
They aren’t separate, parallel streams of our lives.  They aren’t even interconnected parts of our lives.  We only have one life, and everything in it is spiritual even if we don’t recognize it.
But we do try to separate them.  Eugene Peterson, in his book, ‘Tell it slant’ – says that we have a tendency to be ‘bilingual’, in that we have one language for talking about our faith or spiritual lives and a different vocabulary for the rest of our lives. 
He stresses the importance of the language we use, and how language – all of it – is a gift from God and how we should nurture all of our language to convey God’s blessing to those we encounter everyday
So, worship then, is not intended to be separate from the rest of our lives, it is not supposed to be merely or only something we do, but rather an integral part of who we are.
A few moments ago, we lit the first candle on our advent wreath.  The first candle is often called the candle of prophecy, but it is also often called the hope candle.
And that is an appropriate place to begin the season of Advent and our Christmas preparations. 
Because, as followers of Christ, we are people of HOPE.  People that respond to Jesus Christ’s fulfillment of our hope in him by responding in Worship.
Worship is intended to be at the very heart – the center of all that we do, and in fact all that we are. 
Worship is not simply – or just – an hour on Sunday morning or a service once a week. 
It is more than prayers and scripture and singing
It is bigger than the people in this room, this building we are in or even our denomination
Those definitions and parameters of worship are ones that we have put forth,  but Scripture gives a fuller and different image of what worship is:
Exodus 8:1 -Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh and say to him, 'This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me.
The Israelites were freed so that they could worship God.  We have been freed so that we can worship as well.  Don’t you think that is for more than just 1 hour a week
Deuteronomy is full of rules about when and where and how to worship.  There were lots of rules because there were only certain ways to get to the point of connection with God
Christmas is our celebration and recognition of Jesus coming to us and opening up the lines of relationship with and commitment to God so that all of us would be able to be reconciled to God – and then to worship God in all that we do, every day. 
Worshiping God isn’t about a weekly service and gathering for songs, prayers, scripture readings and teaching – that is a part of it, but
Worshiping God is about a state of mind or a way of being in and interacting with the world
Worship is about acknowledging who God really is and who we are in relation to God.  (i.e. we are the created and owe to our creator everything)
This completely changes the scope of what it means to worship because this understanding – this perspective – is something that we need to take with us everywhere we go, everyday
We need to worship God in all that we do, all day, everyday
That means allowing this perspective – this acknowledgement of God – to permeate every box, every category and sub-category of our lives

John 4:23-24 (The Message) 23But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you're called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.23-24It's who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration."

In the passage from Matthew the understanding that we are to acknowledge and worship God at all times in all places is again reinforced
Also in this passage we get a simple explanation of what that ‘all the time, everywhere’ worship should consist of:
It doesn’t matter who you are or where you go to church or where you work – but do you stand before God in truth and as their honest selves – acknowledging who God is and what God has done for you – and thank God for that
Finally from Romans 12:1 - Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is true worship.

This is what we are called to do - offer our bodies and in fact our lives to God, today and every day.  Listen to the verse again, this time from the Message translation:
So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. 
Worshipping God means placing God at the center of all that you are and all that you do, acknowledging God at all times (not just on Sunday mornings)
This Christmas, this Advent season of preparation, bring the light of the world into your life and into the lives of all of those around you – this is what the Philippians passage is talking about. 
Shine like a star in this often dark and dreary world by worshiping and sharing Jesus Christ, the light of the world with all those in your world.  Today.  Every day.  All Day.

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