Why Worship?

 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,

to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42

 

I wonder if the purpose of “doing church” has been lost on some folks.  Even those who show up regularly might need a reminder of why they are there.  There are several social reasons to go to “church”, such as friendships that are fostered, common interests, and opportunities to serve.  As important as these are, they are secondary to the reasons that Scripture gives.

First, we are to come together to set apart ourselves from the work of the world. It is a day of rest and restoration of the body, mind, and spirit. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14but (on) the seventh day … you shall not do any work, Deuteronomy 5:13–14  It shows that we trust God enough that our livelihood does not depend on “bread (money) alone”, but on “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”   So the assembly of the church is an act of faith in God’s provision.  It is, by the way, a COMMANDMENT! If you fancy yourself a keeper of God’s law, but do not keep this one, then think again.

Secondly, it is not just rest alone, but praise and prayer.  We praise God for allowing us rest from physical labor and from the spiritual labor of trying to compensate for our sins. We praise Him for the rest that we find in His Son, our Savior, whose death cleanses us of our guilt and makes eternal life possible. As any relationship breaks down for lack of gratitude, so does ours with God. Without making the effort to praise and thank our Lord we can forget from whence come our blessings and soon turn into complainers. To those who say, “I can praise God at home, I don’t need to go to church,” I would answer, “Yes, but do you actually do that?”

Thirdly, we not only rest and worship, but we do so “devoted…to the fellowship.” By gathering together we encourage each other, pray for one another’s need, and serve one another.  Those who feel strong enough to go it alone may be forgetting that others need the benefit of their strength to encourage them.  Coming together is the opposite of selfish isolationism.  It shows that you do truly love your fellow believer. Truthfully, none of us is as strong in the faith alone as we are in community.

Finally, we come to God’s house to receive the instruction of God’s Word and the strength of His Sacrament. (“apostle’s teaching and the breaking of bread”).  The disciples gathered regularly to receive the gift of God.  The meaning of the word “service” in reference to the  Divine Service is that God is serving us Himself.  Are there any who could not use some wisdom and strength from God, His people, and his Word?   Jesus characterized the day of worship very simply by saying that it was made for us, not us for it.  It is where God himself blesses us. 

Pastor Tom

 

Wisdom, Discipline, Love

(Solomon prayed) Give your servant therefore an understanding mind

to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, I Kings 3:9

God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

 

Preparing for the day this morning, which means meditating on the couch at pre-dawn, I started to pray for what I would need to make it through the day.  But then I started to wonder just what was it that I need today, or any day.  How do I express it?

“Lord, there are decisions ahead of me today and people to whom I am to relate the truth of your word. Like Solomon, I feel inadequate to the tasks at hand. Grant me first of all Wisdom, so that I may discern truth from error, right from wrong, and necessity from freedom.

Lord, I often know the good to do, but get too easily distracted from doing it.  I don’t always put the wisdom you give me into practice. Lured away by attractions of the world, the vices of the devil, and the slothfulness of my own flesh, I lose focus on what you would have me do.  So that I may follow through on your calling, give me Discipline.

Lord, even when I do what you call me to do, I don’t always do it with a caring heart.  It may seem to others that I am only going through the motions. When I do that, others do not see the love in your heart that you have for them. Lord, so that I may serve you and my neighbor with all my heart, give me your Love to overflowing. Let it spill over into the lives of those I serve today.  In Christ Jesus, through whom you have displayed your wisdom and showed us your love. Amen.”

Pastor Tom

“Lost In Silence”

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. Psalm 32:3

Early in the movie “Gravity”, veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski asks space rookie Dr. Ryan Stone what she likes most about outer space. She answers, “The silence.  I could get used to it.” Events changed, though, as space debris damages the spacecraft, resulting in the eventual death of everyone but Ryan. Now her life depends not on silence, but on communication. She frantically radios back to earth, but gets only silence. She misses the sound of human voices reassuring her and directing her back home. Though she does not hear from earth a clear voice she is helped by reading an instruction manual aboard the space craft.

Silence is golden, as the Tremeloes sang some time ago, but not when we get lost because of it.  In silence we bury feelings that ought to be expressed.  In silence we hold back praise and helpful advice that others need to hear. For King David, silence caused prolonged misery as he withheld needed confession of his sin before God.  Before he broke his silence, his mouth was parched and bones were weakened with guilt. He had no energy for life.  Then he confessed his sin, and God forgave the iniquity that was buried in the silence of his heart.

The same is true for us when we come to our spiritual senses and speak to our Father what is on our heart.  It may be a confession of sin, or it may be a conversation with Him whereby He counsels and comforts us with His Word and Spirit. As with astronaut Stone, the Word can be spoken or written.  Until we break the communication silence, we will get lost in it.

That conversation can be also with a trusted friend or other confidant blessed with godly wisdom and love. Though more will be discovered between the writing and the reading of these words, the Malaysian Airline Flight # 370 also illustrates the danger of losing human contact. The flight transponders malfunctioned or were shut off.  With no communication, it was cut off from what could have directed its course. It went the wrong way and is presumably lost.  That can happen when Christians cut themselves off from the fellowship of believers. They deprive themselves of the encouragement and counsel of God’s people. Pretty soon, they are lost.

The Good News is that they can be found. They need only to break the silence and hear again the voice of God directing them back home.  Jesus, the Word of God in human form, whose death and resurrection forgave King David, forgives us as well, and embraces us on our return.

Pastor Tom Konz

 

Ash Wednesday

Today, the text is the message:  Isaiah 58, from the Good News Translation.

May the Spirit of God speak to us through His prophet,

leading us to appropriate repentance and active response!

 

1 Cry aloud! Don’t hold back! Raise your voice like a ram’s horn. Tell my people about their rebellion and the descendants of Jacob about their sins. 2 They look for me every day and want to know my ways. They act as if they were a nation that has done what is right and as if they haven’t disregarded God’s judgment on them. They ask me for just decrees. They want God to be near them.

They ask:  3 Why have we fasted if you are not aware of it? Why have we inflicted pain on ourselves if you don’t pay attention?

The Lord answers: Don’t you see that on the days you fast, you do what you want to do? You mistreat all your workers. 4 Don’t you see that when you fast, you quarrel and fight and beat your workers? The way you fast today keeps you from being heard in heaven. 5 Is this the kind of fasting I have chosen? Should people humble themselves for only a day? Is fasting just bowing your head like a cattail and making your bed from sackcloth and ashes? Is this what you call fasting? Is this an acceptable day to the LORD?

6 This is the kind of fasting I have chosen: Loosen the chains of wickedness, untie the straps of the yoke, let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke. 7 Share your food with the hungry, take the poor and homeless into your house, and cover them with clothes when you see them naked. Don’t refuse to help your relatives.

8 Then your light will break through like the dawn, and you will heal quickly. Your righteousness will go ahead of you, and the glory of the LORD will guard you from behind. 9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer. You will cry for help, and he will say, “Here I am!”

Get rid of that yoke. Don’t point your finger and say wicked things. 10 If you give some of your own food to feed those who are hungry and to satisfy the needs of those who are humble, then your light will rise in the dark, and your darkness will become as bright as the noonday sun. 11 The LORD will continually guide you and satisfy you even in sun-baked places. He will strengthen your bones. You will become like a watered garden and like a spring whose water does not stop flowing. 12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the foundations of past generations. You will be called the Rebuilder of Broken Walls and the Restorer of Streets Where People Live.

13 If you stop trampling on the day of worship and doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the day of worship a delight and the LORD’s holy day honorable, if you honor it by not going your own way, by not going out when you want, and by not talking idly, 14 then you will find joy in the LORD. I will make you ride on the heights of the earth. I will feed you with the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob. The LORD has spoken.

 

Indeed He has.   Pastor Tom Konz