Sermon for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
(Proper 22)

Text: Psalm 100
Sing to the Lord, all the world! Worship the Lord with joy; come before him with happy songs! Acknowledge that the Lord is God. He made us, and we belong to him; we are his people, we are his flock. Enter the Temple gates with thanksgiving; go into its courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise him. The Lord is good; his love is eternal and his faithfulness lasts forever.

Divine service & worship

A wife remarked to her husband after a church service, "Did you see what Mrs. Jones was wearing?"
"No," said her husband, "I didn't."
"Did you see how tired Mr. Brown looked? I bet his wife doesnít give him a moments peace?" she asked.
"I'm afraid I didn't," said her husband.
To this his wife replied, "Well a fat lot of good it does YOU to go to church!"

Why do we come here on Sundays?
What is it that draws us here?
What makes some people come every week without fail?
There are those who donít step inside a church except for weddings and funerals, what are they missing out on?

We come together in this church because it is here in our worship service that God comes and meets us. In the time of Moses, the people of Israel came together in a tent to meet God. Since the very beginning of the Church at Pentecost, Christians have made a point of coming together on Sundays to experience the presence of God.
Sometimes we come here carrying a heavy load on our shoulders. Perhaps the past week has been a horrendous one.
Maybe your health has been poor, or relationships with others have turned sour,
or work has been dull and uninteresting and you are deciding whether to make a change.
Maybe your financial situation is causing you a headache,
or youíre struggling with a death, maybe the seemingly pointless death of someone you dearly loved.
Perhaps you are faced with a tough decision, or you are regretting the choice you made.
Perhaps you came today upset and uptight.
Whatever baggage we bring with us to our worship service, God is ready to minister to us, to help us and reassure us.

You might recall when Sunday morning worship was referred to as ĎDivine Serviceí. This sounds kind of old fashioned these days but it does help us understand what worship really is. The name ĎDivine Serviceí tells us that the Divine, God, serves us, ministers to us. It tells us that we are going to focus on him and what he does for us. We come looking to God for some kind of help Ė Ďdivine serviceí Ė "godly help" you might say.

I believe that sometimes we get things around the wrong way. We come to worship because we want to do something for God. And because we are so intent on doing something for God, we start with ourselves, our feelings, what we like and donít like, and what we are doing in worship. Itís easy to consider confessing our sin, the Bible readings, a message that speaks God's Word of law and gospel, words of blessing from God as unimportant because we are so focussed on what we are doing in worship. (Yes, I have been to worship services where the Bible did not make an appearance).

Let me say this as clearly as possible, first and foremost we come here to be met by God.

God ministers to us as he speaks to us after we have confessed our sin. He announces that our sins are forgiven through the death and resurrection of Jesus. God ministers to us as he lifts the burden of guilt from our shoulders. As we hear the words, "Your sins are forgiven", we are assured that his love for us is as strong as ever, every though we have disappointed him so much.

We come here to be ministered to by God through his Word. We hear again his words of promise, comfort, reassurances, and hope. We are reminded that God has made a promise to us to always be close at hand in our time of need.

God ministers to us at the very beginning of the worship service as we hear the words, "In the name of the Father, and of Son, and of the Holy Spirit" at the beginning of worship. We are reminded of the special relationship we have with God and the covenant that he made with us at our baptism when he promised that his loving arms would always be wrapped around us, even at those times when we feel that God is far away or that we donít deserve his loving embrace.

As we hear the bible readings and the sermon, he warns us through the Holy Spirit at work in us when we are being side tracked off the straight and narrow, when we are getting our priorities all mixed up and lose sight of what is really important in this life. He guides us when the going gets tough, or when we have lost our way. The psalmist makes a point of saying that "we are his flock" which brings us the image in our mind of a shepherd watching over, protecting and guiding his sheep.

When we come to Holy Communion, God meets us in a very special way. We receive the body and blood that Jesus gave for us on the cross because of his great love for us. We are strengthened, we are assured of our forgiveness, our faith is reinforced, and our trust in God's commitment to us is reaffirmed. We may come with heavy hearts and confused minds and God ministers to us and strengthens us to meet the challenges ahead of us.

The problems in our lives will most likely still exist when we leave the church, but we have been given the power to deal with them in our meeting here with God. We leave to face whatever the week will bring with his blessing, "The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you, the Lord look on you with his favour and give you peace." This isnít just some nice way to finish a worship service; this is a word from God himself. God commanded Moses to use these words of blessing as an assurance of God's presence. We have them spoken over us as we leave as promise from God that whatever may happen the Lord will take care of us and be kind and helpful toward us.

We come here to worship God because he is worthy of our praise. A childrenís song says, "God is so good, hallelujah. God is so good, heís so good to me".
God has ministered to us through out the week in so many ways, often in ways we donít appreciate until they are pointed out to us.
God has ministered to our needs when we are met by him in our time here in the church.
The psalmist doesnít hesitate to say, "Give thanks to him and praise him. The Lord is good; his love is eternal and his faithfulness lasts forever."

God is worthy of our thanks and praise because he is good to us in so many ways.
God is good because he has provided the answer to sin and death through his Son, Jesus. We heard this from Paul in the second reading this morning from 2 Timothy, "God saved us and chose us to be his holy people. We did nothing to deserve this, but God planned it because he is so kind. Ö. Christ our Saviour defeated death and brought us the good news. It shines like a light and offers life that never ends" (2 Timothy 1:9,10 CEV).

We can do nothing about our sinfulness. God however has provided the answer in Jesus. His death has brought us forgiveness and eternal life. Just that alone makes God worthy of our praise and thanks.

God is good. He has made us; he cares for us and provides for us. He has given us family, friends, and fellow members of the church who provide us with human strength and support in both good and bad times. God's plan was never for us to go through life alone. God, in his marvellous goodness and wisdom, has provided family and friends to affirm, encourage, and support us during the difficult times of life. God has given us family and friends to lean on in times of mourning, hurt, suffering, or pain. Yes, God is good because he gives us friends and family.

We could go on all day talking about the ways God is good to us and we could all tell of times when we have been especially blessed by the goodness of God. Letís simply agree with the psalm writer that God is worthy of our praise. "Enter the Temple gates with thanksgiving; go into its courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise him."

Coming to worship to have God minister to us, and then responding with praise for all the good things that God does for us every day, deepens our relationship with God.
When we come to worship, God reminds us that "his love is eternal and his faithfulness lasts forever". He draws us closer to him as we listen to his Words of love and as we share in his Sonís body and blood in the sacrament.

One Sunday morning, the pastor noticed little Alex was staring up at the large plaque that hung in the foyer of the church. It was covered with the names of those who had died at war. The seven-year-old had been staring at the plaque for some time, so the pastor walked up, stood beside the boy and said quietly, "Good morning Alex."
"Good morning Pastor," replied the young man, still focused on the plaque. "Pastor, what is this?" Alex asked.
"Well, son, itís a memorial to all the men and women who have died in one of the services."
Soberly, they stood together, staring at the large plaque. Finally with a puzzled look on his face, little Alex asked, "Which one, the 8:00 or the 9:30 service?"

I wonder if little Alex is saying something about what happened in the worship services of his church. The writer of the psalm starts with these words, "Sing to the Lord, all the world! Worship the Lord with joy." He is excited about coming to worship. He wants us to be thrilled at the prospect of coming to worship to be met by God who is so keen to minister to us in our needs. He wants us to worship the Lord with joy.

"Worship" means that we regard someone so highly for what that person has done for us that we are filled with joy and can only speak that personís praises and give thanks. Praise only comes in response to something someone has done; something that you have appreciated deeply. If you donít recognise what that person is doing for you, you wonít praise that person. That goes for praising God also.

There are times when we would have to confess that we have gone to worship more out of a sense of duty than because we wanted to. Have you noticed that when your attendance at worship has dropped off or the thought of going to worship is not filled with anticipation and joy, itís because somehow you have lost sight of the purpose of why you go to worship? Somehow you have lost sight of the fact that here we are met by God who is waiting to minister to your needs. For some reason, you donít see that God has a powerful effect on your life and you take all that he gives for granted.
When we come here on Sundays this is a time when God ministers to you,
a time when God brings you into an intimate relationship with him through Word and Sacrament,
a time when God strengthens you to face the hurts, problems and crises of your every day life.
When we worship this is a time when you can praise and thank God for all his goodness,
a time when you can serve others specially through your prayers,
a time when you can respond with thanks and joy.

Yes, we do have a wonderful God. The advice of psalmist is worth taking note of, "Sing to the Lord, all the world! Worship the Lord with joy; come before him with happy songs!"

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
3rd October, 2004

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