Monday, October 08, 2018

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of October 7, 2018

Sermon: “Worshiping Faithfully”

As child of the 70’s I am certain that most of what I learned early in school was reinforced by that wonderful pop cultural phenomenon of public television called Sesame Street.  I loved the characters and how they interacted with one another and I was mesmerized by the music and images dancing across the screen.  

While characters like Big Bird, or Cookie Monster made their way into the minds of countless kids, one character always had a soft spot for me.  His name was Poco Loco, the pet parrot of handyman Louis. 

You might not remember Poco Loco as he was just a minor character through the mid 70s and early 80s.  But what made Poco Loco stick out to me was his ability to mimic or copy any sound.

He might have been a master at copying, but it didn't always go well.  So, his name fits him.  If you speak Spanish you know that Poco Loco means… a little crazy. 

Today, we continue our series on the Bethany Blueprint as we see what it means to copy Jesus and worship faithfully.  Sometimes it doesn't go well for us either and the world thinks we are poco loco but how good it is when we are gathered in this place for worship.

This morning we continue our series on the Bethany Blueprint as we turn our attention to “Worshiping Faithfully”.

As we define worshiping faithfully in the Bethany Blueprint we say that it is - “Regularly Gathering around Word and Sacrament.”

I looked up the word faithful, or faithfully and I found a few definitions I’d like to share as we get started.

One could define being faithful in the following five ways:
  1. Having faith or remaining true, or constant in something
  2. Maintaining loyalty, especially to one's spouse
  3. One who is consistently reliable like a faithful worker
  4. Something that is reliable or truthful for example a faithful source
  5. Being accurate and exacting in detail for example a faithful translation

In all of these definitions there is the implied relationship with something or someone else and so there is with worship as well. 

Allow me to use that second definition, maintaining loyalty, especially to one’s spouse as our working definition today.

Marriage is not only beautifully described in the pages of Scripture, it is also used as an analogy to the relationship that Christ has with his church. 

In our Old Testament reading from Sunday, we hear God’s word, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18) and then goes on to describe the most intimate of relationships between man and woman, “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh…they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:23)

For those of you who are married, and those of you who have ever been to wedding, you have heard the promises made; the vows of faithfulness; the pledges of fidelity; the declaration to love and honor and it might seem well and good, but you’ve heard the statistic that more than 50% of all marriages will end in divorce. 

Today is not about divorce, but worship, so stick with me.  In our Gospel lesson the Pharisees come to Jesus and ask, “Can a husband divorce his wife?” 

It was a loaded question.  Moses allowed it, but Jesus denounces it.  And in so doing harkens back to the words found in Genesis, “…and the two will be one.” (Mark 10:6)

The Apostle Paul helps us put some of the pieces together here.  In many weddings we hear a reading from Ephesians 5.  I’m sure you have encountered it, I preached on it a while back.  In this passage Paul is giving an example from marriage, saying that the wife should submit to her husband and the husband should love his wife. 

Please give me just a few seconds to put that into context. 

While the word “submit” has garnered a negative connotation in our culture today it need not be that way. 

The example I use is that of a pitcher and catcher in baseball.  In that relationship, who does the submitting?  The pitcher.  The catcher calls the sign, the pitcher submits to the will of the catcher knowing that they are on the same side with the same goal.  Does that make the pitcher any less of a player?  By no means!  In fact, it is the pitcher who gets the glory. 

But when we look at what Paul is getting to in Ephesians 5 we see something important for us today.  Paul writes, “…for we are members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:30-31)

First of all, did you catch the reference to our Old Testament and Gospel readings for today?  While we use this passage to talk about husband and wife listen again to where Paul is going, “but I am talking about Christ and the church.”

This divine union of Christ and the church is what worshiping faithfully is all about.  We have been called to submit to Christ, as He loves us.  Worshiping faithfully is about a relationship, which began for many of you at the waters of Baptism and is sustained as we spend time in the Word and as we partake in the Lord’s Supper. 

But like some marriages, our relationship with Christ is filled with infidelity, wrought with unfaithfulness, and bursting with self-centeredness. 

We have been unfaithful to God in thought, word and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.  Many have forsaken worshiping faithfully for just being spiritual.  Some have traded in time in God’s house for time in our own houses, doing what we love to do.  And some have ignored Him altogether.

Church itself, and worshiping faithfully has become counter cultural.  It is no longer the dominant force in society, let alone Sunday morning.  Thousands of pilgrims no longer flock to cathedrals filled with stained glass but ones with fake grass; where it not about salvation but about competition; it’s not about humility but about power. 

I’m not here to bash the NFL, because it’s not the only thing that has our attention.  I don’t know what has captivated you and pulls your attention from worshiping faithfully.  It could be a comfy bed or the desire to make more bread.  It could be your kid’s soccer game or chasing fame

You may feel this place is filled with hypocrites or people who just don’t fit.  You may be here, but you are wishing that person wasn’t.   Your desire may be for bells to ring and choirs to sing but you hear guitars that strum and it makes you want to run. 

I guarantee something is causing you to be unfaithful when it comes to worship.  The devil will do everything in his power to distract you from this divine relationship.  He is working overtime this morning in this place. 

We all struggle when it comes to our relationship with our Lord.  This marriage has some issues, but they are our issues, not Gods. 

There is an old joke that goes like this, “A couple is sitting in their living room, sipping wine. Out of the blue, the wife says, “I love you.” The husband asks, “Is that you or the wine talking?” “It’s me,” says the wife. “I’m talking to the wine.”

As we turn our gaze on countless other things that pull our minds and our eyes away from God and towards ourselves we need to understand the depths and depravity of the human condition.  We are unfaithful people. 

Left to ourselves we will never be satisfied with worship, for you see, worshiping faithfully is not about our faithfulness but about God’s.  It is not about what we get out of it, but what God has put into it.  James the brother of Jesus writes about the attitude of worshiping faithfully, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”  (James 4:10)

Worshiping faithfully is a result of the one-way love of God.  He was right when he said back in the Garden, “It is not God for Man to be alone.”  So he did something about it.  It was more than just provide a helpmate, but to provide salvation.  He sent Jesus to restore the broken relationship.  Even as we are mired in our sin, God loves us and seeks us out.  His unconditional love is the foundation of worship and he promises to be with us forever.   Listen to the words of Scripture:

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:3-7)

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

 And the words of Christ himself, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:20b)

So let me sum up:
  • Worshiping Faithfully is about a divine relationship; the relationship between you and God.     
  • We are not good at this relationship and are constantly wandering away, following our own desires.
  • But it’s not about our faithfulness, but Gods; He is always faithful and by sending Jesus to live, die and rise again, our infidelity has been taken and paid for by Christ.  This was an act of worship in itself and because of it, you are forgiven.  
  • Jesus promises to never leave us or forsake us.  He will be with us forever, now on this side of heaven by faith, and face to face eternally one day in heaven.  
  • Because of this we, as the Bride of Christ are now free to worship faithfully, meaning we can regularly gather around Word and Sacrament not by our own power but because Christ lives in us. 

And let me close with this, the world thinks were are poco loco, a little crazy to spend our time in worship, but listen to the words of Psalm 133 as we end this morning,

How good and pleasant it is
    when God’s people live together in unity!
(Psalm 133:1)

May we all copy our Lord in all we do! 
-Pr. Seth Moorman


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