the view from the pew 2-4-17

Saturday evening worship, February 4, 2017

Susan and I arrived about 20 minutes early but it is always nice to use that time to catch up with people or sit in the pew and stare at the altar and try to right my self for worship. I spend some of it thinking of what sins I am aware of that I will confess early in the service. The Lutheran Church confesses silently to God ‘the errors of our ways’. I imagine if we had to publicly announce them, we’d never get to the announcement of God’s forgiveness without some black eyes and upturned pews. I, for one, am glad the church fathers saw the wisdom of ‘silent’ contemplation.

We sang and we prayed and we sang some more and we prayed some more. Our scripture readings were Isaiah 58:3-9a; 1 Corinthians 2:1-16; and Matthew 5:13-20, plus we recited The Apostles’ Creed.

Our hymns today, played on piano, were these:

“Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” (opening)
“Open Our Eyes” (
pre-scripture)
“Jesus, Name Above All Names” (
offering)
“Shine, Jesus Shine” (
closing)
“Thy Strong Word” (
pre-sermon)

Skeptical audience: So, Janis, why do always tell us about what songs were sung? How much does it really matter? Most of us don’t know the words by heart and we usually don’t know the melodies until the music starts. We think you are just mentioning them for a bit of ‘filler’, if you know what we mean.

Chastised author: It’s interesting that you all mentioned this. I was thinking just the same thing when I was at Krogers today picking up dirty rice for dinner and sterilized water for my C-PAP. I pondered whether it was a good idea to mention anything else except the sermon in T.V.F.T.P. As it is, the sermon is certainly a major player in the service but all parts of the liturgy serve an important function in the life of a Christian (hopefully you). Where do hymns fit in? They are primarily used to pay homage to God. As the angels and the saints sing ‘Alleluias!’ to God on His throne, we do the same from our pews. But did you also know when you sing hymns, particularly the older ones, you are actually singing Scripture from the Bible? Let’s take a look at the hymn, “Thy Strong Word“, for example.

Stanza 1

Thy strong word did cleave the darkness;
At Thy speaking it was done.
For created light we thank Thee,
While Thine ordered seasons run.
Alleluia, alleluia,
Praise to Thee who light dost send!
Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia without end!

This first stanza praises God for the work of creation, specifically the work of Genesis 1:1-4:

1In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
3And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.

– Before God began His work of creation, the earth was dark and formless. It was an endless, bottomless nothing. But God, through His Word, spoke and “it was done”. These first four verses of Genesis set up themes that will run through all of Scripture. God is the creator and giver of light. The image of light is used for holiness, glory, splendor, and good works. Darkness is the way and works of evil and sin.

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Thanks to hymnary.org

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If you like, you can go to the link and check out other hymns to see which scriptures were used as lyrics and inspiration for the songs you sing to God. If you aren’t a big fan of reading books but love to sing you could get your weekly Bible reading done by singing hymns throughout the day. It sounds like cheating but if you explained it to your pastor I’m guessing he’d say, “That sounds like a capital idea!”

Pastor’s sermon centered on the Gospel reading in Matthew. It was called, “Let Your Light Shine”. As you might know from various verses in the Bible, Jesus is regarded as ‘the Light of the world”. Probably most of you know that. He shines so all may be saved through Him. But, and this is a big ‘but’, did you know that Jesus says you are ‘the Light of the world”, as well? Matthew 5:14-16 (MSG) reads,

Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.

What does this mean? It means that by being ‘the light of the world’ you are responsible, with the help of The Lord, for bringing non-believers to the faith. As Pastor Sattler sometimes says, “There is no ‘Plan B’”. As a Christian, it is your duty to see that others witness the love you have for them, not just telling them scripture out of the Bible. You show them your love by how you treat them gently and with respect; by praying for them and asking them to join in if they are with you; by easing their load by Christian means necessary. You do this because you love people. You don’t want them to spend an eternity alone and in the dark, angry at you because you didn’t try time and again to have them respond ‘yes’ to Jesus’s entreaties. You do your best to keep the law, to show your friend through your actions that no one is beyond redemption and where you fail, Jesus takes up the slack and keeps your record clean (so you can be with Him always). It sounds daunting but keep this in mind – God cares less about you avoiding your sins as He cares about you helping others. He spoke about ‘the perfect church’ in Acts 2:42-47:

The Fellowship of the Believers

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

The line I always squirm at is “They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” I like my truck, computer, couch, and CD collection. Do I have to sell those?

(insert anguished cry here).

Maybe I can run a spiritual ‘four corner offense’ by slowing down my selling and giving and trying to run out the clock before Jesus comes back to sweep me up. Then I could say, “Hoy! I was going to sell that stuff tomorrow!” I think pastor ought to mention this part of scripture the week before Stewardship Sunday when he pleads Holy Cross’s case for funding its ministries, payroll and light bulbs. He typically mentions Micah 3:10:

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LordAlmighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.

10% sounds a lot more agreeable to the regular church-goer than him having to sell his speed boat, Audi, and other neat stuff for someone he doesn’t know. (Sigh), there’s so much I don’t know about serving Jesus. Do I even have that much love?

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