Not Seeing Jesus? Maybe You Should Raise Your Expectations
Not too long ago, I was approached after one of our worship services by a visitor to our church. He made it clear that he was simply there visiting a family member, and was not at all interested in a long term relationship.
"You'll probably ignore my suggestion," he said bluntly with a deep scowl on his face, "but I think you should have an altar call at the end of your services. How do you expect people to get saved if you don't have an altar call?" In his mind, it wasn't a church service if you didn't have an altar call.
A pastor friend of mine told me how he horrified members of his new congregation when, during a children's sermon, he placed his Bible on the communion table. He recalled how there as actually an audible gasp when he did it.
Apparently, the former pastor of the church had spent years teaching the congregation that nothing except the communion elements should ever be on the communion table. When my pastor friend put his Bible on the table it flew in the face of his predecessor's teachings and resulted in numerous conversations with offended church members.
For far too many Christians, church has become predictable, pedestrian, and filled with rituals, traditions and symbols that have lost their meaning. Many of the people filling the pews in churches on Sunday morning show up expecting altar calls, and uncluttered communion tables.
They don't show up expecting to encounter the Risen Jesus. They don't show up expecting their expectations to be turned upside down and their lives transformed.
In Luke 24, the risen Jesus appears to two of his followers while they are on the road heading out of Jerusalem. They don't recognize him. They weren't expecting a dead man to appear to them alive. Jess spends time with them, teaching them and then eating with them. The Gospel accounts reads like this:
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
You have to ask yourself. "When was the last time I was in a church worship service and felt like my heart was burning inside of me? When was the last time I was at church and I felt, really felt the presence of the risen Jesus all around me?
If you can't recall a time when you felt a burning heart and the presence of Christ when you went to church--maybe you've been focusing on the wrong things. Maybe you need to pray for an open mind, open eyes and open spirit. Maybe you need to find a church where your heart burns and the Spirit of God in Christ is all over the place.
May you experience unexpectedness today and every day as you encounter the Spirit of the Living God. May you find joy, excitement and passion in Jesus-filled moments of your day. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.