First in a Series of Seven Sermons on Shared Vision
• Titus 3:5-6 – He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.
• Romans 10:17 – So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.
• Take eat, this is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me…..Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.
Dear Friends in Christ,
It is our vision here at Trinity Lutheran to mature in the Christian faith. That is to say, to grow up into Jesus Christ by receiving His good gifts of grace and mercy, to enjoy those good gifts of grace and mercy, and to help others to recognize and acknowledge and accept and enjoy those same good gifts of grace and mercy.
We have identified seven habits of Christians who are first of all being transformed by the Gospel, and secondly as they live out their faith are actually transforming, having an impact on the world around them. The first three habits are on the receiving side of what it means to be a Christian, and the next four habits are on the living out and giving away side of what it means to follow Christ.
Tonight we focus on the first habit of a maturing disciple, which is to receive gratefully the good gifts of God in Divine Service. That’s a fancy way of saying, Go to Church and receive what God has this great desire to give you! Three good reasons to go to church are 1) God says so, 2) it will be good for you, and 3) it will be good for people around you.
First of all, you should go to Church because God says so! That’s a law statement for those of you who are doing sermon summaries. Most of you have probably had this kind of a conversation with a parent, as I did with my dad. Dad would say, “It’s time to go to bed, son.” I would say, “I don’t want to go to bed.” He would say, “Go to bed anyway.” I would say, “Why do I have to go to bed now?” Dad would say, “Because I said so.” I was never really afraid that my dad would hurt me, but I was very hesitant to cross the line whenever Dad had drawn it in the sand.
Our God has drawn ten lines in the sand. We call them the Ten Commandments. The Third Commandment says it this way, “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.” The Psalmist said this way about the man of God whose delight is in the law of the Lord on his law he meditates day and night, he is like a tree that is planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither, in all that he does he prospers….The writer to the Hebrews said it this way, “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together.” Jesus said it this way, “Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it.” Again Jesus says Paul said it this way, “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Luther explained it this way, “We should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and the Word of God but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”
Reason #1 to receive gratefully the good gifts of God in Divine Service is because God says so and that should settle it. Reason # 2 is that it’s going to be good for your heart and it’s going to be good for your mind and it’s going to be good for your soul and it’s going to be good for your life as often as you put yourself in a position to be hearing that your sins have been washed away (Gospel statement for you 7th and 8th graders), to be hearing that God loves you and isn’t angry with you, in spite of how badly you have messed up!
Story of preaching at a recent wedding that the groom should be all about paying attention to his bride and meeting her needs / I proceeded to take Debi to their wedding reception where I paid attention to just about everybody else except Debi / didn’t practice what I preached / the next morning in Divine Service, as Pastor Muther spoke words of absolution and as he waved the bread in front of my eyes and forgave my sins, it was absolutely good for my soul / heart / mind / emotional well-being. Oh how grateful I was in that moment to be reassured that God wasn’t about to give up on me. And oh how grateful I can be that Debi was and is and ever shall be willing to be gracious to this little short fat preacher man!
My invitation to you tonight is that you would cultivate gratefulness as your basic attitude toward life. Gratefulness is one of the most powerful forces in this world. It makes the difference between just going through the motion and really being alive. Gratefulness is the difference between having a heart of stone and receiving a heart of flesh from the Lord.
A Lutheran Pastor Bonhoeffer who was imprisoned and executed for his Christian faith said that it is only through gratitude that life becomes rich. The sign outside our church has this saying on it, “Get rich quick, count your blessings!” Being grateful does not protect us from rejection or pain or sorrow. But it has a way of grounding us, it gives us another way of responding to what is taking place. The grateful spirit can help us to know that when those painful or sad feelings are happening, that’s not all that’s happening. Counting our blessings does not mean that we no longer feel the grief that we feel, or the confusion, or the sorrow. It means we are feeling all of that, and we are also feeling a sense of warmth, peace, and connection.
Reason #3 is that as we cultivate and hang onto this attitude of thankfulness, it will be good for the people around us. Just about everything that we feel or think or say or do can be contagious, both that which is positive and negative.
For example, if I stood up here tonight and complained about young people these days, how they didn’t sit up straight in my classes, how they didn’t laugh at my jokes, how they didn’t always get their assignments done, how so many of them were out there drinking beer and using meth, and what’s this world coming to anyway, and on and on I went, no doubt a few if not many of you would nod your heads and mentally join in the moaning and groaning session.
On the other hand, if I stood up here tonight and told you five or six things I appreciated about your young folks, how they come to confirmation class and they do sermon summaries and they are here in church tonight and they’re going to go home and do their homework and clean up their bedrooms and tell their parents how awesome they are, you would catch that kind of fever, as well………
The kingdom of God is like a family that shows up in church on a Wednesday night mainly because their kids were scheduled to sing, and they went home that night saying to themselves, “well that wasn’t as boring as I thought it was going to be!” They often show up in church as a matter of habit, but more often than not, they sense that the Spirit of God is doing something inside of them. They show up in church feeling stressed out and busy and feeling like they have been falling short and more than a bit guilty, but they go home that night reassured that their failures have been forgiven, their stained records have been washed clean, and their status as sons and daughters of their Father in heaven is secure. That night, they lay their heads down and the very last prayer they pray goes something like this, “Gracious God, thank you for forgiving all that I did wrong and thank you for not holding it against me the good that I failed to do, and Lord, could you please bless and multiply anything I may have done well today.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters