Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Drama in Worship

It's too bad pastors today are trying to be dramatic and, in doing so, are missing the real drama found at every worship service.

What do I mean?

A common trend in evangelical churches is putting on stage a piece of drama before the congregation in the midst of the worship service. The lights dim. A spotlight shines on center stage. Mood music flows into the sanctuary to build anticipation in the audience as the performers take the stage. Usually then a scene meant to portray a Biblical story or emphasize a spiritual truth is performed to draw the congregation into the theme for that day's service.

The only problem with this is that in trying to be trendy and dramatic, usually with the design to bring in the numbers, the church is missing the real drama of worship. Again, what do I mean?

The Lord of the Scriptures has given us commands regarding His worship, commandments that could be summarized in this basic statement: "Keep it simple and pure." As the Apostle Paul told the "always-looking-for-a-good-show" church at Corinth:

"I am afraid, that as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ" (II Corinthians 11:3).

In worship the Lord has told us that the church should be content with and devoted to teaching, fellowship, the sacraments, prayer, and giving (Acts 2:42-47). For this is where the real drama is found.

In particular, consider the reading of God's Word. When the Word of God is opened and read, think of what is happening. The Lord who brought the heaven and earth into being with His speech is now speaking to the congregation. The One who shook Mt. Sinai with thunder and lightening in giving the commandments to His people would now like your attention. He who still speaks and shakes the world with earthquakes, storms and tsunamis with His voice (Psalm 29:3-9) and destroys powerful nations and rulers with His breath (Isaiah 40:21-25) would like to talk to you about your standing before Him. What drama in just the reading of the word!

Then there is the preaching. As the preacher approaches the pulpit (if he's worth the trouble of listening to at all), he comes to that pulpit a-trembling. He is fully aware that he is a sinful man, and is a "dying man preaching to dying men." The only way he can even think of doing what he is about to do is because he has been cleansed and called by the Spirit of God. He clings to the pulpit to steady himself as he considers that he is about to open his mouth and, in the presence of God and His people, speak on behalf of the living God! Who is capable of such things? Yet as an ambassador for Christ he must speak (II Corinthians 5:20), and as he does his only hope in surviving the experience without judgment and the only source of boldness he can find for this task is that what he now proclaims is the Word of God. As Paul said,

"For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe" (I Thessalonians 3:13).

When the gospel is proclaimed, dead sinners are raised to life. When the gospel is preached, saints experience God feeding them and having fellowship with them. When the gospel is heralded, the Spirit of the God of heaven is at effectual work in the lives of people. What a call then to worship! What a hope the gospel brings! And what a judgment already being shown on those multitudes who would rather see a two-bit skit than be fed the very word of God. What a drama is unfolding every week at the house of the Lord!

And as for this preacher, the gospel is all that I have to offer, but what a gospel I have to offer!

Return to Sycamore RPC Home Page

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Under the Sycamore Tree

When the Old Testament prophets wanted to paint a picture of peace and prosperity, they would often use fig trees as imagery of God's goodness. As Moses sought to instill in Israel the vision of the Promised Land, he said that the Lord was bringing them into a "good land of...fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees..." (Deuteronomy 8:7-8). During the days of King Solomon, when Israel was at rest on all sides from her enemies and enjoying great economic prosperity, we read that "Judah and Israel lived in safety, every man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon" (I Kings 4:25). Since fig trees produce tasty fruits and have abundant green leaves that provide shade, they were often planted near wells to keep the sun off the water so that it was cool. A man seated under a fig tree eating the fruit above him while enjoying the refreshing water of the well was a picture of a man at peace and rest with God.

The Lord used this imagery to work the other way, though. Later, when Israel's unfaithfulness brought ruin upon them, the prophets such as Jeremiah cried out on behalf of God, "I will surely snatch them away,” declares the LORD; “There will be no grapes on the vine and no figs on the fig tree, and the leaf will wither; and what I have given them will pass away” (Jeremiah 8:3). Yet even in the midst of judgments the Lord always promised the hope of restoration, and if Israel or any nation would repent of their wickedness and seek His face once agaon, His promise was as follows: ‘In that day,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘every one of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and under his fig tree” (Zechariah 3:10).

That in essence is what our website, and indeed our congregation, is all about. An invitation to come and sit under the tree, though in this case it is a sycamore tree. Years ago our congregation chose Sycamore for its name because of this tree's abundance in central Indiana and particularly because they are found by streams of water. These verses from Jeremiah 17:7-8 have become our theme:

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit."

And indeed the Lord has blessed the congregation of Sycamore RP Church with a great measure of His presence and the spiritual fruit that follows. So I invite you to come and spend some time sitting under the Sycamore tree with us. Review a sermon on a section of Scripture to hear our teaching. Look over our ministries and activities. Read a story under our Lake Woes-Be-Gone tab that captures some of the spirit and fun we enjoy as a congregation. Come each week and taste some food for thought here at our "Under the Sycamore Tree" blogsite. Better yet, consider visiting us for worship and a meal some time. If you come seeking the presence of the Lord, we believe you will find His Spirit with us.

With this in mind, should it surprise us then that when Jesus began His public ministry, He found one of His first disciples (Nathaniel) waiting for Him where else but under a fig tree? (See John 1:47-18). To him Christ promised he would see the heavens opened and the angels delivering blessings from above to God's people through Himself (John 1:51). So come, sit under the shade of the tree with us for a while, and let us wait upon the Lord to visit and bring us His rich blessings. May the Lord grant you His peace.

Return to Sycamore RPC Home Page