| ||Messiah Lutheran Church||
6201 W Patterson Av
Chicago IL 60634
This past September, we celebrated our annual Rally Day, a day to join Messiah members and guests for Bingo, Burners and Da Bears.
But our main rallying point for us as at Messiah remains the Divine Worship Service, where our Lord serves us through His Holy Word and Sacraments.
Now there are many rallying points that can be found in our worship services, such as the hard truth that we are all sinners in need of a Savior, and have sinned! in thought, word and deed by what we have done and by what we have left undone.
In fact, rather than posting on our church sign, "All are Welcome", it would be more accurate to post, "Only Sinners are Welcome"! (with the exception of Jesus of course).
Not that we wallow in despair over our sinful condition, as if there's nothing that can be done about it.
Nor are we to make the implication that "I'm not OK, and you're not OK - and that's OK!", for sin is a serious thing, deserving of God's present and eternal punishment.
But we openly confess we are sinners, because God in His mercy, grace and love, has sent His only begotten Son to be our Savior to suffer and die for our sins on a cross.
Therefore, if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
And so in addition to rallying together as sinners, we rally together in receiving God's forgiveness in Jesus Christ, such as when I as your pastor speak the words of . absolution, as if Christ Himself were saying to you the words, "I forgive you all your sins" (which some of my members have told me is their favorite part of the worship service).
Or whenever we hear the Good News of the Gospel in the liturgy, hymns and spiritual songs, the lessons read, and the word proclaimed.
And when we rally together around the altar, and receive Christ's body and blood in with and under the elements of bread and wine for the forgiveness of our sins.
Still, another rallying point in the worship service consists of our singing spiritual songs and hymns together, that are a natural result of our forgiveness in Christ.
As Ephesians 5:19 tells us, "Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ".
Or as Psalm 95:1 says, "Oh come let us sing unto the Lord, let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation..."
Oh sure, some of us can carry a tune better than others, and there are some hymns we may prefer singing over others.
As someone complained to me after one of our worship services, "Pastor, there over 900 pages in the hymnal, and you didn't even pick one hymn that I can sing!"
But, even if you can't carry a tune or the hymn is unfamiliar, I encourage you to sing it anyway. If need be, make a joyful noise to the Lord, while at the same time, ponder over the lyrics of the hymns and consider why they were chosen for the worship service.
As a result, perhaps you will have the same experience I've had, in that some of those so-called "un-singable hymns" have now become some of my favorites.
As you join fellow saints in the family of God in worshiping our Lord, in preparation for the eternal praise fest you will be enjoying in heaven,
Still, another key rallying point of our worship service, as alluded to already, is the hearing of God's Word in the lessons, in our liturgy, and in the sermon.
As Luther explains the third commandment, "We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it."
Hebrews 4:12 tells us that "the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."
And the two edges of the sword of God's Word consists of the law - which shows us our sin, and the Gospel, which shows us our Savior.
Like a mirror, the law shows us our sinfulness and our imperfections, but the Gospel invites us to turn away from our sin and turn to the Savior for our forgiveness and through whom we can be made perfect.
Unfortunately, you'll find many preachers who, like the Galatians, who are not proclaiming the pure Gospel message, but instead follow what can be described as a "2nd usage of the law/gospel/2nd usage of the law" style of preaching, who burden their listeners by emphasizing good works, as proof of their forgiveness in Christ,
While other preachers will follow what can be described as a "law/gospel/gratitude-2nd usage of the law" style of preaching, by emphasizing that now that Christ hats died for them, what are they going to do about it?
But I contend that biblical preaching that rightfully divides law and gospel consists of a style that can be described as a "law/gospel/identity-3rd usage of the law" style.
Where the emphasis is placed on our forgiveness in Christ, along with who we are and how we are to live now that we are in Him.
So that when we find ourselves acting outside of our identity in Christ, it should cause us to think, "Hey, that's not like me! For I'm a Christians and Christians don't do those things!"
Philippians 2:12-13 describes this sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, as follows: "For it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good pleasure."
Still another rallying point of our worship service is in our offering. As the late Charles Pace would sometimes remind me, "Pastor, don't forget the offering!"
Not that God needs our money, but our offering is a demonstration of our faith in Him to provide for all our needs, along with our gratitude for what He has done for us.
In fact, just by looking at someone's check book, debit, and credit card statements, you can tell a lot about their priorities in life.
And the same goes for us, as a congregation, as to how we use the money that has. been entrusted to us.
And so we give as individuals and as a congregation with the attitude expressed in the opening words of hymn, "We give Thee but Thine own"
We give Thee but Thine own, whatever the gift may be;
All that we have is Thine alone A trust, 0 Lord, from Thee
May we Thy bounties thus As stewards true receive
And gladly, as thou blesses us, To Thee our first-fruits give!
Still additional rallying points we gather around are the Sacraments -
Our font, which some churches have chosen to place near the entrance of the sanctuary, serves to remind us of our baptism, that we were buried with Christ by baptism into death, in order, that just as He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
And that daily we are to remind ourselves of our baptismal identity, by drowning our old Adam with its sinful desires, so that the new man may arise to live before God in righteous sand purity forever.
And when we rally around the communion altar, not only are we receiving forgiveness in a tangible way, when we partake of Christ's body and blood in with and under the bread and wine, we are doing so together with the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.
With the recent deaths of my sister Doralyn and my mom, has now become one of the moving parts of the worship service for me, as I participate with them in this holy meal, and look forward to being reunited with them in heaven.
And there other points we rally around together, that can be found in the divine worships service, as well:
Such as the prayers of the Church - where we join together confident that God has heard our prayers as a dear father answers his dear children.
Unlike the non-Christians, who like the prophets of Baal, in spite of their words and actions, such as lying down prostrate on carpets five times a day like the Muhammadans, or other non-Christians who go into similar histrionics in attempt to get their prayers answered.
In addition, we rally together in confessing the faith of the Christian Church,
Along with rallying around other parts of our liturgy, which could make for a much longer sermon if done in more detail, but I realize that kick-oft time is at noon.
Such as another favorite of some, the Benediction:
Not only because the worship service is finally over, but because we are sent forth with God's personal blessing on our lives.
The same blessings that has been spoken upon His people through the ages,
In the words of the Aaronic blessing: ''The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace".
And so even though we may not be together physically during the week ahead, we go out knowing that we are united in faith with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, while we are apart, and can look forward to rallying together again as a church family in Sunday worship, as part of the ecclesia, or called out ones.
And so, as we observe another Rally Day, may be reminded of the importance of rallying together in weekly worship.
As your pastor, I exhort you to be in your regular worship attendance! If you're already in the habit of doing so, keep it up! ,
If you've fallen out of the habit, get back into it!
Prayerfully read the following words from Hebrews 10:25, as if God Himself were speaking personally to you, for He is through His inspired Word:
"Let us not stay away from our worship services, as some are regularly doing, but IE~t us encourage one another, all the more because you see the day coming nearer".
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