Lord, what do I say this morning as a greeting and encouragement to these people I care about. I don’t really have anything to say. It is only You who can truly encourage us. Only You have the Words of Life. Only You can speak in the quietness of our hearts to say what we need to hear. Speak to us, Lord Jesus. Let the calmness and peace of Your Spirit rest in us. Help us to know that, in You, we have forgiveness, wholeness, and peace. Bring forth from our hearts Your praise and worship all through this day, and our encouragement will simply be in knowing that we are walking through this day together. All glory, thanks and praise to You, Lord Jesus. Amen.
There is an on going discussion between churches that use the historic liturgy for their worship and those which are more free in form. Sometimes we, and I’m writing from a Lutheran perspective worshiping with a liturgical form, sometimes we are accused of being dead and doing things by rote. But that is not the case at all. Yes, the liturgy takes a little time to learn and get accustomed to, but it provides a beauty and depth not found in other forms of worship. It doesn’t seek to copy the forms and freedom of society, but gives a stability not found in our often chaotic world. There is a bond with all of the saints before us. But more important it exalts the holiness of our God seeking to draw many into a right relationship with Him through faith in Jesus Christ. God’s holy word and the grace given in the sacraments are central to all we do. It is God who came first to us while we were helpless. He came to draw us into the fullness of His life. That is what we have the privilege of sharing every week in Word and Sacrament.
In chapter 28 of the Old Testament book of Numbers the Lord gave instructions for daily offerings, Sabbath offerings monthly offerings, the Passover, and other regular festivals. It seems a bit tedious when we read these instructions. We know that in Christ we are not bound by Jewish laws, but a point still remains. We need continual reminders to stay close to the Lord. God is not an egotist that needs our devotions, but He knows that we need them – whether daily Bible reading and pray, weekly worship, church prayer rings, etc. – to stay a part of Him where we find our strength and life. God is spirit so we don’t see Him with our eyes, and our busyness always wants to pull us away from the things of the Lord. Yet, we find our greatest joy in being continually a part of His life. “Let us not give up meeting together, (or daily Bible reading and prayer) as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)
We say that our God is a holy God. Do we really have any idea what holiness is? One image from Revelation 4 says, “there before me was a throne in heaven … and the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne… from the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God… In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, … Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”(vss.1-8) No earthly image can fully depict the true holiness, and awesome magnitude and majesty of our God. We must never think that we are worthy in ourselves to stand before this God. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”(Romans 3:23) Only by the blood of Christ can we approach that throne. It is only in the righteousness He alone gives that we are worthy to enter. Our life is in humbly kneeling before the cross with the greatest of thanksgiving on our lips.
Music is throughout the Psalms, and some gets quite noisy – sounding of trumpets, harps and lyres, tambourine and dancing, strings and flutes, the clash of cymbals, and resounding cymbals. (Ps.150) But it is all aimed at the outpouring of praise and thanksgiving to our gracious God. Or consider Psalm 71. “I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praise to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you – I, whom you have redeemed. …”(vss.22-24) “Well,” we might say, “that is really not my style of worship.” The point here is not one of style. It is a heart so filled with gratitude to our gracious Lord that it can’t be contained. We have just come through the Easter account, retelling the amazement of those first witnesses to the risen Christ. Their joy couldn’t be contained. It was so great that they spread the word to all the world in their generation. Jesus is still alive, and has done just as much for each of us. Should not our hearts overflow with joy?
Do you worship the Lord? I’m not asking if you go to church on Sundays. That is important, and we belong together in the fellowship of believers. But do you worship the Lord frequently each day? Look around in the beauty of the world He has given. Of course there are problems and a lot of nasty stuff. Stuff mankind has allowed to come in and sully this world. But beyond that in the beauty of the trees, the birds that come to the bird feeder outside the window, the kindness of one who goes out of their way to help, the next breath we take which is given by God’s grace, and above all the new life we’ve been given in Jesus Christ. There are reasons to rejoice, give thanks, and worship all around us. “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation… let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.”(Psalm 95:1,6)
Many of the Psalms are prayers against enemies, or for deliverance from trouble, but there are many, also, that are pure and beautiful praise. “Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise Him. Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten stringed lyre.” (Ps.33:1-2) The psalmist knew that it is in praise that our eyes are turned to the Lord, and that we are drawing near to Him in trust. It is in praise that we feel the strength of the Lord. The Lord seeks the worship of His people, not because He needs it, but because He knows that in worship our relationship with Him is deepened. This is why we gather weekly in our churches. Not to fulfill some duty we feel we have toward God, but to know the joy of drawing near to the Throne of Grace. “In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in You.” (vs.21-22)
I read a poem recently about how a person felt close to God when in church on Sunday morning. In the singing and the prayers, God seemed to be very near. This is good, and we are admonished in Scripture to “not neglect the meeting together.” (Heb.10:25) When we come together in the congregation we are fed by Word and Sacrament, and assured of the love and grace of God. But we also remind ourselves that God is not confined to a building or an hour. We use the expression 24/7. But that is our God. Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the close of the age.” (Mt.28:20) It is right and necessary that we be regular in our corporate worship, but we are to worship our Lord daily. We praise Him through all of our actions, seek Him for our directions, and lean on Him for our strength. We talk with Him as friend to friend. We are always close to our Lord, whether we are in a church building or not. Walk with Him and enjoy Him today.
There are some verses from Scripture that bear repeating often. A few that we could use at the beginning of each day come from Psalm 18. “I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies. “(1-3) We face many things in a day’s time, some good, some bad, mostly routine. This reminds us of our Lord’s presence in all of it. He is our joy and our strength. Peter expresses it this way, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,…”(IP1:8) Whatever your day holds, you are God’s child in Jesus Christ. Rejoice in Him.
One of the local churches in our area has a prominent sign board displaying the message, “We serve fresh brewed coffee and donuts every Sunday.” The other side of their sign is advertising for musicians to play a keyboard, drums, and guitars. I know that a lot of churches have coffee and donuts, and also keyboards and guitars, including my own congregation. But I had to wonder, is this the main thing we have to offer to get people to come to worship? Are we there to entertain people, and get them to feel at home with a fresh cup of coffee? What about inviting them to come into the presence of the living God? What about giving them the place where they hear the declaration of God’s forgiving grace? What about feeding them with the far deeper and lasting food of God’s Holy Word, and His real presence in the bread and wine of communion? There is much more to the church of Jesus Christ than having an enjoyable hour on Sunday morning. Jesus never wanted us to just have a happy outward life, but to have a true heart change that leads to life eternal.