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Why Go to Church!

August 22, 2016

Lutheran-Lords-Supper

Click here to listen to this sermon.

21 August 2016                                     Trinity Lutheran Church

Pentecost 14                                          Murdock, NE

 

+ Jesu Juva +

 

Hebrews 12:22-24

Just a portion of the text today. Can’t preach it all. So off we go!

Faith worships. In other words, Christians worship Jesus. It’s what faith does. Worship is fundamental to being a Christian. The fruit of your faith in Jesus.

Or let me put it to you this way. God saved you from the damnation of your sin and the hellaciousness of eternal death through Christ’s Good Friday death in order to restore you to worship Him rightly!

That’s why worship is the focus of the first 3 commandments. You are to worship the Triune God alone: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then God’s Triune Name is kept holy and God’s Word is honored when you invoke His name for Him to be physically with you, gather to hear His saving Word and for Him to bless you through His Word. In other words, you call on the Holy Trinity to be God FOR YOU in His Word according to His name. Worship is to faith as breathing is to the body. The two go together and cannot be divorced. A body that is alive and healthy BREATHES. It inhales. It exhales. Faith that is alive and healthy breathes. It receives (inhales) and it offers (exhales). It receives (inhales) the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation that Jesus won by His dying and rising in the Word and sacraments. Faith also exhales. Faith offers prayer, praise and thanksgiving.

 

Again, breathing involves inhaling and exhaling. You can’t just inhale and hold your breath. Sooner or later the air has to go somewhere. Similarly, you cannot simply take in forgiveness and not have it do something to you. Forgiveness inhaled or received in the Word and Sacraments is then exhaled as prayer praise, thanksgiving and works of love for others. And you can’t just exhale either. Or you will run out of breath. Prayer and praise without the inhalation of Word and Sacrament quickly run out of gas!

 

You can exhale your prayers, praise and thanksgiving anywhere – while driving the car, in the kitchen, on the golf course, on the lake, at work or at school. And you should! But you can inhale the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation on where Christ’s Word and sacraments are going on. Ordinarily that means going to church and attending the divine service. The divine service is where the Word and the sacraments of Jesus are going on. Where Jesus is breathing His breath of life in its most concentrated form!

 

The Book of Hebrews was partly written to encourage Christians to go to the divine service. To join with their fellow believers in hearing God’s Word and to eat and drink the Lord’s most holy body and blood. It was also written to discourage them from abandoning Christianity to go back to Judaism and the worship at the Jerusalem temple. Today’s text from Hebrews gives you seven good reasons to be in the divine service today and every Sunday.

 

First, when you come to church you have come to Mount Zion. To the heavenly Jerusalem. To the city of the living God. When you come to church you come to God’s city. Never mind who or what you see. Listen to the Word. Where Jesus is proclaimed as your crucified and risen Savior for your salvation and where His sacraments are offered and applied to sinners, IT IS LITERALLY HEAVEN ON EARTH. You do not have to wait until you die to go to heaven. You don’t have to struggle and strain to mystically reach up to heaven. HEAVEN COMES DOWN TO YOU WHERE THE WORD AND SACRAMENTS ARE.

 

Note too that according to the text you have come to Mt. Zion when you come to church, not Mt. Sinai. Sinai was the place where sinners were told to stay away or they would be destroyed. The church, however, is the place to come near to God so that you won’t be destroyed with the wicked world. The divine service is God’s sanctuary – a city of mercy. It is a place where broken, repentant sinners can receive forgiveness and peace with God. Where Jesus lords His death and resurrection over sin so that there is now no condemnation for those who believe in Jesus.

 

It doesn’t matter whether it is 1,000 people gathered in some magnificent cathedral or 125 of the faithful gathered here at Trinity. It is heaven on earth not because of the people or the buildings or the music but because the Triune God dwells among His people with His Name, His Word, His Baptism, and His Son’s body and blood. The divine service is God’s city! His dwelling place! Heavenly Jerusalem in the midst of rural Murdock NE. Why come to church? The first reason is that IT IS HEAVEN ON EARTH!

 

Second, there are angels! If heaven comes to earth, there must be angels. More than you can imagine or more than the ushers can count if they made themselves visible to our eyes. In the divine service there are thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly. Together with the angels we sing their hymn of praise: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth. Heaven and earth are full of your glory.” The angels worship with us and we worship with the angels. Worship is what angels do before God without ceasing. That is why many churches have statues of angels on or above the altar. Because they are there in the divine service worshiping Jesus with us and us with them. Angels are among us. They are real. There are also guardian angels (Psalm 91). Hebrews reminds you to extend hospitality to strangers because some have entertained angels without realizing it. Why come to the divine service? The angels are there.

 

Third, you have come into the presence of your fellow believers in Christ. “To the church of the first-born whose names are written in heaven.” Every gathering around God’s Word and the sacraments that Jesus instituted, no matter how small or struggling it might be to human eyes is the fullness of the Church. As you hear the gospel preached and as you eat the Lord’s body and blood today you are spiritually joined to all believers in Jesus everywhere! For example, the apostle John as he worshiped together with a handful of prisoners on the island of Patmos was joined with his congregation in far away Ephesus. St. Paul reminded the Corinthians that though he was away from them in the body, he was with them in spirit when they gathered together for the divine service. There is only one church. Where the church is gathered around the Lord in His Word and sacraments, the entire church is present. There’s only one mega church! Why come to church? Your fellow believers are there.

 

Fourth, you have come to God who is judge of all. To hear God’s Word spoken to you is to come under God’s judgment. God’s word of law condemns you. Kills you. Even the slightest glance in the wrong direction, the most careless word of anger, the momentary flash of lust makes you worthy of God’s judgment of death and damnation. But He has judged His Son Jesus in your place. He made Jesus to be sin and damned Him in your place. He declared you innocent for Jesus’ sake. He judges you to be righteous for Jesus’ sake. He lowers the gavel, excuses the jury and adjourns the court. You are forgiven, acquitted, free. Why come to church? To be declared innocent by God the judge!

 

Fifth, you have come to the spirits of righteous men made perfect. In other words, you have come in to the company of the justified. Those that have died trusting in Jesus and not themselves. You are in the presence of all the saints who have gone before you. Who have fought the fight of faith. Like Paul Reinke who we just buried this past Thursday. Or Helen Knop just over a month ago. Who now rest from their labors in Christ. They are with us. They are part of the church too.

 

Now, some people go to the graveyard to be near those they love that have died. Some gaze at a picture on the wall or hold precious memories in their hearts. That’s OK. However, let me tell you a closer place to be with those who have died believing in Christ. It’s in the divine service. In the divine service Jesus is present — physically. And with Him are all the citizens of heaven: angels, archangels and ALL THE COMPANY OF HEAVEN! That includes three of my grandparents. Your loved ones who believed in Jesus. Together with all the company of heaven you praise Jesus the Lord of your salvation. Where Jesus is, there His saints are too. In the divine service you are in the company of those that have received what we now hope for. Adam. Even. Abraham. Isaac. Jacob. Joseph. Moses. Miriam. Peter. Paul. James. John. Why come to church? The saints are there!

 

Sixth, you have come to Jesus when you go to church. Angels are nice. So are the saints both living and dead. But none of that is possible without the presence of Jesus. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I AM in the midst of them,” (Matthew 18). You have come into the presence of Jesus when you go to church.

 

And He is the “mediator of a new covenant.” What’s a mediator? A mediator is a go-between. One that stands between two conflicting parties and brings them together. Jesus stands between God the Father and you – fully God and fully man – perfect and sinless. Jesus speaks to us on behalf of His Father. He speaks to His Father on our behalf. Through Jesus we have a covenant relationship with God the Father. He promises to forgive you for Jesus’ sake. He receives you as His own people. He gives you eternal life. All and only through His Son Jesus the Mediator. Why come to church? Jesus the Mediator is there to speak on your behalf to His Father!

 

Seventh, you have come to the sprinkled blood of Jesus. Blood is life. “The life is in the blood,” the Old Testament says. Blood is atonement or forgiveness. Sprinkled blood is sacrificial blood. Without the shedding of blood there is not forgiveness.

 

Blood is cleansing. “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses you from all sin,” (1 John 1). The sprinkled blood tells you that Jesus’ death and life are yours. It is one thing to know that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world. It is quite another thing to trust that His death on the cross was FOR YOU. That He bore YOUR SIN! That His life is now YOUR LIFE!

 

How can you be sure? How can you know for certain that Jesus died FOR YOU? LOOK FOR THE SPRINKLED BLOOD OF JESUS! The blood that was poured out FOR YOU on the cross is sprinkled on you with the water of holy baptism, the absolution that I speak in your ears, and in the cup of the Supper. You weren’t there when Jesus shed His blood for you on the cross. But the blood of Jesus is here FOR YOU in the cup telling you for certain that He did indeed did FOR YOU!

 

Jesus’ blood speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. Abel, you remember, was murdered by his brother Cain. And Abel’s blood pleaded to heaven for justice. It testified against his brother. But of the blood of Jesus speaks a better word. It testifies FOR YOU, not against you. His blood pleads to heaven for your forgiveness. His blood cried out for God to have mercy on you. His blood covers you before God the Judge. His blood qualifies you to worship with the saints and angels.

 

So why go to church? You now have seven good reasons.

 

It’s heaven on earth.

The angels are there.

Your fellow believers are there.

God the Judge is there with forgiveness.

The saints are there.

Jesus is there.

And His sprinkled blood is there for your forgiveness, your cleansing and your life.

 

All of that is here Sunday after Sunday for you to receive.

 

Happy receiving. Happy worship properly.

 

In the name of Jesus.

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