Well, our family is back from DisneyWorld. To be honest, by the time you get to the Orlando airport, it’s pretty clear that you aren’t in the Magic Kingdom anymore. It was the trip of a lifetime, right down to the Mickey-shaped pretzels. It really is designed to be the happiest place on earth.
It’s true that the magic of DisneyWorld isn’t real. The wonder we feel is ingeniously created by engineers and employees who have perfected the craft of delivering an experience to their customers. There are hidden tunnels where workers bustle, backstages where characters catch their breath, terabytes of data being processed every second, and lots and lots of cash registers ringing.
But no matter how it’s created or delivered, our experience when we step inside the park is very real.
When my son Sam caught sight of Mickey, he let out a triumphal yell. When a fairy princess sprinkled my niece with pixie dust, she really believed she could fly. When we took in the fireworks show as a family, our hearts were bursting along with the colors in the sky.
In creating the Disney parks, Walt Disney said, “I don’t want the public to see the world they live in while they’re in the park. I want them to feel they’re in another world.” When most of us take vacation, that’s what we are looking for. We want to get away. We want to escape the limitations and frustrations of the real and the present and go somewhere totally other.
Vacations are great for that, and we all need that sometimes. However, vacation isn’t a permanent state—we go away, but then we return. Robert Frost’s great poem “Birches” uses the metaphor of a bending birch tree to talk about our desire to get away from it all, but also our desire to come back down to the ground again.
Our worship service is in many ways like a vacation. It’s entirely different than the rest of our week. We sing together, say prayers out loud together, listen to a lecture, and participate in rituals that aren’t really much like anything else we do on a given weekday. During worship we often experience joy and freedom and wonder that draws us away from the humdrum, the mundane.
But here’s where our worship is different. You aren’t just ‘returned’ back to your normal life when our service ends—you are sent. You are commissioned with the task of taking the transformative experience of gathering together, hearing from God’s word, and receiving his grace and extending that out in the world. Because as Christians, we don’t believe that worship is an escape from real life; we believe that worship is the fullest expression of real life. In Revelation, we read how all of time and space will culminate in the eternal worship of God. Our worship isn’t a refreshing getaway; it’s the blueprint for the life we return to.
This week, you’ll notice I’m not walking around with Mickey Mouse ears on my head. I’m not wearing my color-coordinated t-shirts so my family can stick together. And I certainly won’t be eating like I did while we were at DisneyWorld. Because it was our vacation, and now I’m back.
But let me ask you: what will you carry with you from worship into your life this week? What experience did you have on Sunday that you will pull into your life as you live and move through your days? Will it be a passage of scripture that spoke to you? A prayer we said together? A posture of confession? The peace we passed to one another? A memory of receiving grace at the table?
Our call is to join God in the restoration of all things. One way we do that is by bearing the reality of our worshipping lives in every aspect of our lives.