What do we fear?
fire that destroys a church building
illness and injury
illness or loss of a family member or friend
Many concerns in this life, many of them very valid.
What of the people we read about today?
Eve concerned that the curse of sin would remain upon her world, fearful that she would not bring forth the child of promise
Cain concerned because somehow his offering was not acceptable to God.
Cain again afraid that his sin would bring his death.
Paul is apparently ill, tired, feeling old, abandoned, expecting the Romans to remove his head
Tax collector in the Gospel who doesn’t know how to pray except that God would have mercy upon him.
Parents wanting Jesus’ blessing on their children, then being rejected by the disciples.
And where are we in all this? All the people we read about have one fear. In the end, who is going to be there? Who will bring forgiveness? Who will restore my relationship with God? Will I be cast out?
Who will protect these children? We can’t seem to.
Will they have Jesus’ blessing?
What about our businesses which we fear take us away from fellowship with the Lord (tax collector)?
What of the times we offend others? Is there forgiveness?
What do we do when the authorities come for us?
What will we do when we are ill, abandoned, old?
How will we be forgiven from all our sin?
try harder? persevere?
Those offerings we can bring aren’t going to be acceptable.
The things we do in church or for the church aren’t going to bring us forgiveness.
We can’t ever earn our forgiveness. We can’t ever earn God’s grace.
God requires a broken and contrite spirit. As soon as we start thinking we have one of those we are proud of ourselves and ruin it all.
There’s no hope for us to bring forth the child of promise. Not one of us will do it.
When will the bond of sin be broken?
Jesus has come to deliver us from death and sin.
He delivers to us, through his word, all the forgiveness and grace we will ever need.
What is the Church, after all? We’re headed for a big church anniversary. But why are we here?
We’re here to receive God’s gifts promised in Christ and delivered through Word and Sacrament.
We gather for the divine service to hear from our Savior and receive his gifts.
We gather for the Christian education period and for Bible studies throughout the week to explore his riches in the Scripture.
All we do is centered around the forgiveness and life that He gives us.
The Church is not a social club. It’s a life-changing experience of God communicating his gifts to us through Jesus.
All those concerns we walked in here with, they are all taken care of in Jesus. They are no longer our own, because our Lord has invited us into his forgiveness.
You know that I hardly ever do something like this, but I’m going to read something that came across my desk this week. It sums up what we are here for. I’m going to put it in the Shield that comes out next week as well. It’s by James M. Kushiner, Executive Director of the Fellowship of St. James (www.fsj.org). They publish an interesting magazine that our family gets. This is why we come to church, in Kushiner’s words.
We Are Invited
Too often Sunday worship is thought of as a religious obligation to be fulfilled lest God be disappointed at our absence, even counting it as a strike against us. Grudgingly we go, maybe after sleeping in later than we do on other days of the week.
It is true that the sense of obligation is difficult to erase--not that we should attempt to erase it. But the sense obligation toward God should be lost in the joy and gratitude and anticipation we can experience when we realize that in coming we are responding to a divine invitation to receive more than we can ever bring. Indeed, especially coming to the Table of the Lord in Communion, we come as the invited "poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind," who cannot repay the One who invites us, but we receive healing in our coming.
We believe and we confess that apart from Christ we can do nothing, and also that we have no life in us apart from having His life in us (John 6:53).
Admittedly, the world presses in on us throughout the week, including on Sundays, so that we find it a struggle to serve God, rather than mammon, and hard to love God and not the things of the world.
Sunday can be our touchstone. Sunday worship can put us in touch with our true home and the table around which the saints through all eternity enjoy the fellowship of the Lord. We receive the words of the Gospel and the forgiveness of sins; we gather with the heavenly hosts, in the heavenly Jerusalem. We are invited to a rich feast provided for us by a gracious Lord, who blesses us beyond anything we can imagine or deserve.
Sunday is, then, first and foremost a Day of Invitation. If the King invites us to his table, it is natural that we should be very pleased to attend. It's an obligation only when the obvious has to be pointed out to us--that it's not only for our own good, but also for our very best good. It is a day of Rest in the Lord, a foretaste of the Wedding Supper of the Lamb.
By James M. Kushiner, Executive Director of the Fellowship of St. James (www.fsj.org).