Tuesday, January 26, 2016

As was His custom. . .

Sermon for Epiphany 3C & St. Timothy, Pastor, preached on Sunday, January 24, 2016.   

     Customs are the things we hate in our families and love in others.  How dull our old and familiar routines and how interesting the ordinary routines of others!  It is fun to start new traditions but we find a certain drudgery in doing the same things over and over again.  Habits are often seen as mostly bad things – a straight jacket on creativity – but spontaneity is almost always deemed better.  Never mind that another word for spontaneity is impulse!  As true as this is for other things in life, it is also true of matter of church and faith as well.
    Today we find Jesus in the synagogue on the Lord’s Day.  Are you surprised?  You shouldn’t be.  Jesus found Himself in the synagogue or Temple faithfully.  It was His custom.  So Scripture puts it.  Jesus fulfills all righteousness.  Even the 3rd Commandment.  Thou shalt sanctify the holy day.  He does this not as drudgery but delight.  He does this not to free us from the duty of worship but to turn this duty into delight.  So that you and I might become righteous as He is righteous.  So that you and I might love the Law and Word of God as He loves them.
    You will find no support for skipping church in Jesus.  It was His custom and His delight to be where the Word and presence of God are.  And this is what He bids for you and me.  So what is your custom?  Today as we recall St. Timothy, we remember that he was raised by a Christian grandmother and Christian mother.  His family raised him in the faith, to know the Lord’s house not as stranger but as one who is at home there.  Is that the case for you?  Oh, sure, today we have the diehards who brave snow and ice to be here but it is a question not for the timid alone.  It is for all of us.  Is this place our home or a place that is foreign to us?       
    Worship is not optional.  We are a faith community and not merely a collection of individuals who share a common interest. You were baptized into the body of Christ, the Church, and you were taught the Word by others in that body. You gather around the Word as a people who hear the voice of our Good Shepherd and who as godly sheep come at His beckoning call.  It is this that St. Paul attests in the Epistle.  Members of the body, living together in holy purpose and calling, before the Word and around the Table -- that is the communal nature of our faith and worship.
    Worship is not optional.  It is here that we are washed clean of our sins and it is here that we are absolved of sins we commit.  It is here that we are given place at the table Jesus sets before us and here we eat His flesh and drink His blood.  It is here that our children are brought to living water, taught the living Word, and fed the living food so that we may pass to them what was once passed to us.
    Worship is not optional.  It is here we receive His gifts and here we are taught to praise Him in ways that delight Him.  Here we speak back to Him what He has spoken to us and show we believe this Word.  Here we return the gift of music to the God who gave us voice, rhythm, and instrument.  This is not the odd use of music but what it was created for.  We praise the Lord because we believe His Word and rejoice in His gifts.
    No less an authority than Justin Bieber said you don’t have to go to church to be Christian – going to Taco Bell doesn’t make you a taco, now does it?  We wish the Biebs well in his new found faith but his analogy is all wrong.  We don’t go to church to become a Christian but because we are one and because we want to remain one.  Going to church does not make you automatically a saint but it is the single most outwardly significant public act of those who claim to believe.  To be where Christ is bestowing His gifts is the first desire implanted by the Holy Spirit among those in whom He bestows faith.  If that is not the case, then something is terribly wrong.
    As was Jesus' custom... so is our custom.  Worship places us in the context of the Word that speaks, the Spirit who works through that Word, the Table that feeds and nurtures us.  Faith is hard enough when you have the benefit of brothers and sisters in the church, a pastor who speaks God’s Word to you, people who join you in prayer, an absolution that relieves you of sin and its guilt, and a table just for you to eat and drink Christ’s flesh and blood for the life of the world.  Without these, faith is downright impossible to sustain.  Don’t fall away.  Don’t let your friends do it.  Don’t let your family do it.  Jesus was in the synagogue, hearing and preaching the Word, brought there as a child of Mary and of Joseph His guardian... Timothy and his mom and grandma, too, found delight in the Lord's House around the Word of the Lord.  Let it be said of you as well.  The Christ who died for my sin and lives for my life is here, generously bestowing His gifts through the means of grace.  Can any of us afford to be anywhere else?  Amen.

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