Worship at the Buffet

Worship as a Buffet
February 19, 2017
Genesis 18:1-8

I would like to read a passage of scripture.  It comes from the first book in the Bible, the book of Genesis and is found in chapter 18.  God has just established His covenant with Abraham and the people of Israel, and God told Abraham that at 100, he and Sarah, 90, would be parents.  Abraham promptly laughed.

1And the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day.

2He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him.  When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth

3and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. 4Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree,

5while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on — since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.”

6And Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quick! Get 7 quarts of fine flour! Knead it, and make cakes.”

7And Abraham ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to a young man, who prepared it quickly.

8Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them. And he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

I want to make a confession . . . I love buffets!  There you have it.  There aren’t many buffets I don’t like.  And once you get started, it’s hard to stop.  I mean, you’ve paid for it all and now comes the time to dig in.  I remember when Debbie and I went on a cruise, and we went to the midnight buffet.  Now, that was fantastic, feed your face, then go to sleep and do it again the next day.  We did  pretty good at not gorging ourselves, but to watch the people who piled heavy foods on their plates, ugh, it was disgusting . . . but it looked so good.

So, what does this have to do with anything?

This morning I want to look at how we approach a buffet, and hopefully, I’ll link buffet eating to worship feasting!

So, how do we approach a buffet?  There are a few types of buffet eaters . . .

1.  The picky eaters.
2.  The I’m wearing blinders eaters.
3.  The I know what I like, but tempt me, please.
4.  The variety is the spice to life eaters.

Now, there’s really nothing wrong with any of these.  I’m not here to criticize your buffet eating habits.  If you want to know, I fall into the 3rd  and 4th categories.

Worship is kind of like a buffet table – – –

When we come to worship we have certain expectations.  We expect certain types of music, we expect a sermon, prayer, an offering, announcements, maybe even a corny joke or story for good measure and hopefully someone to welcome and say hello to us.  That’s kind of our buffet table.

There are the picky eaters.  They’re the ones who are more critical of what’s going on.  At the buffet, they’re critical that the food isn’t hot enough, or the restaurant is out of a certain food, or it’s too hot or cold inside.  That list can go on . . . and it’s the same at worship.

Picky worshipers are looking for certain aspects and are the first to criticize.  It’s like the old American Bandstand and rating a new song.  They find reasons to be critical of whatever.  It may be different every week, but the criticism is there.

Then there are the blinder eaters.  They want only certain things.  They don’t want to see other options.  Just give me what I came for, get rid of everything else, and I’ll be really happy.

These folks come into worship the same way.  They want to hear a certain song or style of song, if they don’t hear it, they’re upset, they’re looking only for certain aspects of the worship and don’t care if anything else works or not, because their greatest concern is themselves.  If they’re satisfied, everyone else should be.

Then, there are those who like to eat the usual food, but they also want to get tempted with something that’s a little different.

They’re the same way with worship.  Keep things as they are, keep the usual things the same, but periodically, tempt me with something new.  Maybe a new song, or a new way to preach, or a new way to do communion.  Do it tastefully, and even if I don’t like it, I’ll appreciate the effort and won’t criticize.

Lastly, we have those buffet eaters who prefer to spice it up.  Variety is the spice to life.  They don’t want to see the same old stuff on the table.  They want some new items on the buffet table, because they’ve already tasted all the food, and want something new on occasion, which helps them feel they’ve gotten their monies worth.

They’re the same way at worship.  They like change.  They like things to be different.  They want a variety of music, different types of sermons, videos, they want it all.  They’re the variety is the spice to life worshipers.

So, there you go, I think those are the main categories of buffet eaters and worshipers.  I believe we fall into one or more of these categories

We all come with expectations for worship, just as we do with anywhere we are going.  So, with that in mind, I want to take a look back at the story about Abraham.  I want to take a look at one incident from this story as an example for us as it relates to worship.

The key occurs in the opening 2 verses, let me read them again for you.
1And the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day.

2He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him.  When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth

There is more to the story, but for now, let’s look at how we can feast on one item from the menu of healthy worship . . .

And that item is learning to recognize the Presence of the Lord.

Verse 1 tells us Abraham was sitting outside at the door of his tent.  It’s the middle of the day, it’s hot outside, and he was simply trying to cool down.  The verse starts out, “the LORD appeared to Abraham.”

Ever wonder how Abraham knew this was the LORD?  I don’t think God was wearing a name tag, which said, “HELLO, my name is God!”  The Bible tells us 3 men were suddenly standing in front of him.

Usually when I see 3 people walking toward me, I wonder what they want from me.  Yet, Abraham knew.  How did he know this was God?  Maybe one of them had a halo, or they were glowing?  Don’t think so.  And – – – the Bible doesn’t tell us.  But Abraham – – knew.

What’s remarkable at this point in the story is what Abraham did.  He ran to these visitors, these angels of God.  Abraham was minding his own business, sitting in front of his tent, being in the shade, enjoying the breeze.

When the Lord showed up Abraham didn’t say, “Sarah, tell them to come back later.”  He didn’t watch the Lord approaching and wait for Him to get there.  Instead, “Abraham ran from his tent to meet them.”

When the Lord shows up we need to get out of our comfort zone we need to get up and get going.  But that’s hard to do.  So many of us have settled into a routine that our Christianity has become comfortable.  We don’t read the Bible like we should.  We don’t pray like we should.  We simply don’t do what we should . . .

The bottom line is the fact that we really don’t know God very well.  We’ve gotten used to His presence or possibly the lack of His presence and we’ve become comfortable.  When God calls, we check our caller ID and we don’t recognize the number, so we don’t answer it.  Maybe we’re watching ESPN or America’s Got Talent, or whatever it might be.  So, God gets shut out.

You see, the key for Abraham was that He knew God!!  That’s vitally important as we also seek to worship God.  He knew God and when God showed up, totally unannounced, Abraham was able to say, “WHOA!  Sarah, God’s here, we need to get cooking for our buffet.”

When the Lord shows up – – we must recognize His presence and not only get out of our comfort zone but do like Abraham did and run to meet Him!

I remember the old days, when Joshua and Zachary were about 5 and 3.  When I came home from church, they would run to me and jump into my arms or grab my legs.  They were so excited to see me.  That’s a great example of how we need the meet the Lord!!!

Do you have that excitement for the Lord?  Are you excited about the opportunity to worship that you prepare yourself for worship and get here early?  Are you so excited about what God has in store for your life that you search the scriptures daily?  Are you seeking God’s plan for your everyday life, so you can’t wait to talk to the Lord in something we call prayer?  Or have you slipped into complacency?

You see, friends, we need to know God.  We need to seek Him and know that He will be found when we seek Him.

I’ve repeated this verse so many times, in Revelation 3:20, Jesus said,
20 I stand at the door and knock, if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and eat with you and you with me.

I love this passage for so many reasons.  Jesus says, I am standing at your door knocking.  Are we too busy to hear the knock?  Jesus tells us IF we hear His voice . . . That’s a huge IF isn’t it?  IF we hear His voice, if we’re not too busy, if we’re being the church, if we’re seeking His face, if we’re not in sin, if we’re repentant . . . and that list goes on.

If we hear and recognize His voice, notice – – – we now have to open the door.  He does not just come in, but we must open the door so the Lord can come in.  It’s a sign of our inviting Jesus into our homes, into our lives . . . and He says, He will eat with me, and I will eat with Him.  How great is that?!?!  Yet, there are so many contingencies associated with this passage.

If Jesus knocked on your door, would you be so busy that you wouldn’t hear the door?  Or too distracted doing whatever that you don’t get up to answer the door and let the Lord of Lords and King of Kings into your home?

This is why we must take time to prepare ourselves, everyday, not just Sunday mornings, but everyday so we can meet this living God.  A God who desires to eat with us, to hang out with us, to ride the rides with us, to play with us, to comfort us, to save us, to help us grow, to give us strength, and even to die for us.

If we don’t know God during the week, how will we recognize Him on Sunday mornings?

We only have one or so hours together on Sunday mornings.  And someday, someday, I want someone to find where in the Bible it tells us there is only 1 hour allotted to worship our Lord in formal worship.

So, what will you do this week in order to experience the presence of God, so that when Sunday rolls around, you’re going to be excited about meeting God, so excited that you’re going to run and grab ahold of Him and thank Him for blessing you.

What about us, when was the last time you had an experience of God being very near to you?  Maybe close enough that you could feel and experience His presence, His peace, His forgiveness, His mercy, His strength and power?

We’ve forgotten that living the Christian life requires effort.  But doesn’t everything?  It’s been about 113 days since the Chicago Cubs won the World Series!  Had to bring that up!  Do you know what they’re doing right now?  They are in Spring Training.  Do you hear that phrase, training!  They’re going back to fielding bunts, catching ground balls, batting practice.  They are sweating and straining in the heat.  They’re practicing to be better baseball players.  They’re world champions, they shouldn’t have to!  But they do.

The New England Patriots just won the Super Bowl and in July they will be back at training camp, practicing 2 a days.  Tom Brady knows how to throw a ball, Julian Edelman knows how to catch a ball, they know how to run and tackle . . . yet there they will be, practicing, sweating, weight lifting and reviewing film and playbooks.  Even though they are world champions.

Why go through all of this?  Couldn’t they just sit back on their knowledge? Aren’t the Cubs and Patriots good enough?  You know the answer to that is no.  They have to put forth the effort to get better.  They must practice!  They can’t sit back and be comfortable.  Comfort breeds complacency, and complacency leads to death . . . death in sports and in your spiritual life.

In the same way, we can’t just sit back and say, ‘yea, I think I know the Lord, I think I’ve met Him, but it’s been awhile.  When the Lord shows up, we must recognize His presence and not only get out of our comfort zone but do like Abraham did and run to meet Him!

Abraham knew this was God, he recognized God’s presence and in the same way we need to learn to be alert to the Lord’s presence in our lives.  It’s an everyday occurrence.  Whether we’re sitting on the front porch, at work, at school, or wherever we’re at.  We need to be open to experience the presence of God.

We do this by slowing down, by stopping if we have to and calling on God to be an active presence in our lives.  He wants to be with us.  Isn’t that why Jesus is called “Emmanuel,” God with us.  That is exactly the image the Father wanted us to understand when Jesus was sent into our world, for us to know Him.  It’s for us to believe and trust God is with us, today and always.

So, how do we meet this great God of the universe, our wonderful Creator?  Abraham gives us a great example.  He stopped all that he was doing.

I suppose that’s one of the beauties of Abraham’s day.  He did not have the luxury of watching cable TV or Satellite TV.  He did not have distractions all around him.  There were no malls for him to run off to.  It was the simple life.  No central air, no indoor plumbing, no freezers and paved streets and ooh, yea, anyone want to return to that life?

But it’s a great example of what it means to slow down and let God be God and for you and I to come to know the Lord better.  You may be saying to yourself, ‘but Pastor Michael, you don’t know my life . . . ?’  Yes I know your life, because I live my life and I know the demands and expectations which come from working and children and a spouse, and housework and yard work and the list goes on.  There’s not enough time in the day to start and to stop.  And you know what . . . ?  You’re right.  There is not enough time.

So, we must make the time to spend with God.  We only have one hour or so (notice I always throw that hour OR SO, in there).  So what do you do with the other 167 hours per week to build your spiritual resources to meet the Living God, the Christ?

The more we engage in practicing ways to meet God, the more we will find He is sitting at our table eating a bowl of cereal with us, having a bowl of soup, eating Chinese, Ribs or whatever we may be eating, even if we’re at the buffet, He’s there, too.

When we’re playing with our pet, or tickling the kids, at work, dare I say – shoveling snow, He’s there.  We know He’s there, because we’ve learned to recognize His presence.  Because we’ve learned to stop and stand still, even in the midst of chaos . . . we know He is there.

You see, the reason this is all so very important for us, is because on Sunday mornings we come into this building and we do something called worship.  The trouble is we have spent all week running amidst the chaos that when Sunday rolls around, we have difficulty stopping and recognizing God’s presence.

It is our Monday through Saturday routines that will make the difference for us come Sunday mornings.  Sunday is really the culmination of all that has taken place the past week.  It is our coming to this building with a desire to give thanks and praise to God for the many ways He has revealed Himself this past week.  Even if it was in hardship and difficult times, we thank God for His grace and blessings.

If we do not slow down and recognize His presence we will not be able to worship Him with the power and strength we desire.  So, this week, as you start running around doing all the big and little things you need to do, stop and experience God.  Take time to sit and be still.  It’s not always easy to just sit and listen to the silence, but try it.

Or listen to music that leads you to give thanks to God for the blessings.
Sing a love song to God.
Read a psalm of praise, or a psalm of lament.
Clap your hands and offer a praise offering to God.
Find someone to help, and help them.

Allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the presence of God.  Then come next week and every week after that, ready and willing to worship God.

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