|Messiah Lutheran Church||
6201 W Patterson Av
Chicago IL 60634
Note: The following are my sermon notes from this year's Rally Day.
Sermon Theme: "Let us not stay away from our worship services, as some are regularly doing, but let us encourage one another, all the more because you see the day coming nearer" (Heb. 10:25)
It's Rally Day!
And here at Messiah, you may associate Rally Day with food, fellowship, BINGO, the Bears, and other activities.
But, if you happen to be of my vintage, you may also associate Rally Day with advancing to a new grade in Sunday School, meeting your new teacher, and getting the coveted Rally day pin to mark the occasion .
And so in a related sense, Rally Day should cause us to reflect on our Christian walk, as another year has passed since last Rally Day.
To ask yourself "How am I progressing in my growth and maturity in the Lord?"
As St. Paul writes to the Christians in Corinth, "I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, because you weren't ready for it. Why, you aren't ready for it even now yet, because you still live in you weak flesh"
And similarly, the author of Hebrews writes, "We have much to say about this, but it's difficult to explain because you have become too dull to understand. At a time when you should be teachers you still need someone to teach you the ABC's of God's Word again" (5:11-12).
To repent of any sins in your life, and turn to the Savior for forgiveness .
As Hebrews 12:1 advises to "get rid of every burden and the sin you easily fall into and with endurance run the race laid our before you, looking to Jesus, who gives you your faith from start to finish."
And to keep on doing those things God would have you continue to do. As Galatians 6:9 puts it, "Let us not get tired of doing good. At the right time, we'll reap if we don't give up".
As well as to consider adding practices to your life, such as making it a habit to attend Sunday Bible Study after worship, or using your gifts and talents to the Lord, in voice, playing handbells, helping out with our Sunday School, or serving one of our boards or committees.
As Colossians 1:10 advises: "so that you live worthy of the Lord, aiming to please Him in every way as you produce every kind of good work and grow in the knowledge of God".
Still another R rally day should do is cause you to remember. As in remember the Sabbath Day to keep it Holy.
With summer vacation finally over, we have just went through the dog: days of Pentecost in the Church calendar year, when worship attendance tends to be low.
But even though Jesus advised his disciples to rest from their physical labors, He didn't mean that you should take a vacation from attending church.
For you are in a constant battle with the devil, the world and your own sinful flesh. Therefore, you cannot afford to let your guard down, and take a rest from keeping the third commandment by despising preaching and God's Word, but instead, hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it".
After all, you don't expect God to take a vacation from you, especially when you're in need.
And so Hebrews 10:25 reminds us, "Let us not stay away from our worship services, as some are regularly doing, but let us encourage one another, all the more because you see the day coming nearer."
Unfortunately, we have many in-actives at Messiah who have fallen out of the habit of regular worship attendance.
Who on their confirmation day or when they became a member of this church, when asked the question, "Do you intend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord's Supper faithfully?" Answered before God and this community of believers by saying, "I do, by the grace of God" .
What happened? I don't know.
But, it's so easy to make excuses not to attend church. After all, nobody is going to fail you like they would if you skipped school, or fire you, like they would if you skipped work.
And so it starts with a Sunday, and then it leads to more Sundays, until you only worship once in awhile, and eventually you end up worshipping only on Christmas and Easter, if at all.
Until finally you get to a point where it's going to take six grown men to carry you into church on a casket.
Now I realize church may not be as exciting as attending this afternoon's Bears - Packers game. But from an eternal perspective - you are receiving an even greater reward than the temporary enjoyment of watching a game.
You are hearing God's very Word where the Good News of Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed, and along with that (on most Sundays, at least), receiving the very body and blood of your Savior to further assure you of your forgiveness.
Not just with fellow members of Messiah at this altar, but together with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven!
Just think, there are Christians in other parts of the world, who are willing to risk their very lives, in order to meet with fellow believers in worship .
And in my 25+ years of ministry, without a doubt the number one thing that my shut-ins consistently say to me is how much they miss being in worship.
May Rally Day encourage you to remember the Sabbath Day by keeping in holy, so that instead of making excuses why not to be in worship, instead you make excuses to be in worship!
And in a related sense, Rally Day serves to remind us of the relationships we have with fellow believers, here at Messiah .
As we as a church family rally together at the foot of the cross of our Savior, as represented by the crucifix above our altar .
As together we build each other up, pray for one another, admonish each other, and above all, love one another, in spite of differences, backgrounds, and temperaments.
Whenever I invite people to attend Messiah or other churches where I have served, inevitably, I'm asked, "What are the people like at your church?"
Of course we're not a perfect church ...
As the saying goes, if you find a perfect church, you better not join it you'll only ruin things there! And if you want a better pastor, simply pray for the one you have.
But, the beautiful thing about a church like Messiah, is that we openly confess Sunday after Sunday that we are sinners in need of a Savior!
Not to wallow in our sins, but in order that we might turn to our Savior, and receive His forgiveness in the words of the absolution as if from Christ Himself, and in turn forgive one another as we have been forgiven in Christ.
To point one another to the cross and not bring each other down, but to build each other up in Christ. As James 5: 16 says, "Confess your faults to one another, and pray for one another to be healed".
Jesus once said when accused of being of the devil answered by saying that a house divided against itself cannot stand,
And one of the strategies of the devil when it comes a local church such as Messiah is to cause division and cliques.
But, as forgiven people of God, God would have us to forgive one another when we have been wronged, and draw closer to each other as we draw closer to our Savior, so that both our members and visitors will be attracted by the love that we have for one another and our love for Christ.
As 1 John 4 puts it: "We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God", but hates his brother, he's a liar. If anyone doesn't love his brother whom he has seen, he can't love God Whom he hasn't seen. And this is the order He gave us: If you love God, love your brother".
But we don't merely just gather together and keep this love to ourselves, we gather together and then are sent out to share this love with others as we reach out to our community.
And so we have also dubbed, "Rally Day" - "Community Fest". For as -Iesus told his disciples in John 14: "I have other sheep, too, that are not in this fold. I must lead those, too, and they will listen to My voice, and so they will become one flock with one Shepherd".
There are other people waiting to be invited to be a part of a loving community like Messiah where the Word is rightly preached and the sacraments properly administered, and our worship services are Christ-centered and biblically based ..
To make it a regular practice of yours to invite people to come and worship with us, here at Messiah! As St. Paul-Canfield currently has written on their church sign, "Every member was once a visitor. Come and join us!"
For every Sunday to be for us a "rally day" among us as members, as we gather together at the foot of the cross of Jesus.
As well as to be a "community fest", as we reach out to others to "come and see" what the Lord has done and is doing for us!
And join the pilgrim throng of Messiah in saying along with David, "I rejoiced when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord!"
And so may this 2015 Rally Day at Messiah serve to remind you to reflect on your growth in the Christian faith, to remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy, to relate to fellow members of Messiah with the love you have been given in Christ, and to reach out by inviting others to join us in this family of believers known as Messiah Lutheran Church. Amen
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