SERMON Time after Pentecost Lectionary 19 Sermon Series: Worship; Word August 8, 2010

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1 SERMON Time after Pentecost Lectionary 19 Sermon Series: Worship; Word August 8, 2010 Genesis 15:1-6 Psalm 34:1-9 Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16 Luke 12:32-40 Brothers and sisters in Christ, grace to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus, who is the Christ. Amen. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me! How many of you have heard that before? How many of you actually believe that? I would guess that there is not a person here today that has not been hurt by words. As a matter of fact, I believe there are times when words can hurt a whole lot more than sticks and stones. Physical wounds heal, but hurtful words sometime never seem to go away. Words have power. Think of the power behind the words; I love you ; or I hate you. Words can lead us to action. How about these words; fire!, or ready, set, go, or Surprise, this is your mother-in-law. I just arrived in town and will be over in 5 minutes. Words can cause despair. Words like; it s cancer, or I want a divorce, or I m sorry, but it was a horrible accident. Words can also bring hope. Words like; It s a healthy baby girl, or the storm has moved out to sea or this is my body, given for you. This is part two of a four part sermon series. Last week I talked about the gathering together for worship. It included the parts of the Liturgy such as the Brief order of Confession, the Processional Hymn, the Greeting, the Kyrie and Hymn of Praise, and the Prayer of the Day.

2 Today I will address the Word. This part of our worship experience includes the First and Second Readings, the Psalm, the Gospel Acclamation, the Holy Gospel, the Sermon, the Hymn of the Day, the Creed, and the Prayers of the Church. As Lutheran Christians, we place a high importance on the Word. The Lutheran Confessions describe the Word with the following phrases: It cannot deceive; it is the eternal truth; it is the only guiding principle and rule of all teaching; it is not idle or dead, but effective and living; it shall accomplish that which God purposes; it routs, destroys, and puts the devil to flight; we come to Christ and the Church through it; faith is given through it; through it the forgiveness of sins is preached; it is a jewel and holy shrine. In Lutheran worship, the Word, along with the sacraments take center stage. There is no worship without the Word. And the Word comes to us first of all, through the reading of Scriptures. There is a first reading, which is taken from the Hebrew Scriptures; often called the Old Testament by Christians. There is often a Psalm that is read or sung responsively. This is followed by the second reading, which is taken from one of the New Testament letters. And then there is of course, the reading from one of the four Gospels. You might ask; who decides what Scripture readings we are going to use each Sunday? That s a good question. As Lutheran Christians, we follow what is called the Revised Common Lectionary. A Lectionary is also followed by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Episcopalians, and some other mainline Protestant churches. Therefore, on any given Sunday, if you were to attend a Roman Catholic or Episcopalian church, the Scripture readings will probably be the same as ours.

3 The Revised Common Lectionary is a three year cycle of reading through the Bible. It is divided into years A, B, and C. During year A, the Gospel readings come primarily from Matthew. In year B, the readings are from Mark s Gospel, and year C from Luke. We are currently in year C. That is why today s reading comes from Luke s Gospel. Readings from John s Gospel are interspersed throughout all three years. Therefore, exactly three years from today, we will have the same Scripture readings as we have this Sunday. You might ask; what is the purpose of following the Lectionary? Now the traditional belief is that pastors then only have to write three years of sermons during their lifetime, and then they can just repeat them over and over again. But that s not the real reason. There are actually several reasons we follow the Lectionary. During Advent and Christmas, the lectionary reveals the mystery of the Word made flesh. In Lent and Easter, the paschal mystery of the Lord s death and resurrection is proclaimed. Throughout the Season after Pentecost, the New Testament texts are read in a continuous order. During the last Sundays of the Church year, the readings present the final vision of a new heaven and new earth. The lectionary is designed to proclaim the whole story of God s love in Jesus Christ. Another reason we follow the lectionary is that it prevents us preachers from promoting our own agendas. I see this all of the time with some of the preachers you see on television. Money always seems to be a favorite topic.

4 They will decide what point or agenda they want to get across, and then start quoting Scripture from all over the place to promote their purpose. But by following the assigned readings from the lectionary, we are challenged to address all of Scripture. Believe me, there are some Sunday s that I struggle with what to say. I so much want to just forget those words of Jesus and go on to something else. But the lectionary forces me to address even the tough teachings. Therefore, I can t go around picking out my personal favorite passages and leave the rest behind. So to me, the lectionary is a gift. It keeps us focused on Christ. It helps us to hear the Good News in its entirety. After hearing the Word through the reading of Scripture, we then hear the sermon, sometimes called a homily. Preaching is the living and contemporary voice of one who interprets in all the Scriptures the things concerning Jesus Christ. Through the sermon, the Word of God becomes present with God s people. The sermon is the living voice of the Gospel today. The validity of a sermon is not based on the charisma of the preacher. Rather, a successful sermon points to Jesus Christ, and him crucified. That s why I tend to stay away from too many personal stories. I never want me to be the focus of the sermon. You will never see my picture plastered on a billboard on My calling is to be a voice who calls people to faith in Jesus Christ. The pastor is never to be the focus of worship. That is why the worship leaders wear robes called vestments. If I was preaching in regular street clothes, there is the possibility that what I was wearing would distract people from focusing on Christ.

5 Perhaps my tie would be crooked, or even worse, my shirt and sport coat might clash. Maybe someone would be thinking; How can the pastor afford an expensive suit like that, we must be paying him too much. The vestments we wear to lead worship are more like uniforms. They are worn not only for their color and beauty, but to designate the role in which we play in the Divine Liturgy. The entire liturgy is designed to keep God as the subject and the object of our worship. The sermon is no exception. As some of you know, I write out my sermons. Some people say; why don t you just get out in front and preach without notes? I have done that before, but I found that there is a much greater chance of saying something that might send the wrong message. There is also a greater chance that I might ramble on and on. And the sermon would get longer and longer. I m sure you wouldn t want that! Before I write a sermon, I pray about it. I read the text over and over again. I study commentaries. I carefully write out exactly what I want to communicate. Then, I read it through many times over to make sure that I am indeed proclaiming the Gospel. I truly believe that the Holy Spirit can speak to me just as much in front of my computer as standing up here without any notes. That reminds me of a story I came across the other day. A young man was asked to preach at a camp meeting just before the Sunday morning service. As hundreds of people began gathering on the grounds, the young preacher panicked and ran into the bishop s tent. What shall I do, bishop? he implored. They ve asked me to preach, but I don t have any sermon.

6 Trust the Lord, young man, the bishop advised with great dignity. Just trust the Lord. Then, the bishop marched out of his tent. Frustrated, the young man picked up the bishop s Bible and flipped through it, hoping to find an inspiring verse. Instead, he found some typewritten sermon notes he liked very much. So he took the Bishop s Bible and notes and went to the service. The young preacher amazed everyone with his sermon, and the people crowded around him after the service. Suddenly, the bishop pushed his way through the crowd. Young man, the bishop thundered. You preached the sermon I was going to preach tonight! Now what am I going to do? Trust the Lord bishop, the young man replied. Just trust the Lord. After the sermon comes the Hymn of the Day. The Hymn of the Day is intended to both proclaim and respond to the Word. Then comes the Creed. As Lutheran Christians, along with the vast majority of Christians worldwide, we confess three ancient creeds. First, there is The Apostles Creed. This Creed as we now have it dates from the eighth century. However, it is a revision of the so-called Old Roman Creed, which was used in the West by the third century. It describes the faith into which we are baptized. Second, is the Nicene Creed. The origins of this Creed date back to 325 A.D. It is an essential part of the doctrine and liturgy of the Lutheran churches. The third Creed, we as Lutherans confess, is the Athanasian Creed. It dates back somewhere in the fourth or fifth century. It assists the Church in defining the Trinity. It teaches us that Jesus was true God, yet true man. To me, the creeds are a source of comfort. If anyone ever asks you what you believe as a Christian, you can turn to the creeds. They reflect who we are and what we believe.

7 They proclaim our unity with Christians around the world and throughout time back to the ancient church. I believe that churches who do not use the historic creeds to reflect their faith are not receiving the fullness of what God has to offer. They are cutting themselves off from the saints who have gone before us. Finally, the Word comes to us through the Prayers of the Church. Prayer is communicating with God. Communication requires both speaking and listening. When we offer our prayers up to God, God responds. These prayers help us to pray for the Church, the people of the world, and those who suffer or are in need. They are general, yet specific. They are prepared, yet spontaneous. They again call upon the mercy of God. Hopefully, I have helped us in coming to a better understanding of this part of our worship which proclaims the Word of God. But we must also remember that the Word is not only the words written in the Bible, or the words spoken by the preacher. For the Word is Jesus himself. As St. John s Gospel so prolifically captures in the first chapter: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. You see, the Word is God come to life in the person of Jesus. Therefore, the Word is not a bunch of dead words, but is alive and working in and around each and everyone of us. The Word of God always was and will be forever. And to that, we can say; thanks be to God. Amen. May the peace that passes all understanding be with you now and for life everlasting. Amen.

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