The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Fourth of July

July 5, 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.

O God, the strength of all who trust in you, mercifully hear our prayers.  Be gracious to us in our weakness and give us strength to keep your commandments in all we say and do; 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 – Hosea 5:15-6:6 (Sermon Text)

 The only answer to sin and guilt is repentance and a return to the Lord.

“Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt.  And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.”  “Come, let us return to the LORD.  He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.  After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.  Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him.  As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”  “What can I do with you, Ephraim?  What can I do with you, Judah?  Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears.  Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth; my judgments flashed like lightning upon you.  For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.  (NIV1984)

PSALM OF THE DAY – Psalm 119c

 Oh, how I love Your law!

I meditate on it all day long.

I have more insight than all my teachers,

for I meditate on Your statutes.

I have more understanding than the elders,

for I obey Your precepts.

I have kept my feet from every evil path

so that I might obey Your Word.

I have not departed from Your laws,

for You Yourself have taught me.

How sweet are Your words to my taste,

sweeter than honey to my mouth!

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 4:18-25eba

Faith in God’s promises is the golden thread that links believers of all ages to our Savior-God.  Though Abraham was too old to sire a son, he believed that God could do everything He promised.

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”  Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead— since he was about a hundred years old— and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.  Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.  This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.”  The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness— for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.  He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (NIV1984)

VERSE OF THE DAY

Alleluia.  God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Alleluia.  (2 Corinthians 5:19)

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 9:9-13

Jesus calls Matthew to be a disciple.  He shows us the purpose of His ministry in calling sinful people to repentance and to lives of service.

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth.  “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.  While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”  On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  But go and learn what this means:  ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’  For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (NIV1984)

C:        Praise be to you, O Christ!

SERMON  Morning Mist and Eternal Grace!

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

One of the things that my family and I truly enjoy and appreciate about living here in Sonoma County is the weather.  We have lived in many different parts of this great country from the Midwest to SoCal, from Miami to Seattle but the weather here in Sonoma County is the nicest weather we have ever experienced.  When the rainy season arrives, it is amazing how quickly everything turns a beautiful rich green once again!  Even after the rainy season is over and things dry up and turn brown it is not unusual for me to find a heavy dew in the morning when I go for my walk.  And if the fog rolls in off the ocean that is even better!

I automatically started to think of the weather here in Sonoma County as I was studying our sermon text for today.  In some ways the rainy season reminds me of how the grace of God is described in Matthew 5:45, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”  Just as the rains cause everything to turn green and beautiful and produce many blessings, so also God’s eternal grace causes us to live and to grow and it produces many blessings in our hearts and in our lives.  But after the rains go away and after everything dries up, the dew and the fog simply are not able to turn the hillsides green again!  It doesn’t take very long at all for the dew to disappear and for the fog to either burn off in the heat of the sun or recede back out onto the ocean.

I’d like us to draw on our experience with the rains which turn our world green and the dew that so quickly disappears to help us both understand our text for today and apply it to our lives.  For that reason, our sermon theme this morning is:  Morning Mist and Eternal Grace!

The prophet Hosea lived and worked during the final chapter in the history of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  God had promised His people— including the people of the Northern Kingdom— that if they remained faithful to Him and to the covenant He had established with them, He would shower them with blessing after blessing.  But the people in the Northern Kingdom chose to follow the example of their leaders— both their political leaders and their spiritual leaders.  They turned their backs on the Lord and turned to the fertility gods of Baal and his wife Asherah.  The unfaithfulness of God’s people resulted in God’s people engaging in both physical and spiritual adultery.  The unfaithfulness of God’s people led them to think/hope that peace could come from alliances with Assyria and Babylon and Egypt.  The unfaithfulness of God’s people led them to build altars to their idols all across the land.  Over and over again the Lord sent His prophets to warn His people.  Over and over again God’s people refused to listen to God’s prophets and become more and more unfaithful to the Lord.  Hosea gives us an accurate description of what the Old Testament nation of Israel was like when he brings the Lord’s charge against His people.  In Hosea 4:2 we hear the Lord say, “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgement of God in the land.  There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds and bloodshed follows bloodshed.”

In the wake of all this unfaithfulness the Lord says to His people through His servant Hosea, “Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt.  And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.”  The gravity of these words causes us to gasp!  Since God’s people refused to listen to His words spoken by His prophets, the Lord decided to speak to them through His actions.  God was going to withdraw from the Israelites and withhold His blessings from them.  Why?  God wanted His people to know that there are consequences for their unfaithfulness.  God wanted His people to know how miserable it is to be without the blessings of His grace being showered upon them.

Would God completely forsake His people forever?  No.  God reveals His intention by using the word “until.”  God’s goal was to lead His people to repent of their sins, return to Him and remain faithful to Him.  If they repent then like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal son, God was ready and eager to forgive them and once again shower His eternal grace upon them!  (See Luke 15:1ff)  But, the Lord also made it clear to His people that their repentance needed to come from the heart.  They couldn’t simply just say, “I’m sorry” and think that everything would be kosher.  That truth is made abundantly clear when God says to His people in the closing verse of our text, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.”

When we look at God’s description of the Nation of Israel in the days of Hosea— “There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land.  There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed,” and when we hear the Lord say to His people, “Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears”— when we take all of that and compare it to our nation today it might send a chill up our spine.  The parallels between the Old Testament nation of Israel and our nation today are so powerful we might wonder if God might say to us what He said to Israel so many years ago, “Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt.  And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.”  Since this is the Fourth of July weekend and since the national news coverage of what is going on in our nation today is not very positive, I seriously considered focusing on that application of this text.  But then I thought, No.  A much better use of the little amount of time we have together this morning would be to encourage each and every one of us to take this text and use it to do some serious soul-searching concerning questions such as, “What do the actions of my life say about my love for God?  Is my love for God “like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears”?

I ran across an illustration that I’d like to share with you.  “Kenneth Hemphill tells of a lopsided loss while he played football at Wake Forest University.  After the game his dad, who usually had some positive statement to make threw his arms around him and said excitedly, ‘You guys looked great…’  Hemphill couldn’t believe his ears.  He wondered what game he had been watching.  Then, after a pause, his dad finished his sentence, ‘…in the huddle.’”

As we gather together in God’s Name today, we are “in the huddle” so to speak.  We all look like fine upstanding Christians.  We joyfully sing our praises to God.  We humbly confess our sins.  We boldly make our confessions of faith.  We are unashamed of our love for God.  But, as soon as our worship service is over and we go back out into the “real world” we will be swarmed by the “other team.”  The devil will try every trick he can think of to try and undermine the foundation of our faith.  The world will openly challenge our love for God by setting before our eyes all the riches and all the pleasures at its disposal.  Our own sinful nature will try to fill our minds with ideas, with questions and with doubts.  “Your church simply doesn’t understand how much the world has changed!  You need to try and keep up!”  All of this is specifically designed to weaken our love for God and weaken our love for His Word with the goal that the love that we feel on Sunday morning will indeed be like the “morning mist, like the early dew that disappears.”

How do we prevent this from happening?  We strive to stay focused— focused on the eternal grace of our God!  There is no better place to see the eternal grace of God than right there— the cross on Calvary’s hill.  (Pointing to the cross)  There is no better place to hear the eternal grace of God than right here in His holy inspired Word.  There is no better place to experience the eternal grace of God than the holy Sacraments God has given to us— Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

As we continue to see and to hear and to experience the eternal grace of God then we will grow in our understanding of God’s statement, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.”  God has the ability to look beyond our outward actions, to listen behind the words that we speak to see and to hear what is in our heart.  When our heart is filled with the “mercy” we enjoy from God that very same “mercy” will be evident in both our words and our actions.  When our heart is filled with the “mercy” we enjoy from God then we will worship and acknowledge our God in the way that leads us to serve humbly, in the way that leads us to share boldly and in the way that leads us to forgive freely.

I am quite confident that I am not the only one who enjoys the weather here in Sonoma County.  The weather is undoubtedly one of the reasons why so many people live here!  My prayer this morning is that you will use the weather as a reminder to yourself of both morning mist and eternal grace.  Let the rains that we enjoy, the rains that we depend on serve as a visual reminder to you of the eternal grace that your God so freely showers upon you.  At the same time let the “morning mist,” the “early dew” that disappears so quickly remind you of how important it is to let your love for Him (Pointing to the cross) be open and evident every single day of your life.

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

During this time of uncertainty we still want to bring our thank offerings to our dear Lord and Savior.  We ask that you continue to set your offerings aside so that when we are able to come together again in God’s House we will be able to place our offerings on His altar.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH

Dear heavenly Father, look upon our nation and behold our many needs.  Do not, because of our flagrant sins, turn away from us, but rather be merciful to us and grant us your aid in all matters that distress us.  Increase the faith of all Christians that they may not fall prey to the sins that have so badly eroded our society, nor yield to the many antichristian forces which boldly demand acceptance.  Enable your children, by fearless professions of faith and godly lives, to be guiding lights leading others to glorify you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent to save us.

Give all who preach the Gospel in this nation a double measure of your Spirit, that they will not depart from the simple saving message of the cross.  Make your churches all across this great land, havens of rest for sin-weary souls.  Turn many hearts from unbelief, sin and false gods to their Savior, Jesus Christ.

Dear Father, turn this nation from its false and vain philosophies; from its materialism, greed, selfishness, and moral corruption and from its general disregard for the honor of your Name and for the welfare of others.  Bring down the violent and the lawless.  Restrain those who plan insurrection and revolt.  As the Supreme Ruler of heaven and earth, grant health, safety, honestly, wisdom, fairness and devotion to duty to all who are in authority.  Give the ability and the will to govern well to the President and Congress, to the cabinet members, to the governors and legislators of the various states, and to judges, magistrates and law enforcement personnel.  Give courage to our courts to punish evildoers and protect the innocent.

Bless especially the Christians who are serving in the armed forces.  Keep them in your love and protection.  By the Holy Spirit strengthen their faith and avert whatever might prove harmful to their souls.  Give whatever help is needed to carry out their appointed duties.  Be with them in their lonely hours and keep them from sin.  Spare them from service on the field of battle and protect them in the discharge of their many assignments.  Bring them safely again to their homes and families.  We pray for all of this according to your good and gracious will.

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.