The Second Sunday after Pentecost

June 14, 2020

 

SERVICE OF THE WORD

This service offers the congregation a form of worship that focuses on the proclamation of God’s Word.  Believers respond to this divine gift with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.  The service begins on page 38 in the front of the hymnal.

M:       We worship today in the name of our Triune God— God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

C:        Amen

Confession of Sins

M:       We have come into the presence of God, who created us to love and serve Him as His dear children.  But we have disobeyed Him and deserve only His wrath and punishment.  Therefore, let us confess our sins to Him and plead for His mercy.

C:        Merciful Father in heaven, I am altogether sinful from birth.  In countless ways I have sinned against you and do not deserve to be called your child.  But trusting in Jesus, my Savior, I pray:  Have mercy on me according to your unfailing love.  Cleanse me from my sin, and take away my guilt.

M:       God, our heavenly Father has forgiven all your sins.  By the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord Jesus Christ, He has removed your guilt forever.  You are His own dear child.  May God give you strength to live according to His will.

C:        Amen.

Prayer and Praise

M:       In the peace of forgiveness, let us praise the Lord.

C:        Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.  Your Word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.  Your faithfulness continues forever.  Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.

PRAYER OF THE DAY

M:       Let us pray.

The minister says the Prayer of the Day.

O God, you rule over all things in wisdom and kindness.  Take away everything that may be harmful and give us whatever is good; we ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:      Amen

The Word

FIRST LESSON – Deuteronomy 11:18-21, 26-28

God intends for His people to pay close attention to His Word and obey it.

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.   Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.  See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse— the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known. (NIV1984)

PSALM OF THE DAY – Psalm 78

Oh my people, hear my teaching;

listen to the words of my mouth.

I will utter things from of old,

what we have heard and what our fathers have told us.

We will not hide them from our children;

we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD.

The LORD decreed statutes for Jacob

and established the law in Israel

so the next generation would know them,

and they in turn would tell their children.

Then they would put their trust in God

and would not forget His deeds but would keep His commands.

. Glory be to the Father and to the Son

            and to the Holy Spirit,

as it was in the beginning,

            is now, and will be forever.  Amen

SECOND LESSON – Romans 3:21-25a, 27-28eba

All of us have fallen short of the righteousness God’s law demands.  Nevertheless, God provided a way of righteousness that has nothing to do with our obedience to God’s law.  Far from ignoring our sins, God punished them with Jesus’ death on the cross, declared all of us just, and set us free to live with Him forever.

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood.  He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished. (NIV1984)

VERSE OF THE DAY

Alleluia.  Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.  Alleluia.  (Psalm 119:105)

CAlleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  These words are written that we may believe that Jesus is

       the Christ, the Son of God.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

GOSPEL LESSON – Matthew 7:15-29

Jesus warns us about false prophets.  He tells us we can recognize them “by their fruit.” Only faith built on Jesus Christ, the Rock, can withstand the tempests that the powers of darkness have unleashed upon our world.

“Watch out for false prophets.  They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.  By their fruit you will recognize them.  Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.  Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?”   Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!”  “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”  When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority and not as their teachers of the law. (NIV1984)

C:       Praise be to you, O Christ!

SERMON  Let Us Go to the House of the LORD!

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”  Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together. That is where the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, to praise the name of the LORD according to the statute given to Israel.  There the thrones for judgment stand, the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure.  May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.”  For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.”  For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your prosperity.  (Psalm 122)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Ninety days.  That’s how long it has been since we have gathered together here in the house of the Lord our God.  Ninety days.  It’s not that we didn’t want to come to church.  It’s not that we thought that we were too busy or that we thought that we had more important/better things to do on Sunday morning.  We haven’t been gathering together here in God’s house for the past 90 days because both the State of California and the County of Sonoma were trying their best to “flatten the curve” of this coronavirus epidemic.  Only “essential businesses” were allowed to stay open and here in Sonoma County churches were not considered “essential” until a week ago.

For me at least I have been anxiously looking forward to today for a very long time!  I have missed gathering together with you, God’s people!  And while we all need to understand that for health reasons some people may not feel comfortable gathering together yet and while we all need to understand that for now at least “social distancing” and hand sanitizers and wearing face masks apply to churches too I hope that after 90 days of not being allowed to gather together here in God’s house “going to church” goes back to being an extremely important part of our weekly schedule!

As I was preparing for today, I struggled with what to use as our sermon text.  At first, I did what I was trained to do.  I looked at all three of the Scripture lessons that are assigned to the Second Sunday after Pentecost and I tried to determine how one of those lessons might “fit” with what I consider to be a special Sunday.  I couldn’t do it.  Finally, I set aside my sermon prep and started working on our bulletins for today.  As I was working on the bulletins the words of Psalm 122:1 ran through my mind and I said to myself, “That’s it!  I will preach on Psalm 122!”  For that reason, our sermon theme for today is taken directly from our text:  Let Us Go to the House of the LORD!  As we study this psalm, we’ll focus on three questions.  1.  Why do we go to the house of the Lord?  2.  What blessings do we enjoy in the house of the Lord?  3.  What are we to do after being in the house of the Lord?

Why do we go to the house of the Lord?  Look at how King David addresses that question.  He says, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’  Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem.”  We really need to put ourselves into David’s place in order to experience the emotions that overwhelmed God’s people as they gazed upon the beloved City of Jerusalem.  There was no other place on the face of this earth that could even begin to compare to Jerusalem.  Why?  It’s very simple, my friends.  Jerusalem was where the “house of the LORD” was located— first in a tent (the Tabernacle) and then in the Temple.  In the “house of the LORD” in the City of Jerusalem was Ark of the Covenant.  The Ark of the Covenant was where the high priest sprinkled the blood of an animal to take away the sins of God’s people on the great Day of Atonement.  It was there in Jerusalem in the “house of the LORD” that God’s people worshiped the Lord by bringing their offerings to their God.  It was there in Jerusalem in the “house of the LORD” that God’s priests worshiped the Lord by offering up sacrifices and prayers to the Lord on behalf of His people.  The “house of the LORD” in the beloved City of Jerusalem was literally the “heart” of the worship life of God’s people.  It’s no wonder that when God’s people arrived at Jerusalem to worship the Lord they would pause in wonder and awe and say, “Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem.”

We, of course, no longer need to take a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to experience this kind of joy and wonder and awe.  Here in this humble building we come into the presence of the very same Lord whom King David worshiped so many centuries ago.  Here in this humble building we bring Him our worship, our thanks, and our praise.  Here in this humble building we worship and thank and praise the Lord because of what He has done for us!  (Pointing to the cross)  We no longer need to sacrifice the blood of an animal for the sins of our soul because here in the house of the Lord this cross beautifully proclaims to us that “the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).  Here in this humble building the holy altar of the Lord our God is front and center in our worship.  This altar is the place from which the Pastor speaks to us on behalf of God as well as the place where the Pastor speaks to God on our behalf.  Yes, my friends, every time we enter this church both the cross and the altar remind us of what the writer to the Hebrew Christians assures us, “Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (4:6).  So, after 90 days of not being allowed to gather together here in the “house of the LORD” to bring Him our worship, our thanks and our praise today is indeed a very joyous day!

The second reason as to why we are able to rejoice along with King David when he says, “Let us go to the house of the LORD” centers on all the blessings we enjoy here in the house of our God.  David pictures those blessings for us when he says, “Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together.  That is where the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, to praise the name of the LORD according to the statute given to Israel.  There the thrones of judgment stand, the thrones of the house of David.”

Naturally, David is describing for us what he sees with his own two eyes.  Because Jerusalem was a city that was built on a hill and enclosed by a wall, all of the buildings and all of the houses were “compacted together.”  There were no big yards, no room for urban sprawl.  And yet, while David pictures Jerusalem as a city where the homes and the buildings were very close together that very same picture applies to the people as well!

Under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit David wrote this psalm for God’s people to use as they came to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the three great feasts.  (See Deuteronomy 16:16-17) We can only imagine how “compact” Jerusalem became as all the people, all the “tribes of the LORD” assembled in the City of God.  Think of Times Square on New Year’s Eve.  As we strive to picture this “compact” crowd we see that the vast majority of these people were related to each other in two critical ways.  First, they had the blood of Abraham coursing through their veins.  They were like one very big and very extended family!  Second, they had the faith of Abraham living in their hearts.  They had come to Jerusalem to “praise the name of the LORD” and to bring their sacrifices and their offerings to Him.

That picture reminds us of one of the blessings that you and I enjoy as we gather in God’s house for the first time in 90 long days.  That blessing is— the closeness of Christian fellowship.  Even though that fellowship was still there as we sat in our homes and worshiped via Zoom, even though we still have to maintain social distancing while we are here at church, even though we can’t hug or shake hands or enjoy coffee and treats after the service— look around you.  This is a part of your spiritual family.  These are your brothers and sisters in Christ.  These are people with whom you will spend eternity in your heavenly Father’s home!  The blessing of Christian fellowship is a blessing that we all too often take for granted.

Hand-in-hand with the blessing of Christian fellowship is the blessing of the unity of faith.  We all come from different backgrounds, different places, different situations, and different experiences in life.  But here in God’s house we are united.  Here in God’s house we set aside anything and everything that could divide us and we experience the Scriptural truth that we are one in Him!  (Pointing to the cross) Here in God’s house we know that we are all individual yet important parts of the Body of Christ.  (See Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12) That’s the blessing that comes from being united in faith!

And finally, along with the blessing of close Christian fellowship and along with the blessing of true Christian unity we enjoy the blessing of standing together on the rock-solid foundation of God’s holy Word.  David reminded God’s people of his day and age that in Jerusalem, “There the thrones for judgment stand, the thrones of the house of David.”  The City of Jerusalem was both the religious and the political center for God’s people.  The king’s throne was the place from which the ultimate judgments and the final decisions were made— judgments and decisions that were to be made on the basis of God’s holy revealed Word!

We no longer have “the thrones for judgment” in God’s church today.  We have everything we need for making decisions and for judging between right and wrong right here in God’s holy inspired Word.  That’s why God’s Word reigns supreme here in God’s house.  Our liturgy, our hymns, our sermons, our prayers— our entire worship service is based upon and radiates from the inspired Scriptures of our God.  There is no tradition, no personal opinion, no individual who is allowed to supersede what God says in His Word.  True Christian unity— a unity that is “built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20) is yet another one of the blessings that we all too often take for granted!

There is one more reason why we gladly join with King David as he says to us, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”  Look at what he tells us in the closing verses of our text, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May those who love you be secure.  May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.’  For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, ‘Peace be with you.’  For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your prosperity.”

David knew that the beloved City of Jerusalem— the place where sacrifices were made to atone for the sins of God’s people, the place where God’s people went to worship the Lord and to bring Him their offerings— David knew how important that beloved city was in the spiritual life of God’s people.  That’s why he encouraged God’s people to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”

We no longer have just one central location which embodies everything that Jerusalem embodied for God’s people of old   Now the Lord Jesus has assured us, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20).  That promise is what gives us the confidence of knowing that Jesus Himself is with us every time we gather together in His Name— including right here in God’s house.

That confidence is what leads us to follow King David’s encouragement to pray— pray for your church, pray for your Synod.  That confidence also dovetails perfectly with the encouragement that the Apostle Paul gives to us.  While the Pastor is normally the one who stands at the altar and offers up prayers to the Lord on behalf of you His people, the Apostle Paul reminds you and assures you that “through faith in him (Jesus) we (all) may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Ephesians 3:12).  So, pray, my friends!  Pray for “peace” and “security” and “prosperity” for both our congregation and our Synod.  Pray for your biological family and for all your friends.  Pray for your spiritual family— your brothers and sisters in the faith.  Take what you have heard and what you have learned here in the house of the Lord and use it as your guide as you strive to “always keep on praying for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18).

Ninety days.   Pray that we will never again have to go that long without gathering together here in the house of the Lord.  While we are very thankful that we were able to worship via Zoom and while I hope the podcasts of the worship services were helpful, let’s use this experience to make sure that our personal weekly agenda always includes these inspired words of great King David, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’”

To God be the glory!

Amen

APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead.  He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.  From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

OFFERING

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH

Dear Lord God of heaven and earth,

It is with great joy and deep thankfulness that we come before you today here in your house.   For ninety days we have not been allowed to physically gather together in your Name.  And yet, during that entire time we were and are confident that you kept your promise that wherever we gather in your Name you are indeed with us.

As we now reopen our church lead us to remember how important it is for us to gather with our brothers and sisters in the faith as often as we can— not only so that we can receive the strength and comfort of your holy Word and Sacrament, but also so that we can strengthen and encourage each other!  Just being together brings great joy to our hearts!  Forgive us for any instance that we have not honored you by not honoring the day that is set aside to come here to your house where we bring our worship and our thanks, our offerings and our praise to you.

We also ask dear Lord, that you will use this experience to remind us of how important it is for us to invite others to come to church with us so that they too can grow close to you as their only Lord and Savior.

LORD’S PRAYER

C:        Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.  Amen.

M:       O Lord God, our heavenly Father, pour out the Holy Spirit on your faithful people.  Keep us strong in your grace and truth, protect and comfort us in all temptation, and bestow on us your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:        Amen.

M:       Brothers and sisters, go in peace.  Live in harmony with one another.  Serve the Lord with gladness.

The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.  The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.

C:        Amen.