There are about three reasons why I load my dog into the car to go somewhere. Bella, my 7-year-old runt of a St. Bernard is terrible around other dogs so we don’t spend a lot of time going to dog parks or for long walks on forest trails. No, Bella’s car rides only happen if she needs to go to the groomer, the vet, or the dog sitter’s house. These are not everyday occurrences and yet, whenever we walk past my car she is ever hopeful that I will turn to open the door and let her hop in for a ride.
Sometimes this can try my patience, but the other day when she walked over to the car door and sat perfectly still hoping her good behavior would make me open the door, I was reminded of a sermon I heard in seminary about Zechariah.
Zechariah was a priest in the temple of the Lord. He came from a long line of priests and it was their duty to make sure the proper rituals and prayers were said in the temple. One day, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to offer incense. This was a once in a lifetime experience for a priest; some priests wait their entire careers to enter the sanctuary and are never chosen. The sanctuary was where the very presence of the Lord resided. It was a very special place that is set aside and holy. When it was Zechariah’s time to enter the sanctuary, he did everything he had trained to do, but then something he had not expected happened...
Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord,
standing at the right side of the altar of incense.
When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him.
But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah
The professor who was preaching on this text paused at this point and pointed out how odd this was. Zechariah’s life had been leading up to this moment and yet he was surprised. He was in the most holy of places where the presence of God dwelled and yet when an angel appeared he was terrified!
Far too often we fall into the same trap as Zechariah. We know the rituals. We take part in the traditions. We sing hymns, say prays and claim to worship God is his house, the church, each Sunday, but how many of us expect anything to actually happen. As we begin our worship we call on the Holy Spirit to come as we worship, but do we really expect a mighty wind to tear through the sanctuary?
What would our worship look like if we expected God to show up? What would it look like if we entered our worship or our time of pray with the sense of hope and expectation that my dog continues to have when she walks by my car?