Sermon Series: Seeking God
Message 1 of 6: Virtual Reality
Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12, 16
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 1/12/2020 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the entire worship service, including the message.
Virtual Reality Experiences
- The Void at Disney Springs You wear a visor/headset and a vest which immerses you in a Star Wars virtual reality experience. I struggled with it. My family had to help me walk across “a narrow bridge over flowing lava.” I knew it wasn’t real, but what I saw and felt told my body it was real.
- Waking up from a dream sweating and your heart pounding. It feels real, but it isn’t.
- The Aeronauts, an Amazon Prime movie. The true story of a hot air balloon pilot and scientist who in 1862 reach 36,000 ft. It’s an exciting story of courage, beautifully filmed. I found myself dizzy and nauseous from the heights and drops. It felt so real, but it wasn’t. It had the appearance of being real.
We can have the appearance of faith, but it not be real. It’s a Virtual Faith. When you watch something on TV or read a book, it’s at a distance. The same can be true for our faith.
How can we have a real, in the flesh experience of faith and of God?
Matthew 2:1-12, 16
1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road…
16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.
Herod’s Virtual Faith
Herod is frightened and surprised by the news of a newborn King of the Jews. Herod wants to stay in power. A virtual faith keeps us in charge, not God.
Herod is uniformed. He had to ask where the Messiah was to be born. He did not know the scriptures for himself. He had others to do that religious stuff for him.
Herod lies and schemes. He has no intention of paying homage to Jesus. No intention of offering gifts or bowing down. No intention of seeing Jesus for himself.
Herod wants to stay in charge and at a distance so he eliminates the threat. His reaction to the news of Jesus is deadly. He sends troops 4 miles down the road to Bethlehem to kill all the children aged two and under. He commits genocide in his own country. Virtual faith is deadly.
The Wise Ones Experience Jesus for Themselves
The Wise Ones were looking for signs, see a sign, and follow the sign of the star in faith. Look, see, act. Once they arrive, they remain open to the leading of God.
The Wise Ones come to see the newborn King for themselves. They could have sent the gifts or a message via a servant. They could have stayed at a distance but instead come themselves.
This choice to experience Jesus themselves caused them to travel a great distance at great expense. It took a great amount of time and put them at great risk. Making the choice to experience Jesus interrupted their lives. It became their primary focus and mission.
What are we doing in order to experience Jesus for ourselves?
In Jesus’ presence, they pay him homage. They kneel in worship and offer their gifts. They’re joyful to be in the presence of the King. They leave for home a different way and I suspect as different people. Everything they experienced was worth it.
Experiencing Jesus is for us as well. Real, living faith. This is where we find faith powerful and meaningful and transformational.
It is so easy to watch worship from the pew or on a screen or listen to a podcast, to stay at a distance. Or you can engage in worship for yourself.
It is so easy to read a devotional, another person’s testimony or encounter with God in prayer or scripture reading, to stay at a distance. Their witness doesn’t take the place of your own experience. Have your own encounter with Jesus through prayer and scripture reading.
Simple Timeless Spiritual Practices to experience Jesus for Yourself
- CHOOSE a Bible Reading Plan. Click Here if you need a great one!
- ATTENTION: Read or listen to the Scripture. What word, phrase or verse captures your attention? Underline it or copy it onto a piece of paper.
- CONNECTION: What connections do you see to other scriptures? To your own experience or current situation? To the character or promises of God?
- ACTION: What is God inviting you to say or do? How will your life be different because of this scripture?
- PRAY: Have a conversation with God about what you just experienced.
Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing more timeless spiritual practices to help you experience God for yourself.
Sermon- Virtual Reality © 2020 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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